The Abt Associates Story

This case study was written by the team at Abt Associates. Waggl enjoys partnering with you! 

Abt Associates is a global leader in research evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy and international development. Founded by Dr. Clark Abt in 1965, Abt now has nearly 4,000 employees in nearly 60 nations. 

The Internal Challenge:

Recognized as a leader in research and evaluation, Abt is diligent in applying a data-driven approach to internal processes. In 2013, a home-grown survey was created to evaluate employee engagement. Staff greatly appreciated the survey, but it was labor-intensive to administer and analyze results. In 2016, the company sought out a survey tool with more actionable insights.

The Solution: 

After considering a number of survey instruments, the Denison Consulting survey was selected. Their ability to benchmark results against other companies was the determining selection criteria. Not only this, but the insights generated from the Denison survey allowed for easier organization into an action plan that gave leadership a clear and prioritized path forward; something the home-grown survey could not do as easily. Immediately, Denison and Abt redesigned and launched the new survey. But how could they prioritize the results rapidly?

Bringing in Waggl:

Waggl was brought in as the medium for creating actions to respond to 2016 survey results. Waggl is the #1 tool for real-time employee feedback. It specializes in crowdsourcing employee insights to reveal the most actionable path forward. Leadership and employees are enabled to align as partners in successful growth strategies and change initiatives.

Abt first applied Waggl to internal focus groups. A portion of the employee population was presented with the results from the employee engagement survey conducted with Denison. They were asked to suggest actions to respond to the results. 300 actions were generated. Those 300 actions were then fed into the Waggl platform and employees were given a chance to rank them in order of importance. 

At the end of the initial Waggl pulse, the employee group had produced a prioritized list of improvements they hoped to see throughout the organization. When compared with the priorities that leadership had outlined that same year, there were stark differences between the two. It was clear that leadership would need to engage staff more regularly when identifying actions to improve employee survey results.

Moving Forward:

With results in hand, Abt was ready to plan a change implementation process. As a first step to engage staff more regularly, Abt formed work groups with three sets of internal constituents to move the actions forward. These groups would go on to further hone the action items, which were delegated to appropriate leaders to act on.

  • Senior Executive/Officers: About 50 people, where the discussion centered around their roles in driving culture change.
  • Project and Portfolio Managers: Client-facing staff who are also the leaders most employees report to. A different conversation took place here, very intentionally providing change tactics and behaviors.
  • Self-identified Change-agile or Change-interested staff: Around 250 people whose responses to a separate, internal Career Profile survey indicated that they were interested in developing competencies that support Abt’s strategy.

While good progress was made by these groups, the process was tweaked in 2017. To ensure faster action to close gaps in the employee survey results, a Task Force with representation from across the company was created. This group meets annually to set forth recommendations to close survey gaps, which leadership then reviews and implements.

Final Word:

Denison Consulting and Waggl are proud to be partnering with a company whose rigorous research, knowledge, and consulting expertise is helping to achieve tangible improvements in the lives of people around the world. And we are proud that our rigorous research, global understanding, and consulting expertise is helping Abt adapt to rapid changes in business and global dynamics so they continue to make that difference!


Are you looking to partner with an organization that can help you create true engagement, beyond measurement, with Employee Voice? Get in touch!