How to Measure Employee Engagement

Measuring Employee Engagement is Actually the Easy Part
Companies employ a few different mechanisms for measuring employee engagement. The most common is the use of employee surveys. This makes sense. If you want to measure employee engagement you need to hear the voice of the employee and understand where they stand.
I have a few clients who use focus groups rather than a written survey. They are smaller and find it more beneficial to have an outside vendor (like me) come in and facilitate a few focus groups and then report the findings and help the company come up with action plans around areas where things could improve. As I said, this works in small environments and whoever is conducting the focus group has to be trusted as a source employees can open up to without being penalized.
Other companies figure that employee engagement centers around benefits and pay and therefore they measure their employee engagement by how competitive they are in the market in these areas. While I appreciate this as a component of employee engagement, I think we miss the mark when we think it is the only driver. I work with job seekers every day who have great pay and benefits and are miserable in their current role due to many other factors.
How to measure employee engagement is really up to whatever the best mechanism is for the company. Perhaps the better question is what to measure or even what to do once it’s been measured.
This is where we start to fall apart.
I worked for a company years ago that did employee satisfaction surveys once a year. The executive team took specific questions and turned them into KPI’s on the leadership team’s annual review. The main question that the CEO cared about the most was “would you recommend ABC Company as a great place to work to your friends and family.”
The answer to that question, he felt, demonstrated true engagement. If employees would recommend us to others, they were engaged.
It’s a great question. I appreciate it’s value as part of a larger survey which asks many other questions with answers that are considered as indicators as well. To hang our hat on that one or any one question is nonsense.
Here’s why.
If the satisfaction survey revealed positive numbers in that question, the rest of the survey was seemingly disregarded. “We got that question right so who cares about the rest.” Other parts of the survey clearly indicated issues, but we focused on that one and missed out on great opportunities to really engage our employees.
Hanging our hat on that one question also proved we did not understand our employees. This was an environment where employees were paid very little above minimum wage. It was an easy job to get in to for many of them and it was a step above McDonald’s. Yes, they would recommend their friends regardless of engagement because it was the best they were going to get at that stage in their lives.
When thinking about how to measure employee engagement in your business, make sure to include it as part of an overall conversation about how, what and what are we doing to do with the results. Measuring is easy – although I do propose getting expert help if you are designing a survey – the hard part is what really matters to measure and what you are going to do with it after.
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