are your employees as engaged as they say they are?

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Employee engagement surveys have been facing considerable dissension for a while now. Organizations struggle with not only what and how to measure, but also with the very definition of engagement. While we all know that engaged employees are often happier and more satisfied in their job, emergence of evidence that it leads to real business results[1] has resulted in engagement becoming a focal point of discussion. However, the jury is still out on what exactly constitutes employee engagement.

Given the multiple explanations of engagement that exist in the industry, I will focus not on the definition of employee engagement but rather on the mechanism of measurement. There is considerable scope of improvement in how we measure engagement. The challenge with engagement surveys is that it largely records only the intent of the participants. Whether this intent translates into action is often not tracked. For example, one common question in most engagement surveys is around the likelihood of employees referring the organization as an employer to their friends and relatives. Whether employees refer friends and relatives is rarely linked back to the survey response.

Going beyond numbers:

It thus becomes necessary to supplement existing engagement surveys with a scorecard that captures how the intent translates into action. An engagement scorecard provides a more comprehensive view by tracking metrics around engagement beyond just the survey score. For example, referral rate will be the metric that would measure whether employees have referred friends and relatives. It is important to note that each engagement driver may not directly affect a particular outcome. Instead, a set of drivers may together influence engagement levels of employees that in turn influences outcomes like profitability, productivity and retention, etc. It is thus important to invest time in deciding which metrics need to be measured and how they link back to drivers in the engagement survey.

So how does one use these metrics?

It is a good idea to track identified metrics on a monthly basis and use this to drive meaningful discussion around engagement with business leaders. Much like an engagement survey, the scorecard helps identify reasons behind low-scoring metrics and areas that require immediate attention. It is also a useful tool in tracking the impact of action items derived from analysis of an engagement survey. Comparison with metrics across different teams may also drive conversation around identification and sharing of best practices.

There are, of course, challenges associated with such an approach. First, while one would like to capture all key metrics of employee engagement in the scorecard, lack of data availability, or partially available data, can serve as roadblocks. In addition, businesses may struggle with how to read the metrics. At a formative stage, it is advisable to look at each metric with equal importance instead of prioritizing one over the other. This would help in taking a comprehensive view of the scorecard. Once familiar with the impact of a scorecard, one could explore introduction of weightages for each metric.

The important part is to understand the limited view engagement surveys provide. We’ve been far too dependent on surveys to provide insights of the pulse on the floor as well as guide interventions. Survey engagement results form the backbone of many initiatives yet fail to explain why the survey scores demonstrate a dip or rise. Engagement scorecards go a long way to unlock a whole new world of understanding how the employees on the floor really feel. As workplaces evolve, step back and evaluate how you’ve been measuring engagement. You can’t change what you can’t measure, but you can definitely change the way you measure.

[1] Q12® Meta-Analysis: The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes, 2009

By ankita poddar
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