Organisations today understand the importance of employee engagement to business success. Engaged staff are more productive and are more likely to stay with the company longer and become advocates for the brand and its products and services. But how do you measure employee engagement effectively? And how do you improve employee engagement and address any weaknesses within your strategy to positively impact key business metrics?
This blog is a guide on how to successfully measure employee engagement. We’ll cover the key areas to focus on when measuring engagement and the survey methods you can use to collect and analyse employee feedback.
What to focus on when measuring employee engagement
The first step to measuring employee engagement is to gauge existing engagement levels and gain staff feedback on areas that need work. Unlike job satisfaction, you can’t measure engagement by asking a single question. To measure employee engagement effectively, you need to look at rational and emotional commitment, as well as discretionary effort. This means that typically engagement is measured by creating an index of a small number of questions.
For more information on the questions to ask, check out our blog: 5 Ways to Improve Your Employee Engagement Survey.
Head Hand Heart methodology
At Tivian, we advocate measuring engagement in the context of Head, Heart and Hands:
- Head – how employees think about their company. For instance, would they be willing to recommend it as a place to work?
- Heart – how employees feel about their workplace. Are they proud to work there?
- Hands – how employees act when at work. Are they willing to put in additional effort and go the extra mile?
We also make a distinction between just being engaged and productive engagement. An employee can be engaged but not effective. For example, they lack the tools or skills to contribute to the company’s goals, or their behaviour doesn’t fit with the company culture. Essentially, employees need to be enabled (through access to the right resources) and aligned with company goals to ensure productive engagement.
This model can be used to measure employee engagement, whichever survey method you use to collect engagement data. When it comes to the employee engagement survey questions you ask, be sure that they are jargon-free, easy to understand, and will lead to clear answers.
We cover this in more detail in our blog on running a successful employee engagement survey.
5 methods to measure employee engagement (and their pros and cons)
There are multiple ways to measure employee engagement, and the best combination will depend on your company’s specific needs and business context. Bear in mind that you need to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to measure employee happiness and engagement.
The traditional annual employee survey (AES) has been the mainstay of engagement programmes for many years. Often carried out by external providers, it is in-depth and covers the entire company. The findings are used to calculate an engagement score, which can be compared to previous years or other companies in your industry. Additionally, open-ended questions are used to highlight specific areas to work on. For example, if you believe you have issues with your culture, you may use the annual survey to drill into more detail.
The advantages of the AES are that it’s comprehensive, covering the entire company. It gives both an overall picture of engagement and how it compares between departments and offices. You can see how scores have changed year on year while analysing the results enables you to understand what factors impact employee engagement.
On the downside, carrying out an annual survey is time-consuming, requiring a lot of resources, particularly if you are still using paper-based surveys. The long gap between collecting feedback means it’s not well-suited to fast-moving industries – particularly as it can take considerable time to analyse results, draw up action plans and roll them out. Particularly now, staff want to have their voices heard and issues dealt with quickly. Running an AES alone is therefore not frequent enough to meet employee needs.
These are shorter, more targeted surveys that cover specific groups of people or are focused on particular areas. For example, you could run them within an office or department where you think there are engagement issues. This enables you to uncover the true picture when you measure employee engagement, then you can check in later to see whether your actions have made a difference. They can be scheduled or ad-hoc/on-demand, depending on your needs.
Pulse surveys are faster to roll out and action than an annual survey. That means they can help investigate and monitor engagement in specific areas. The most significant disadvantage is that they don’t necessarily provide the comprehensive, organisation-wide view of an annual survey.
It’s also important to consider frequency and how it aligns with your business needs. Running a pulse every six months, say, may not be frequent enough to capture recent changes. Equally, weekly pulses may not leave time for action, leading to survey fatigue and eventual disengagement.
Continuous listening exercises are based on a small number of simple questions and run through survey platforms, email or social listening. These surveys provide a monthly or weekly snapshot of sentiment around employee experiences and highlight areas for immediate action.
Their frequency and short length mean that issues that impact working life can be picked up rapidly, which is particularly useful in today’s fast-changing times. They’re easy and quick for employees to fill in, avoiding potential survey fatigue. Issues raised can be worked on collaboratively as a team, closing the loop and solving problems. You can also build a detailed picture of engagement over time, specific to your organisation.
Continuous listening is a less in-depth way to measure employee engagement than pulse or annual surveys. Therefore, they might not provide the breadth of data that organisations may need. Additionally, companies need to act rapidly to fix any issues raised, or employees will become disengaged with the programme.
Employee lifecycle surveys
Employees go through multiple stages – from recruitment through onboarding to promotion and eventual exit. Each of these lifecycle stages has specific requirements.
Listening and collecting feedback can uncover areas where engagement (and retention) can be improved, helping ensure high-performing staff. For example, by monitoring engagement levels amongst new joiners, managers can see if and when it dips and put preventative actions in place. This improves the chances of retaining the specific employee and helps fix any bigger problems, boosting overall retention rates.
Employee lifecycle surveys focus on specific groups of staff, making them best suited to larger organisations. These have enough joiners and leavers to give sufficient data to analyse effectively.
There are not too many downsides to using employee lifecycle surveys. But as mentioned, the larger the organisation, the more scope there is for this method of employee engagement measurement.
Face to face interactions
At a basic level, managers can ask people how they feel and how happy they are, either formally or informally. Face-to-face check-ins provide immediate, useful insights and help build an understanding of what motivates people. It also highlights what gets in the way of them doing a great job.
However, relying on this approach alone is not scalable, rigorous, or transferable in terms of results – how individual managers judge engagement may be wildly different. Additionally, team members may feel uncomfortable speaking openly to their manager. This is particularly true if their feedback is negative or concerns the manager directly, especially if meetings are part of annual appraisals.
Adopting a blended approach is how to measure employee engagement most effectively
As this blog demonstrates, each way of collecting feedback has its strengths and weaknesses, as a single method is enough to give the complete picture. Every company is different, meaning you cannot take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Instead, the most effective way to measure employee engagement is to blend different methods within your strategy.
Employee engagement measurement should be based on four key principles:
- Ensure that you can quickly action feedback – otherwise, it will lead to disengagement
- Dedicate sufficient resources to ensure the measurement is ongoing and effective
- Close the loop by sharing feedback with managers and your people, involving them in coming up with solutions, then ensure you measure again to see the impact
- Demonstrate the value of employee engagement to senior leaders by linking your results to business outcomes, such as retention and productivity
Getting the proper processes in place can appear daunting in terms of resources, particularly for organisations that already carry out annual surveys. However, now more than ever, it’s vital to ensure employees are engaged, committed and motivated to drive improved business performance.
How Tivian can help
Having the right tools to measure employee engagement and support the feedback-gathering process can improve your chances of success. Tivian has a range of employee experience tools to power your efforts and enable you to gain meaningful insights from your feedback and make transformational changes. See how our cutting-edge software for HR teams can help you.