Employee Engagement Survey: The Gallup Q12

Verint Team September 16, 2013
Gallup developed its Q12 benchmark specifically to correlate its measure of employee engagement to worker productivity, customer loyalty and sales growth (see this Walker Information correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction).  Gallup consultants sifted through hundreds of questions in hundreds of surveys before choosing the twelve questions with the highest correlations to external measures.
Topics covered include workplace expectations, supervisory relations, even working with a best friend.  Each of the 12 questions is rated on a five-point scale and is one of the following four categories:
  • Basic Needs – two questions
  • Management Support – four questions
  • Teamwork – four questions
  • Growth – two questions
The ratings from all twelve of these questions are then combined into an index, which can be used to segment employees into three categories:
  • Engaged employees work with passion.  Because they feel a strong connection to the organization, they work hard to innovate and improve.
  • Not-Engaged employees do the work expected of them, but do not put in extra effort.
  • Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy, but are spreading their unhappiness to other staff.
Nationally, in 2005, engaged employees made up 28% of the work force globally, not-engaged employees made up 54%, and actively disengaged made up 17%. Contrast this with the Walker employee loyalty model.
The Q12 database, with 5.4 million responses, is by far the largest employee benchmark available.  Gallup clients can benchmark their organizations employee-engagement levels against research across 620,000 workgroups, 504 organizations, 16 major industries and 137 countries.
Gallup backs up its benchmarking with a full human-resource consulting program to help your organization use the results to improve your organization’s employee-engagement levels.  Best Buy, International Paper, Swissôtel and B&Q are some of the notable subscribers to the Q12 benchmark.
Gallup is for the most part a well accepted benchmark. Some constructive criticisms:
  1. It is unlikely that these twelve questions have equal value to every organization.  For instance, one large government organization found that only five of the 12 questions differentiated the best workgroups (the top 10%) from the bottom 90%; other questions might have been more appropriate for them to examine.
  2. Not all measures are actionable: for instance, the measure relating to having a best friend at work is not actionable, as there is little an organization can do to provide a best friend (buy every employee a company-owned dog?!).
  3. Little research has been done outside Gallup to independently attest to the predictive validity of the measures used.
A regular employee-pulse survey such as the Q12 is an important part of an overall employee satisfaction program and, for large organizations, should be fielded to a random sample of employees on a monthly or quarterly basis. Such surveys should be complemented with in-depth employee satisfaction research, offering every employee the chance to respond on a rotating basis at least once during the year.