Appreciation | January 13, 2017
the dying employee engagement survey: new ways to measure engagement
By o.c. tanner
Everybody’s worried about employee engagement, and for good reason. Employees can go to work every day, but if they aren’t truly engaged in the work, they’re simply wasting your company’s valuable assets. Today many organisations struggle with something called “presenteeism” meaning that employees are present at work, but not productive. According to Carnegie Management, “Current research shows this to be a $33 billion loss to Australian industry.” And a recent survey by Aon Hewitt showed only a 65% engagement rate among employees of the Asia Pacific region. So with so many employees present, but not productive, what is to be done?
The Solution: Are Employee Engagement Surveys Dead?
Well, the first step is to understand not only the percentage of employees in your organisation that are engaged, but also how engaged they are. For many companies, the first place their minds turn is the annual employee engagement survey. While surveys may seem like an easy way to understand the mind of employees, research is finding that they are not as effective as we may be accustomed to believing. In fact, 48 percent of HR professionals in a recent survey say they don’t believe employee surveys provide honest and accurate assessments. And 58 percent said survey results don’t actually help managers gain a greater knowledge of behaviors and practices they can change to improve. So, is the annual employee engagement survey dead?
Yes, or at least the way we administer it.
Why is the annual employee engagement survey dead?
Since annual employee engagement surveys have been such an integral part of many companies for several years, it’s important to truly understand why they aren’t working as well as we think. After all, it’s hard to change habits that have been in place for decades. Here are some reasons why employee engagement surveys fail. If you understand these, it’ll be easier to see how you can improve and find alternative methods that are more effective in truly tracking employee engagement and gaining actionable insights.
Part 1- Why Annual Employee Engagement Surveys Fail
They’re not Comprehensive
If you want an accurate survey, you should poll everyone in your organisation. It’s important to get a census and not just a sample size. This will allow you to understand what is happening not only in each department, but in each position within that department. If you gather insights from every employee in your organisation, you’ll be better equipped to help all of them succeed, and your company will advance as a result.
They’re too long
Ironically, sometimes employee engagement surveys actually do an incredible job of bringing down employee engagement. If surveys take too long, employees not only take extra time completing them and less time being engaged at work, but they actually become less engaged in the survey itself. If you want good results, don’t go overboard with too many questions. It’s more about the quality of questions than it is the quantity.
Don’t ask stupid questions. It’s simple. If a question won’t give you information you need to make strategic business decisions, don’t ask it! Try to ask specific questions tailored to each individual employee’s role. If employees find that the questions are annoying, too personal, or irrelevant to their position, they’re less likely to answer honestly, if at all.
They’re not Open-Ended Enough
While likert statements and other close-ended forms of questions allow for easy statistics and data analysis, you’ll often find that the most valuable information you get will come in the form of answers to open-ended questions. Not only will you get a more intimate insight into the mind of each employee, but based on the complexity and time given to complete answers, you may gain further insights into who is most engaged at work. Those who are passionate about what they do typically take the time to give detailed and candid responses.
We Don’t Follow Up
Following up on feedback and advice given in an employee engagement survey is absolutely critical. Not only should you implement positive change as a result of survey responses, you should also use subsequent surveys to follow up on past surveys. If employees don’t see positive change and progression happening as a result of their willingness to participate in a survey, they’re likely to feel unheard and unlikely to want to give their opinion in the future. Follow through, and follow up.
Part 2-The Solution: New Ways to Track Employee Engagement
Now that you know some of the issues with the annual employee engagement survey, let’s take some time to look at some alternatives. With the advancement of technology and the literal daily change of the internet, companies have to adapt constantly. And the rate of change is increasing. Now, a yearly check-up on engagement simply isn’t enough. The good news is that along with the rapidly changing times and technology come tools and techniques to measure employee engagement. Here are some ideas for continuously measuring engagement along with some tools that may help.
One of the biggest problems with surveys is that they can feel extremely impersonal. Not only that, often employees feel that they’re not truly being listened to and that their voice isn’t being heard. Speaking to someone face-to-face is typically the best way to understand their feelings about the company and gauge their level of personal engagement.
With surveys you lose the body language and the more intimate details people are willing to share with a real human that they might not like sharing in a plain, dry survey. Google is one company that does a great job of employing this kind of communication for an evaluation tool.They use people analytics to capture the human factor. After all, humans are your biggest asset, so it’s critical you understand them.
Employee pulse surveys
If you truly want to understand on a more consistent basis what employees are feeling, it’s a good idea to give surveys on a regular basis. Keep in mind, however, that you want them to be short and relevant. Employee pulse surveys are so named because, unlike the annual employee engagement survey, they allow you to keep a real-time pulse on the overall mood within your organisation. Knowing where your company stands on a more consistent basis will allow you to make strategic business decisions gradually instead of all at once at the beginning of a new year. This will allow you to naturally adapt to the constantly changing business world of today and maintain a relaxed, yet productive company culture.
Real-Time Engagement Surveys
Aon Hewitt takes the idea of pulse surveys one step further and offers real-time engagement surveys. Through their “Mood Ring” platform, they give companies real-time insights and actionable results. The service allows employees to respond quickly and give feedback on specific meetings and events from the ease of their smartphone. With short surveys that take very little time and effort as well as actionable insights generated, employees feel more inclined to give consistent feedback.
Part 3: The Results
Measuring employee engagement regularly and effectively with the right tools and in the right way yields many positive results that one large annual survey simply can’t. Here are some results of regular engagement monitoring efforts.
It Gives a Good Baseline
- Regularly checking on employee engagement levels in a natural way helps you maintain a constant picture of the overall passion and commitment level of your entire organisation. Knowing where you stand on a very regular basis will help you make informed decisions.
It Can Improve Your Bottom Line
- Knowing who’s engaged and who’s not can help you know how to start taking steps to keep the passionate ones going and help the weary and distracted become more engaged. It may even help you cut the fat by bidding farewell to employees who aren’t adding value. Getting each employee engaged and enabled will pay dividends. In fact, according to research from Hay Group, “Companies in the top quartile on both engagement and enablement achieve revenue growth 4.5 times greater than their industry peers.”
It’ll Help You Keep the Good Ones Around
- We’ve all heard it: People are your biggest asset. While investment in the latest technology and equipment may be important, investing in human capital is the most vital step you can take for the success of your organisation. A 2015 study by PWC found that the cost of employee turnover in Australia “was estimated at $3.8 billion in lost productivity and $385 million in avoidable recruitment costs.” Learning how high the cost of employee turnover can be will help motivate you to regularly monitor and ensure employees are engaged. Using techniques to measure employee engagement more regularly and personally helps not only to identify your best people and understand whether they’re at risk of leaving, but also allows you to act on frequent insight to improve those cultural roadblocks, before it’s too late.
Measuring engagement in the workplace is as important as ever, but as technology improves and workplace innovation and change accelerate, it’s critical to get a more regular and accurate read on the status of your organisation. The annual employee engagement survey is no longer enough. Now is the time to step back and evaluate the way your company is understanding its employees and implementing positive change accordingly. Make regular efforts to keep your employees engaged, but remember that your tactics should change with times and technologies. Don’t get discouraged as you strive to improve. Get started now and success will come.