Valmark Financial Group recently completed their third survey, rising from a starting Engagement score of 69 to 79 – with a high participation rate that keeps rising. We’re so impressed with their progress that we sat down with them to learn more about how Engagement Multiplier is impacting their business and keeping employees engaged.

The biggest impact: Understanding where their communication lines were really breaking down.

Communication is a problem for many companies, but when employees cite “poor communication” in their survey responses, it doesn’t always mean what you think. That’s what Valmark Financial Group found. But once they discovered the real source of the “communication” issues, they were able to fix the root cause that was disrupting their employee engagement.

Valmark Financial Group is a financial services company whose clients are independently owned financial advisor and wealth planning firms around the U.S. Which means they have about 400 reps across all 50 States who are independent, with their own branding, who work with the end investors. Each of these reps have their securities licenses registered through Valmark, and Valmark also helps put together the financial plan that helps that end investor reach his or her goals.

Mark White, says employee engagement has always been extremely important “because we really believe that’s what’s going to drive the success of the organization.”

But before Engagement Multiplier, they didn’t have a way to measure how engaged their employees were.

“So even though this has always been very important to us, where we were falling short is we only had our gut to tell us the level of engagement we had. We just did not have data that was able to let us know where we were at.”

He says they also wanted a solution that would “help us focus on areas based on feedback that would really help drive employee engagement.”

“When you ask people, they will tell you, and our folks have not been shy about letting us know what they think. That’s what we wanted.”

Speculation alone told them there were areas that needed improvement, and those suspicions were confirmed when the results came back with one key theme: Communication.

“There were a lot of people talking about communication, and let’s face it, every organization struggles with communication.”

After the first survey, Mark says they started “digging into it” and trying to understand exactly where communication was breaking down and how it can be improved.

“When our folks are saying they need more communication, what are they really talking about?”

The answer to that question was surprising – because when employees said they needed better communication, they were actually asking for very specific information.

“We thought we did a decent job of communicating, and it really came down to there being a disconnect between a manager’s expectations for an employee about job performance, clear-set goals, roles and responsibilities. When our employees were saying there’s not enough communication, what they were really telling us was ‘You know what? I’m really not exactly sure what’s expected of me.’”

It turns out that there were a lot of misunderstandings around roles, responsibilities, and how individual jobs fit in with the company’s goals, objectives and purpose.

“To us, that was huge. The light bulb went on – ‘Oh, so that’s what you mean by communication!’”

Once they had that “lightbulb” moment, Valmark management did a very extensive job analysis on every job.

“We created this template for employees to use to tell us what they thought their job was, their essential functions, and who their customers were. From there, we created job descriptions for each job.”

But they didn’t stop there. The Valmark management team used those descriptions to design a new performance management system.

With the new job descriptions and performance management program, the next step was to sit down with each employee and go over their roles, performance expectations, and how their performance would be measured based on those expectations.

“That’s where I think we saw this big change in engagement. It became very clear to people where they fit in.”

Mark says this process was key in helping every person in his company connect the dots between Valmark’s larger vision, their company strategy, and their individual jobs.

“I think without the Engagement Multiplier tool, we likely would not have got to this spot. We really didn’t know where the issue was, but our employees, once they became comfortable and understood that their feedback was truly anonymous, they weren’t bashful about telling us.”

Do you know what “communication” means to your employees? Don’t guess – ask!