Surveys don’t improve employee engagement by themselves. It’s what you do with the results that counts. And what you can do with the results depends on the questions you ask, how they’re asked and who asks them. While employees may appreciate you showing interest in their opinions, if the questions don’t gather feedback on the issues that matter or no improvement seems to result, engagement can get worse not better.
This article is designed to help you start creating an employee engagement survey strategy that works well for your organisation.
What is employee engagement?
Before you set out to measure and improve employee engagement, it’s important to agree on what it is exactly. There are quite a range of definitions out there, but most include a core set of features and enabling factors. Here’s an example.
Employee engagement refers to the emotional dedication an employee has to their organisation’s mission, their team’s agreed deliverables and their own work.
Employees are more engaged when they:
- Have a sense of purpose
- Feel safe taking calculated risks, speaking up and admitting mistakes
- Are trusted with the flexibility to get their work done where and when they choose
- Can access a wide range of professional development opportunities
- Are frequently recognised and rewarded for the contributions they make
How to monitor employee engagement at an organisation level
An employee’s engagement with their organisation can be quite different to how engaged they feel with their immediate manager or team. That’s why it’s important to gather feedback on engagement at more than one level.
To measure employee engagement with the organisation and gather useful feedback, many companies simply ask two questions. They evolved from the widely used customer loyalty and satisfaction measure, the Net Promoter Score or NPS.
The employee version, eNPS, asks employees:
- On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our organisation to friends and family?
- Why do you feel this way?
People who score 6 or less are known as detractors. They’re employees who would rather not be working for you and may consciously or otherwise undermine your efforts to succeed. They’ve given your organisation a fail grade.
People who score 7 or 8 are neutrals. They’re not particularly keen on your organisation, but are prepared to play along for now. They give you a C for average.
People who score 9 to 10 are promoters. They’re passionate about your organisation, motivated to ensure its success and will happily sing your praises whenever they can.
To calculate your eNPS you subtract the percentage who are detractors from the percentage who are promoters, then drop the percentage symbol. For example, if 20% are promoters and 10% detractors your eNPS would be 10. Generally speaking, an eNPS between -10 and +20 is quite common. However, any positive score is considered good and above 10 you’re doing really well.
Categorising the open-ended responses into key topics allows you to identify opportunities for improvement. It also helps you to avoid inadvertently changing highly valued features of your organisation.
Responding to the results in a timely and transparent way is essential. You don’t have to make all the recommended changes of course, but you should change those you can or explain how and when you will do so. If you don’t intend to address some improvement suggestions for now, the feedback still needs to be acknowledged and the reasons explained in ways that employees will understand.
By running an eNPS survey every six months or so, you can monitor progress on improvement initiatives and identify changes in sentiment early on. It can also help you to benchmark your performance against similar organisations.
How to survey team level engagement
While something like an employee net promoter score survey provides feedback on employees’ engagement with the organisation, it doesn’t give managers the information they need to build and sustain a highly engaged team.
Scheduling team-level engagement surveys between the organisational-level surveys increases the overall feedback frequency. This helps employees to feel that their opinions are valued, so long as improvements are made in response.
Team level surveys can cover quite specific topics, to help managers identify and drill down into potential issues. Given that employee engagement is based on clarity, connection, recognition and development, here are some examples of questions they might include:
- The way our team operates reflects the organisation’s culture (scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree)
- What would you do to improve our team’s culture?
- I have a clear understanding of our team’s goals and how they support what the organisation wants to achieve (scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree)
- The organisation recognises the value my work provides (scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree)
- Is there something that others should have received more recognition for? (please explain)
- Do you see a specific problem on the team that management doesn’t seem to? (please explain)
- What would allow you to do your best work more often? (consider providing specific options like access to the resources I need)
- How do you feel about the work you’ve been doing lately – bored, comfortable, challenged, stressed?
- Does the rest of the team give you the support you need? (please explain)
- What do you see as your main strengths?
- What professional development or performance goal would you most like support with over the next six months?
Leadership training and employee engagement strategy
While surveys provide valuable insights, they can never replace regular one-on-ones and empathy in the workplace. A good team leader or manager is quick to notice changes in someone’s behaviour and engagement. They know how to provide appropriate opportunities for people to share their concerns and identify the support they need.
Regular one-on-one meetings allow employees to raise issues they may be keeping to themselves or don’t want to bring up in front of others. They’re also a valuable opportunity for two-way feedback and exploring underlying causes in more detail.
Immediate managers won’t have the authority to solve every issue themselves, but they can agree to help ensure the appropriate people receive and respond to an employee’s feedback.
A powerful way to boost employee engagement is to ensure team leaders and managers have the professional development they need. They should be highly skilled at monitoring, measuring, discussing and making improvements to address what employees see as the key drivers of engagement today.