With all of the froth around employee engagement, it’s important to ask why it might be so important.
Is there a real reason to measure employee engagement beyond the fact that leaders demand it?
Absolutely…but it depends.
1. More Engagement = More Profit
It is truth universally acknowledged that businesses with highly engaged employees tend to be more profitable. Regularly measuring where your workforce stands with respect to engagement and taking meaningful action in response to that feedback is better for the business and better for your employees.
2. Understanding Employee Turnover
Numerous studies across multiple industries continually point to employee engagement as a key leading indicator of employee turnover. When analyzed properly, engagement measures can indeed help you predict which employees and business areas may be at elevated risk for employee exits.
This can not only help you in workforce planning but also provide insights into the real WHY underlying these departures. Knowing THAT something (like turnover) is more likely to happen is helpful, but gaining the insights into the underlying causes with employee engagement is even better
As a point of contrast, you might be able to find other possible leading indicators of employee departures such as recent poor performance reviews or a sudden increase in the use of paid time off days. Indeed, I’m sure LinkedIn activity statistics (if they were publicly available) would be a strong leading indicator.
That might be helpful in a predictive model but having someone’s LinkedIn activity data wouldn’t really help you understand the underlying issues. Employee Engagement data, properly measured and analyzed, can.
3. Understanding Supports Effective Action
If you understand the underlying issues tied to turnover, you can potentially take informed and effective prescriptive actions. Conversely, knowing your employee engagement numbers may help you avoid solving a problem you don’t have.
There is no sense in trying to solve an employee engagement problem if it turns out most of your employees are highly engaged (or at least tell you they are).
It is much more efficient to figure this out earlier using a simple survey than executing a massive set of prescriptive actions targeted at an engagement problem that does not exist.
4. Actually Measuring How Employees Think and Feel
If people and culture matter, and they most certainly do, then being able to put some reasonably accurate numbers around those things we seem to merely sense about our workplace is invaluable.
5. Identify the Better Teams and Managers
Which teams are generally more engaged? Which are not? What leaders have had higher engagment across differing teams?
Using employee engagement data can not only help us stem the tide of employee exits but, just as importantly, identify problem areas or levels and reward those leaders who are consistently setting the stage for better individual and organizational performance.
6. Identify Overarching Trends and the Impacts of Change
Looking at your engagment numbers over time can tell you whether things are trending up, trending down, or relatively stable. This can be particularly important during times of uncertainty or transition such as a recent acquisition, merger, market disruption, or an economic downturn.
Businesses give a ton of lip service to things like “resilience in times of uncertainty”, but many are afraid to take an honest look at how business decisions such as a merger can negatively impact the people and the business.
Taking timely, regular engagement surveys and comparing them over time is one way to move beyond feeling and intuition and into genuine measurement in the face of new challenges.
Do You Need an Engagement Survey?
Every business is different. While some might benefit enormously from an engagement survey, others might not.
How do you know if an engagement survey is right for you and your organization?
I can’t answer this for you but working through the following set of questions with colleagues and leaders will help you get to an answer. They are a varient of the well-known Heilmeier Catechism.
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Why do think you have problem?
- Do you have a way to measure it?
- What result do you expect from this assessment? If you get the result you expect, what actions will you take?
- What would it mean if you got a result you did not expect? What actions would you take?
We will have much more so to say on employee engagement soon. In the meantime, take a step back and really ask yourself if an employee engagement will be genuinely useful for you organization.
Is this engagement survey something you really need or just something you think you should be doing because other HR departments are?
Will leadership take meaningful action or is this just window dressing?
Remember, a problem well stated is half solved.
Be clear about your purpose before diving into an engagement survey.
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