Employee engagement has been one of the cornerstones of successful HR management for the last decade. Measuring engagement is like putting a thermometer into various parts of the organization to get a pulse of how your employees are doing. It is vital that you accurately measure employee engagement in order to gather insight on your workforce and learn how to improve your engagement strategy moving forward. Below, I dive into three ways to improve employee engagement measurement.
1. Relating Engagement to Business Impact
One of the most underused opportunities in engagement surveys is the ability to relate what you measure to business outcomes. Engagement is often seen as a goal in itself. When one or multiple questions in an engagement survey have a particularly low score, the organization focuses on improving these scores. However, do you ask yourself, “How is our engagement score impacting the rest of the business?” For example, how does engagement lead to employee retention, to financial performance for your salespeople, or to your customer service level? Most of us in HR expect a relationship between engagement and these outcomes but it can be tricky to quantify this level.
Getting that one low score up from a score of three to four out of five is rewarding in itself but can you imagine how rewarding it will be to executives when you connect that score to the impact it has on the rest of the business? This is also a common critique of employees and front-line managers on the concept of engagement. Engagement might be very important for a few weeks, but afterwards no action is actually taken to address it. By relating engagement to business outcomes through people analytics, it is easier to create an urgency for improving engagement.
An example is Best Buy, a large electronics store chain, that tried to relate employee engagement to store profitability. They found that a 0.1% increase in employee engagement resulted in a $100,000 increase in profit per store. These kinds of insights help to drive better and more informed decision-making.
2. Pulse Surveys
A trend that has been emerging in the past few years is the concept of pulse surveys. Traditionally, organizations had every employee fill out long-winded surveys once a year. These days, it is possible to measure the same using very brief surveys that are only sent to parts of the organization.
Pulse surveys enable HR to ‘take the pulse’ of the organization at different times throughout the year on a regular basis. Traditional surveys might extensively ask about a wide variety of topics, whereas pulse surveys only include a few questions, providing employees a quick and easy way to submit feedback.
An area where a lot of organizations, and particularly those in HR, can still improve on is the way they ask questions in surveys. Take a good look at what questions resonate most and least with employees, and use that insight in your next survey strategy.
In a recent publication, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) has been shortened to a 3-item questionnaire. This much shorter engagement scale would work very well with a pulse survey approach, enabling an organization to measure engagement frequently and in a reliable way. Because this questionnaire is used throughout the world in research, there are also norm groups available which help to benchmark engagement in your organization with engagement in the general population per region.
3. Continuous Analytics
The two opportunities above offer a combined effect that’s larger than the sum of the individual components. Engagement can be related to business impact – and when executed the right way, pulse surveys can act as an excellent path towards gathering continuous feedback and engagement measurement. What more can you do to improve employee engagement measurement? Start with how often you look at analytics.
Don’t limit the amount of time you spend looking at analytics. Because engagement levels can fluctuate, you need to look at analytics frequently. Research has proven that engagement can change on a day-to-day basis and in line with this, the desired outcomes that are caused by engagement, also change. Continuously measuring engagement not only enables you to keep a finger on the pulse but also offers the opportunity to predict business success on a regular basis. This has also been referred to as continuous listening, a key trend in HR. Don’t turn down the opportunity to catch and address any signs of disengagement right away.
Even if your company already has engagement measurement practices in place, there’s always room for improvement and optimization.
I highly encourage taking a scientific approach to how you measure anything in an organization. Below are three key take-home messages I want every reader to take away from this article:
- Measurement is always a means to an end, never a goal in itself.
- What you measure is always related to a bigger picture.
- Keep learning and improving based on what you have measured.
Best of luck measuring engagement in your organization!
About the Author
Erik van Vulpen is the founder of Analytics in HR (AIHR). He is writer, speaker, and trainer on people analytics. Erik is an instructor for the HR Analytics Academy and has extensive experience in the application of HR analytics.