Measuring employee engagement

Any business owner will speak to you about the importance of having satisfied and loyal employees. Smart business leaders know that having 'engaged employees' is crucial to success. Engaged employees are more than just satisfied at work, they are also motivated, positive and committed, and as such are just the people employers are striving to recruit and retain. But wouldn't it be nice to have a means for measuring how well your employees are engaged? Whether your business is large or small, conducting employee research through surveys can be a great way to both measure engagement and identify areas in which you can improve. Our U.K. sister site, BusinsesZone provides these insights.

Engagement should be measure through three key principles - say, stay and strive.

Say – This is a measure of how likely an employee is to be an advocate of the organization. Would they recommend working there to a friend? Would they sing your praises as an employer?

Stay – Commitment is key, so it is vital to measure your employee's loyalty to the business. Do they plan to remain in the company? How long do they envisage working there for?

Strive – Are your employees more than just satisfied with doing their work well? This area measures whether employees would be prepared to go 'over and above' the call of duty to ensure organizational success.

Using these principles as a basis for an employee survey ensures that a measure of overall employee engagement can be established. Of course, whenever you are conducting employee research it must be borne in mind that establishing a level of employee engagement and measuring staff opinion is not enough. The resulting information need to be analyzed thoroughly and ultimately used to drive action that leads to organizational improvement.

Getting started

With any piece of employee research it is crucial that you ask the right questions, think about what issues are important to your employees and relevant to your workforce. Possible areas to cover could include pay, management style, career progression, training, work environment, benefits and work/life balance.

Before embarking on any employee engagement program, it is important that senior management are fully committed to taking action on the results. If there's no intention of using the research results, then it is best not to raise employees' expectations by running a survey. In fact, our work has shown that organizations who do not share and act on survey results are actually in danger of reducing workforce engagement.

For employees, understanding and filling in the survey should be as easy as possible and must be something that they can do within the course of their working day. Keep the questions simple and concise and ensure that questionnaire completion takes no longer than 10 minutes. A survey of this length will provide ample data for analysis yet is succinct enough to be accessible to employees. If this is your first survey you might find it useful to work with an expert to ensure that the questionnaire is as effective as possible.

Running an effective survey

Once the survey has been prepared, employers should consider the most appropriate method for survey completion. Workers are often wary of staff questionnaires and may feel that any negative opinions could have unwelcome repercussions for them. For this reason, anonymous surveys are usually preferable. Technology has made surveys easier than ever to administer, and an online survey is a cost effective option for companies with a workforce with computer access.

However, if you have a large proportion of field staff or a mainly manual labor force, you may find that a better response rate can be attained by distributing a paper survey. This can be kept anonymous by having a 'drop box' where the employees can return their completed surveys.

It is important that staff are aware of the survey before it is released, and are committed to completing it. Giving the survey a name or brand can help too and using the same brand throughout the range of survey materials (questionnaires, communications materials, reports and actions) can help to raise the profile of the survey in employees' minds.

To ensure a successful response, it is necessary to give staff adequate time and resources to complete the questionnaire. If your business is based over more than one location, you could try and appoint 'survey champions' at different locations. These people should be briefed fully to answer colleague questions and be responsible for helping to enthuse colleagues to complete the survey.

If employees are not responding, one idea is to stage a survey session. Designate 30 minutes where all staff are to fill out their surveys. An incentive of tea and biscuits while they are working on them can also help!

Analysis

Once the survey is complete, the results require careful analysis. Comparing data against an external norm can put results into context. For example, you may find that only 46% of employees are satisfied with their pay. Without further information you may feel this is a poor result, whereas in fact this could be above average when compared to other organizations in your sector.

Statistical analysis also allows further insight into how employees feel, and why they feel that way. For example, it's interesting to know that 30% of employees are highly engaged, but it is far more useful to know that it is the recognition they receive from their line manager that drives this engagement. Analysis like this allows you to identify the areas where the company is performing well and where there is room for improvement.

Take action

At an organizational level, the challenge is ensuring that the survey leads to real improvements. Areas for change and improvement need to be prioritized, and commitment should be given to taking action in up to three key areas. It is all too common that in months to come, employees remember the survey, but not the actions.

It is useful to communicate your plans for action to employees so that they can see that their feedback has been heard and acted upon. Once actions are underway, be sure to communicate your progress in all of the action areas, and of course don't forget to celebrate your successes.

And repeat as needed

Most organizations find it beneficial to survey their staff on a regular basis. Once a benchmark has been created there is clear value in continuing to examine employee attitudes and progress against initiatives. In most cases, continual improvements can be realized and the survey itself becomes part of the company's annual cycle and a strategy for promoting employee engagement through meaningful dialogue. Businesses should be committed to a long term program of employee engagement and regular employee research forms an essential part of this.

AccountingWEB would like to thank Kate Pritchard, head of employee research at ORC International for providing this information.

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