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FICO taps employee engagement software to improve bosses

Credit-scoring and analytics provider says Glint software helps boost performance and possibly profits, but manager use is a challenge.

Seeking a cost-effective tool to help drive growth, FICO has ended an annual questionnaire of workers and become...

an early adopter of software that provides a quarterly survey of employee happiness and manager performance.

The Glint employee engagement software is part of an overall strategy to hold managers more accountable, said Richard Deal, chief human resource officer at FICO, which is based in San Jose, Calif.

"Our senior leadership team believes that highly engaged people -- people with a strong emotional tie to the organization and their work -- tend to be more productive and better performers," Deal said. "Further, we believe that people managers have a strong influence on individual engagement."

Deal said the employee engagement software allows FICO to use more analytics in making decisions about how to boost performance and possibly make the company more profitable. Answers are anonymous and provide engagement scores across the company, by region, gender and offices -- down to teams led by managers with at least five employees.

At FICO, employees are generally asked, for example, if they would recommend managers to others; if they are confident in leadership; if they thrive in the company's culture and whether the job provides a sense of meaning or purpose.

FICO's emphasis on the importance of employee-supervisor relationships is backed up by the findings of a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management.

According to an online survey by the society of 600 U.S. employees, compensation is typically a top priority to workers, but many are also motivated and inspired by the relationships they have with colleagues and supervisors, and the ability to use their skills in their jobs.

The research found, for example, that 60% of employees said pay was very important to job satisfaction, while 54% rated their relationship with their immediate supervisor as very important to job satisfaction. The survey was taken in July and August of 2013 and released in April.

Deal said it is too early to point to many examples of change imposed as a reaction to the survey of 2,800 employees. FICO started the surveys in October and just completed its third.

FICO did, however, boost regular written and face-to-face communications with employees after reviewing survey findings, which included scores and narrative feedback.

Executives started holding town hall-style meetings with different groups of employees, who work in numerous locations in 23 countries, Deal said. They also increased written communications about company strategy.

FICO, which provides analytical business and software services and is best known for the FICO Score, a measure of consumer credit risk, purchased the employee engagement software last year.

The company sends an email to all employees with a link to the same 18 questions -- nine of them every quarter and all 18 of them every other quarter. An employee can finish the survey in about three minutes, answering on a seven-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Results show percentages favorable, neutral and negative. Deal estimates that about 280 managers get engagement scorecards that they can review on their dashboards.

Twice a year, the company also poses two open-ended questions that ask for short written responses: "What should we start doing or invest more in to enable profitable growth?" and "What should we stop doing because it consumes resources while adding low value?"

To shield the identities of employees, teams need at least five respondents.

FICO wants more managers to use software

User adoption is a common issue with software tools and Glint is no different in that respect, Deal said.

One challenge is getting managers to spend the time using the Glint dashboard to produce reports and analyze the data, he said.

"The ultimate irony, of course, is that managers who aren't very good at fostering high levels of engagement on their team also tend not to be very good at spending time thinking about engagement," he said. "That is one of the reasons their engagement scores probably aren't where they wish they were."

Instead of requiring users to wade through scores, the Glint software can produce polished reports. Managers can get a snapshot of low scores versus high scores on questions and view them over time to detect trends. A search tool shows how scores on each of the questions compare to the benchmark for the question. "They very quickly draw your attention to the areas you should be paying the most attention to," he said, adding FICO is scoring a little above average on most of the questions.

Deal said he is working with Glint on a possible analysis of managers who are logging in to use and explore the dashboard and managers who are not using it.

Deal said FICO received an early adopter deal from Glint and expects to be paying about $100,000 a year once the price normalizes after the first year or two. Glint's fees are based on the number of employees invited to use the tool. FICO spent about 60 days setting up and testing the software, determining the questions, the frequency of the survey, and educating HR team members to support it, he said.

FICO's prior annual survey, hosted by Gallup, was online; but results, at least in the last survey, were delivered in a PDF file, while Glint provides scores on a dashboard that allows complex filtering and permits managers to drill into the data, Deal said.

Deal added the employee engagement software is a valuable tool priced at about the right level.

"It's becoming a part of the fabric of the organization, which I think is healthy," he said. "I believe that employee engagement is a very real thing. Managers are, in fact, one of the most important, if not the most important, determinant of it. There are some tangible things that managers either do or don't do that contribute towards engagement. This survey is attempting to measure who is doing a good job at that and who isn't."

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Well, sure, engaged employees are typically happier and more productive. I just don't know if a piece of software is the answer, though. We use a similar process and software at my company, but it has only become a universally dreaded task to get done when that time of the year rolls around. It will never create a good manager or employee out of a bad one. Good management and employee engagement needs to come from the top down. It needs to develop organically out of management who are truly invested in leadership, and employees who are empowered and satisfied. 
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abuell -- Great point. Thanks for making the comment. At FICO, the emphasis seems to be on rating the managers. That sounds like a good tact.
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