Two easy ways to measure the temperature of your team

By Line Bloch, 13. February 2020

Annual employee satisfaction surveys give at best an indication of the employee well-being at the point of time measured. At worst, the responses are skewed to avoid having to launch a lot of initiatives or making unnecessary noise internally.

Both employees and managers well-being are so important to your organization, that it should be discussed much more frequently than just once a year. Ideally it should be part of the ongoing dialogue both between manager and employee – and within the team.

How do you make it a integrated part of the team’s everyday life, besides the easy answer: “talk to your employees”? Here are my suggestions on two relatively simple methods.

Why not just measure once or twice a year?

The recurring annual or semiannual employee satisfaction surveys with 87 questions and associated action plans are still surprisingly popular. Probably because they give the feeling that we are doing something and that we are listening to the employees. And then they can be used to make nice reports for top management.

I don’t know any middle managers who find it very enjoyable to review the survey reports at department meetings or to define and document the follow-up initiatives.

Not that the employee’s well-being doesn’t matter, far from it. It is indeed important to ask if people thrive – and more importantly – to listen to what people say, but do we really know that the satisfaction surveys, and all the work that follows in the aftermath, is what raises the well-being?

The feeling of being heard is good, but often it resembles a theater show being played in honor of… who really?

But how do we then find out how people feel? The easy answer is “talk to people”. And yes, that’s correct, but how does the leader, who may not have the mental surplus or insight into daily work a feel with his people? And most importantly, how do we share with each other, how we feel? This is in my opinion one of the most important things: that the team knows how the team is doing.

There is many good and not so good tools for this out there, but I have not yet come across one that is as simple and efficient as the team temperature we even often use. I will share two versions here: the ultra-easy and the easy method.

The ultra-easy way to measure the temperature of your team

You will need: a whiteboard or a big flipover. A marker.

When: In the very start of a department meeting, project meeting, or team meeting.

How often: Every time you have that type of meetings. Preferably weekly.

How:

  1. Draw a large table on the whiteboard having 6 rows. Type the numbers from 1-6 in each row.
  2. Ask one by one: “How’s your week been on a scale of 1-6? And why?” If the meeting is not part of a fixed rhythm, you can put the question: “how are you feeling right now on a scale of 1-6?” instead.
  3. Put a cross in line with the number being said.

People don’t have to explain their choices, but often does. It’s perfectly ok to say “3 because there’s been something private that’s kind of messy”. And also to elaborate: “2 because Simon from accounting has been busy with project x, so I haven’t been able to get my stuff done”

The point of having to answer 1-6 and not 1-5, is that the option “mehh” is not there. Either things are predominantly good, or predominantly bad.

Once you’ve asked everybody (including yourself), you say thanks, and get started with the meeting agenda.

Value: You get an ultra fast update on where each other is. As a leader, you get a hint about something that perhaps needs to be addressed outside the meeting. Each employee and manager get better at reflecting and putting into words how he/she feels.

The easy way to measure the temperature of your team

You will need:

  1. A survey tool (e.g. MS forms, SurveyMonkey or the like), set up with a questionnaire asking about these 3 things:
  • How satisfied are you with your results this week? Scale 1-6
  • How happy are you about your relationships this week? Scale 1-6
  • How appropriate has the workload been this week? Scale 1-6

Preferably including a comment option. Some people prefer to add a few words on their answers. You decide together with the team if the comments should be shared or kept confidential. Often it will be a combination. Comments like “Hurrah, we reached deadline!” can be easily shared, but other comments may be of a more sensitive nature.

  1. An Excel-spreadsheet
  2. A printer or large screen

When: In the very start of a department meeting, project meeting, or team meeting

How often: Every time you have team or department meetings. Preferably weekly.

How:

  1. Share the link to the questionnaire to let the team give their answers the day before your department meeting. It usually takes less than 2 minutes to answer.
  2. Pull data out of the system you are using and make a graph that shows average for each question. You can also make one that shows the overall average if you and your team loves graphs and data. Once your excel-spreadsheet is designed, the graphs can be drawn in about 5 minutes.
  3. Show the graph at the meeting and ask the team if they have comments. Often people will have to get used to the process before they feel comfortable with the open dialogue, so start by sharing your own thoughts and perhaps even what you scored. Everybody doesn’t have to comment on the graph, if they don’t feel comfortable with it – or have nothing to add.

We usually find that the team initially responds quite politely, meaning that they choose middle scores like 3 and 4, instead of using the entire scale. Once they feel more comfortable with the process and realize that its ok to go to the extremes if needed, the variance will rise.

When there are no more comments on the graph, you move onto the meeting agenda.

Value: You get a common weekly temperature measurement on the team. Each employee gain insight into how the rest of the team is doing, including those they may not work closely together with. This makes it easier to take care of each other or ask for help.

In addition..

If you choose to not make the questionnaire anonymous, you can use the answers for input to the 1-1 meetings with the employees.

The latter method would have been easier if it there was an app or an IT system for it. I have  yet to find a tool that can make it as simple as this, but if you know of an IT system or app that does it – without it being a huge cost for businesses – please let us know!

The well-being of employees and managers are so important to your organization, that it should be part of the ongoing dialogue and not a once yearly measurement.

The above methods are two low-key ways to start and to hold on to this dialogue.

The GDPR notice: If the setup is completely anonymous in an online survey tool such as surveymonkey, there is no trace on who has answered what, and in my opinion, you need not be concerned about GDPR. The comments added write on must of course be free from person-related, sensitive information.

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