Chances are if you work in a corporate job, in the last year you've taken some kind of engagement or employee satisfaction survey (or perhaps created and administered one), designed to take the pulse of the organization, to assess strengths and weaknesses in the areas of trust in leadership, pride in the organization, and meant to help the C-suite identify areas that might pose a risk to the overall performance of the enterprise.
These surveys are usually professionally designed, intelligently administered, and provide rich data sets that can be used for analysis and comparison. But these surveys, like any survey really, are only truly valuable if they are asking the right, and relevant questions. They tend to almost exclusively focus inward, i.e. - 'What do you think about your managers?' or 'I have pride in working for this company' type questions are typical.
But I think for many organizations, especially now as the employment market begins to show more and more (halting) steps towards more sustained improvement, the true engagement questions, or really the questions that the C-suite has to have the answer for are outwardly oriented.
In fact, most leaders might only want or need to know the answer to one question, the one question that we never seem to see in these engagement surveys, namely:
If Competitor 'XYZ' offered you $10,000 more (or whatever amount is applicable to put the person in the 'I'd need to think about it mode'), would you take the offer and resign from our company?
Sure, I know what you are saying, no employee would truly want to answer that question, since they would fear a 'Yes' answer would brand them as a 'no-commitment' traitor, and might put their job at risk. And even a 'No' answer might brand someone as having a lack of ambition. So we never ask the one question we really need to have the answer for.
What people say about their attitudes and tendencies is important, but what they actually do is the only thing that ultimately matters. And when good people start leaving the organization, in seeming contradiction to a stellar prior year employee engagement survey, and leadership seems surprised, perhaps it is because you never asked and don't truly understand the only question about engagement and retention that really is telling.
Or you could have a few more meetings trying to strategize on how to move the 'My office environment is pleasant and comfortable' score up a few points for next year.