Want a great way to understand if someone's truly engaged by what they do for a living? Ask them the following question:
What are you working on?
The answer tells you all you need to know about whether someone's engaged in their job or not. Let's do a quick rundown of the possible responses and what it tells you about the person in front of you:
1. The person is quick with an answer and is excited to tell you about it. You've got an uber-engaged person in front of you. What am I working on? I'm working on a freaking killer project, and after I'm done there's a good chance I'm going to rule the world.
Slow down, sparky. I'm glad you're fired up. You're fired up, am I fired up? Sounds like a bad cheer from high school. But it's still cool that you're whacked-out engaged. That's probably half due to who you are and half due to the job/company you're in and possibly your manager. Plus, you're a Tony Robbins-like freak.
2. The person can tell you what they're working on specifically, but isn't excited. Welcome to the border of engaged and what Gallup affectionately would call "neither engaged nor disengaged." Ugh - I can't believe I just wrote that. Anyway, you know the deal - the person really isn't fired up, but is still enough of a professional to tell you that the revamp of the TPS report platform is going "as planned" and should "be ready for deployment" at the end of the 4th quarter.
This person is interesting. They're engaged enough to tell you that, but not really engaged. I think this person needs a manager to help them work on something meaningful in addition to making the donuts to determine if they can bring back that loving feeling (Yes - Hall and Oates/Top Gun reference - deal with it).
3. The person tells you "I don't know" or tells you "the same old s##t". You tell me, is that disengaged? Probably, but it doesn't mean the person should be discarded like the Laffy Taffy at the bottom of your kid's Halloween candy barrel. Sometimes, the job sucks and they've been in it too long. What do you do with that? If you're simply asking them what they are working on and don't have any other responsibilities to this person, you run like hell. If your the person's manager, you've got to think about this. Can they be salvaged? How can you salvage them if they're in a crappy job with limited ability to give them meaningful work?
Ask somebody what they are working on today, then judge them on the response. What comes out of their mouth will tell you all you need to know about their level of engagement.
You don't need no stinking survey.