How to Successfully Measure Employee Engagement
Employee engagement plays a large part in a company’s long-term success, regardless of industry. A highly engaged workforce has been shown to improve productivity, profitability and retention rates. Not only that, but business units with top employee engagement levels boast higher customer satisfaction rankings, lower absentee rates and enjoy a boost in sales.
It goes without saying, but employee engagement is hugely important and warrants a business plan of its own. But how can you tell if your strategy is working? In this article, we’ll outline the steps to effectively and regularly measure employee engagement.
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Table of Contents
- Recap: What Is Employee Engagement?
- Why Measuring Employee Engagement Matters
- Before You Begin
- How to Measure Employee Engagement
- What's Next? After You Measure Engagement
- How Often Should You Measure?
Recap: What Is Employee Engagement?
Before you start to evaluate employee engagement in your office, let’s first review what it is. Employee engagement is defined as the degree to which individuals are passionate about, motivated by and invested in their work, as well as the company they work for. It’s often misconstrued as job satisfaction, and while that’s certainly a factor, workplace engagement is much more complex.
Employee engagement can be likened to “workplace homeostasis”; all the contributing factors are in balance, which fosters a positive work culture and creates a stellar employee experience. It's a complicated, abstract phenomenon that doesn’t hinge on any one factor, which is why carefully and regularly evaluating employee engagement is so important.
Employee Engagement Definition
Why Measuring Employee Engagement Matters
Improving employee engagement can greatly enhance your organization. In fact, having an engaged workforce makes organizations 21% more profitable and decreases turnover by 25-59%. However, before you make improvements to your engagement strategy, you need to know where you’re starting from. Measuring employee engagement will enable your team to develop a robust strategy that’s thoughtfully tailored to your unique staff.
Measuring employee engagement also helps ensure that your efforts are yielding real results. Simply put, you need to know how well your strategy is working. Because it’s influenced by multiple variables, engagement levels are prone to fluctuate as new team members are onboarded, processes are implemented and your workspace evolves. Measuring engagement will help you understand which initiatives are effective and which could stand to be updated.
Dedicating time and resources to evaluate your team engagement levels also demonstrates that the company values its employees as individuals, which is key to engaging your staff. The simple act of asking, “How are we doing?” makes employees feel respected and appreciated.
Before You Begin
It’s vital to your success that all key players are aligned before you start to measure employee engagement. Review this section with your entire team ahead of the evaluation to ensure everyone is clear on the following objectives.
Be ready to take action
Make sure your team is primed and ready to take action immediately after reviewing the results. Thoroughly evaluate your resources, designate roles and lay out timelines ahead of your assessment. Of course, you’ll likely need to recalibrate slightly once you’re able to see the areas of your engagement strategy that require immediate action, but you should be prepared to move shortly thereafter.
Ensure that all team members — HR representatives, department heads and C-Suite executives — are aligned on the roles and responsibilities. If possible, outline a budget to help guide your efforts. You’ll have an easier time getting leadership to sign off on your program if they’re already in the loop.
Provide employees with context
Transparency is vital. Ensure that your staff is aware of when, how and why you’ll be measuring employee engagement. If they understand the intention and have confidence in your team’s ability to follow through with their plan, employees will be more likely to provide thoughtful, honest feedback.
If you have tangible goals in mind — for example, “Our aim is to decrease employee turnover by 30% this time next year” — communicate them to your team. They’re not oblivious to the challenges your company is facing, so let them know you are working to improve them.
Improving employee engagement is a big to-do, so there’s no need to further complicate the process by spreading yourself too thin. When communicating your plan to the team, be realistic about your goals and honest about the resources you’re willing to dedicate. Failing to follow through on your promise will make leadership appear self-serving and disingenuous, and you’ll likely disengage employees as a result. Instead, aim to underpromise and overdeliver.
How to Measure Employee Engagement
Now, you’re ready to get started. It’s important to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to measure employee engagement, and you should utilize several of the following methods to get an accurate picture of your team’s engagement.
Depending on the size of your company, you might not have the bandwidth to carry out more time-intensive initiatives like one-on-one interviews or small group discussions. If that’s the case, consider utilizing an employee engagement platform — Officevibe, Lattice, 15Five and Emplify are popular options — to help automate your efforts, implement more frequent assessments and keep a pulse on employee engagement levels.
1. Use an employee engagement survey
One of the most common methods for gauging workforce engagement is an employee engagement survey. This is a quick and effective way to poll your entire team about their commitment to their work and perception of the company. By using a mix of numerical scale and open-ended questions geared toward various drivers of employee engagement, you can collect data in real time and better assess the situation. Be upfront about the survey’s anonymity and/or confidentiality terms and ensure employees are aware of the difference between the two.
2. Hold one-on-one meetings
Private conversations give employees the opportunity to speak to the matters that are most important to them, some of which might not be accounted for in a formal evaluation. Engage managers and the HR department to conduct individual meetings with employees on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis — whatever is attainable for your team.
Use this opportunity to ask questions, but dedicate a majority of the time to listen. Assure the individual that the conversation is private and, if possible, have the interviewer be someone the employee has a solid relationship with. This way, they’ll be more inclined to speak openly and trust that the other party will honor confidentiality when necessary.
3. Hold small group discussions
For a bigger company where individual meetings are difficult to coordinate, small group discussions offer semi-personalized forums that require fewer resources. Round up employees from the same or similar departments to discuss their team’s successes and challenges, or assemble a group of employees from across the company for varied responses to big-picture ideas.
Again, ensure that every individual feels comfortable speaking honestly and provide a platform for follow-up conversations regarding private matters. This can be done over email or you can hold office hours where employees can book 15-minute sessions with managers, HR reps or department heads.
4. Conduct exit interviews
One of the best ways to figure out how you can improve employee engagement is by conducting exit interviews when an employee is leaving your company. However, this is a highly reactive tactic and cannot be the focus of your efforts. If you want to engage your current employees more effectively, you can’t rely on the opinions of those you’ve lost.
Still, an exit interview is a great opportunity to get honest feedback about your company as these individuals are likely to be comfortable speaking openly when their job isn’t at stake. Use questions from your employee engagement survey to help guide the conversation. You’ll also want to compare notes from previous exit interviews in case there’s a trend in your company’s turnover.
5. Conduct “stay” interviews
Far less common but far more effective than exit interviews are “stay interviews,” one-on-one meetings with long-term employees where you ask them specifically about what’s keeping them at your company. Use this time to figure out what employees like about and what’s working from your employee engagement strategy.
Be careful not to draw unfounded conclusions — if no one mentions liking your vacation policy, that does not mean it’s not important to your team. Dedicate time to talk discuss areas for improvement in order to understand what is truly a top priority to the people on your team.
What's Next? After You Measure Engagement
Once you’ve collected the data, it’s time to put it to use. Remember, failing to follow through on the promises you made will send a negative message to your employees. While you can’t guarantee you’ll meet your goals, you need to make a serious effort to do so. Use the following guidelines to round out your approach to measuring employee engagement.
1. Analyze the results
How engaged are your employees currently? Is there any concerning feedback that requires immediate action? Can you identify any teams or departments that may be at high risk for attrition? Dig into the data from each evaluation method and look for commonalities.
Keep in mind that exceptionally low scores in a particular area shouldn’t be your top priority unless multiple employees agree. If there are only a few reports of unhappiness regarding work hours, there’s no need to implement flex schedules across the company. Instead, encourage managers to address business hours with employees individually.
2. Establish your benchmarks
After you’ve analyzed the data, determine your organization’s benchmarks using common employee engagement metrics, such as your employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). Identifying these data points is crucial to successfully continuing your efforts as you’ll need to be able to refer back to your benchmarks in order to assess your progress.
3. Map out your plan
Once you’ve identified your organization’s areas for improvement, revisit — or develop — your employee engagement strategy. Circle back on your initial action plan to ensure that the necessary teams and backstops are in place. Make any necessary adjustments to the proposed budget and timeline, and clearly outline the responsibilities of the individuals involved.
You’ll want to move quickly during this stage in order to address the results while they’re still relevant, but don’t sacrifice quality for efficiency’s sake. You’ll benefit more from a well-formulated plan than from taking action sooner.
4. Communicate the results and your plan
Just as important as providing context ahead of the assessment is communicating the results after. Send out a formal report to the entire company, or organize a town hall meeting to review the data with the team. Either way, get your team up to speed as soon as you are able. Go over each stage of your plan to improve employee engagement and the reasoning behind your decisions. Take time to address any concerns to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the next steps.
5. Thank your employees
Seems simple enough, but saying 'thank you' can go a long way. Express your appreciation for your team's participation and their honest feedback. This can be done via a company-wide email or as an announcement at your next all-hands meeting. If your evaluation process was time-intensive, consider providing participants with a small token gift, such as a five dollar gift card to a nearby coffee shop. Keep in mind that timeliness is a crucial factor.
6. Reassess and repeat
A successful employee engagement strategy is ongoing. You should continue to measure employee engagement using a combination of the methods mentioned here and use the data to evolve your strategy. Compare new results to benchmarks and older data sets to gauge your progress and understand how your team engagement levels have changed.
How Often Should You Measure?
Generally speaking, you should measure employee engagement as often as possible. However, the frequency of your assessments will depend on the method you use, which is why varying your approach is key to tracking employee engagement as it evolves.
Certain evaluations, like pulse surveys, can be utilized on a weekly basis with the help of employee engagement and HCM platforms. Quick, five-question surveys are easy to complete once a week, while more lengthy surveys should be utilized as biweekly or monthly evaluations. Small group discussions along with one-on-one and stay interviews can be conducted as you’re able. Due to bandwidth constraints, you’ll probably settle on either quarterly or biannual evaluations, done at the start and end of the year.
Exit interviews should only be conducted when an employee chooses to leave your company. Of course, you want to conduct as few of these as possible, but each employee should be interviewed ahead of their departure.
Follow these guidelines to regularly measure employee engagement in your workplace. At every stage of the process, your goal should be to collect accurate data that will help you create positive change within the office. If you find yourself in a rut, take a look at what other leaders say about employee engagement and what they've done to improve their workplace engagement.