Employee Engagement: Hearing The Vocal Minority AND Silent Majority


A small auto parts manufacturer had just dodged another union campaign and knew that another one would occur in a couple of years if nothing were done. Given their isolated geographic location, employee turnover was never an issue. Employees felt that there was no other place to go. This, however, did not necessarily lead to high levels of employee engagement. While the labor problems were focused on a small minority of employees for now, they were a vocal minority with growing influence with other employees.


The company came to us to help them determine the key drivers of turnover so that they could develop targeted action plans. But the company also needed a way to quantify the impact that these plans were having on the company overall, so we designed a statistical model linking key survey data with key business metrics over time.

Knowing that having committed and engagement employees was critical to stemming the exodus, we knew that it was imperative to build employee engagement at the grass roots level. They needed to have specific actionable information not only for each location but also for every work group. Action plans had to be designed and implemented by first-line supervisors.

An employee survey focusing on supervisory leadership and the local work environment was designed and deployed to all locations so that results could be distributed to each supervisor with 3 or more employees.


TThe initial employee survey generated results for nearly 1,000 work groups across the organization and allowed the first-line supervisors to work with their teams to improve the local work environment and increase employee engagement levels in teams. For most groups, the key drivers of turnover were not pay and benefits. Supervisory work facilitation, communication, and teamwork were generally more salient issues.

A follow-up survey administered one year later allowed us to measure changes in the survey scores. By linking these to changes in key business metrics – production efficiency, customer satisfaction, and turnover rates – we were able to quantify the effect that action plans were making.

In one year, turnover was reduced by 2.7 percentage points resulting in a savings of $2.7 Million per year. Just as importantly, customer satisfaction and production efficiency also showed significant gains. Convinced that the survey was providing a valid link to reducing turnover, the company decided to incorporate the survey results into their managers’ bonus calculation. They wanted to ensure that every manager understood their role in employee retention and that they were rewarded for improvements.

The company has continued to use the survey on an annual basis for several years. While most organizations take a top-down approach to organizational improvement, this company showed that a bottom-up approach was more effective for a decentralized work culture.