The Gallup 12 questions survey: insights into engagement at work

The Gallup 12 questions survey provides great insights into what engages us all at work. In this article I also provide links to resources for action.

Gallup positions the survey as a productivity tool for managers (research shows that positive answers are associated with higher performance within a team).

These 12 items sort high-performing teams from low-performing teams and can be locally owned, managed, and improved at the team level through manager-led efforts.

However, the questions themselves don’t refer to ‘managers’. Several refer to ‘someone’ or ‘fellow employees’… which tells me that we all have a role to play in enriching our working life.

The Gallup 12 questions are structured around a hierarch of needs:

  1. Basic needs
  2. Individual
  3. Teamwork
  4. Growth

Think of these four levels as a pyramid of needs, it’s not possible to build the apex of the pyramid without a strong foundation (the basic needs).

The Gallup 12 questions

They are called the Gallup 12 questions, but in the survey they are statements (participants have to agree or disagree with the statements).

If you’re a manager, think about yourself and your team as you review the statements. If you’re an individual worker, think about how you can take action to address these Gallup 12 questions yourself.

Questions 1 & 2 relate to basic needs.

1. I know what is expected of me at work.

A great foundation is FAST Goals. FAST stands for Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific and Transparent.

Use them as the foundation for effective 1-1 conversations.

2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

This used to be simple, but with more flexible and remote working this does require an organizational response.  It’s no longer just about providing the ‘kit’ necessary either.

We all need to be supported to make working from home a success. It may be guidance on how to work from home successfully, or a shift in policy to more flexible working arrangements.

Questions 3 to 6 of the Gallup 12 questions relate to individual needs.

3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

If you’re a manager, this is about hiring the right people into your team, understanding your team member’s preferences, and allocating work in a way that recognizes these preferences.

For individuals, it’s about shaping your job: knowing what you want to do more of and looking out for the opportunities, then having the conversation with your manager. 

4. In the past 7 days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

We all have a responsibility to recognize and praise good work. And why would we not? It’s fun to recognize others!

Whether it’s a quick ‘sticker’ in Microsoft Teams to say a “thank you”, or a gracious comment during a team meeting, it’s all good!

You can also give feedback on what has been done well and encourage your colleague to continue with the good work!

5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

How do you express care? First, just by taking an interest in the other person. Curiosity is a great relationship builder.

Here are 5 ways that questions can build relationships.

6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Your manager is responsible for supporting your development, primarily through career conversations and the development planning actions that follow from them.

You are responsible for your career, defining your career goals and your desired next moves.  

Questions 7 to 10 of the Gallup 12 questions relate to teamwork.

7. At work, my opinions seem to count.

Learn how to be a more effective listener.

And as a manager, one of the best ways to show your team that their opinions count is to cultivate your coaching skills.

8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

In some respects, this is beyond the control of managers and individuals.

Managers have a role to play, discussing the purpose of the company with their team. Making sense of the work they do and how it aligns with the purpose. There is an opportunity in team meetings and 1-1 meetings to have that conversation.

And we all benefit when we take the time to look for purpose and meaning in the work we do.

9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

Managers play a lead role in this regard. Managing under performance is one of the greatest challenges that managers face.

10. I have a best friend at work.

This is the last question in the section related to teamwork. I find this an interesting one, I’ve never had a best friend at work, but I can see the appeal.

For managers this is about making sure that the team is just as important as the task, and creating some time and space for team members to connect and build relationships.

For us as individuals it’s about being open to the possibility!

Questions 11 & 12 relate to growth.

11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

This comes back to the career conversations and 1-1 conversations that I have mentioned earlier.

As a manager, find the time to practice these skills and invest the time in supporting your team. The benefit for you is that they will be more engaged, stay longer and are more productive.

Which brings me nicely round to the Gallup 12 questions, which you can access here.

12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Sometimes it’s not about having the opportunities, it’s about recognizing and taking the opportunities.

I remember, years ago in an interview, asking “how much responsibility will you give me” (I thought it was a smart question, showing myself to be ambitious!). The hiring manager, who later became my boss, fired back “it’s not about how much responsibility I will give you, it’s about how much you will take!”.

We all  benefit from a growth mindset and a willingness to find learning opportunities at work.

How to use the Gallup 12 questions

As I hope you can see, the Gallup 12 questions survey provides great insight into how to build engagement.

If your organization uses the survey you’ll have access to the tailored reports and resources (if it doesn’t, then raise the opportunity with your HR and leadership team!).

And if you’re not using the survey itself, take some time to reflect on the questions above. Ask yourself:

  • Which areas are our greatest strengths as a team?
  • In which areas are we less strong?
  • What actions will most benefit the team and myself?

Building engagement is a great investment to make, in your team and your workplace!