Many companies go to great lengths every year or two to determine just how motivated their work force really is, according to a story in the Harvard Business Review.

Employee engagement is now one of the top three concerns of most HR professionals. Studies have linked stronger employee engagement to higher customer satisfaction and profits. But it’s important to remember what comes between the motivated employee and the satisfied customer: the innovative product or service that the employee creates and the company sells. How do these things connect?

Deere & Co. is one company that has a sophisticated approach to checking the morale of its employees. According to the story, Deere’s Enterprise Advanced Marketing Group — which is tasked with identifying unarticulated, unmet customer needs, representing opportunities for innovation and growth — has created a system for surveying the motivation of its employees every two weeks. Several groups, covering about 100 employees, have adopted this system. These future-oriented Deere managers believe that frequent monitoring of motivation has become as essential to understanding the health and functioning of their teams as operational and financial metrics are to understanding whether the business is firing on all cylinders.

More details on the process: At the end of every two-week development cycle, teams review what went well and didn’t go well, and what should change. But as part of the retrospective, leaders also ask team members to answer this telling question on a 10-point scale: “How do you feel about the value you were able to contribute in the last cycle?” While this question is about each employee’s concrete contribution, it importantly tests how they are feeling about their work. Deere managers call it a “motivation metric” or even a “happiness metric.”

By tracking the element of motivation, alongside such metrics as development speed and quality, teams have achieved between a four- and eight-fold increase in the amount of product development work they deliver every two weeks (a metric called “velocity”). And, in turn, that means this can significantly reduce the time it takes to bring new products and new features to market.

Read more.