How to measure employee engagement
It’s Sunday night and the working week is looming. How do your employees feel about it?
If you don’t know, you probably don’t know how engaged your workforce is, either – but with companies who boast engaged workers up to 22% more profitable than their less engaged competitors, employee engagement is not something you want to leave to chance.
In this blog, we’ll talk you through the basics of employee engagement, give you the low-down on why you need to measure it (and how to do it), and make you aware of the common mistakes to avoid when it comes to tracking engagement.
What is employee engagement?
Let’s start with what employee engagement isn’t. It isn’t simply job satisfaction, or how happy your people are. It isn’t a wellbeing score, or how many virtual events employees dial into. Employee engagement goes much deeper than all of that.
It’s about how invested your people are in your company; how deeply they connect with your values; whether they believe in (and understand) your goals; how hard they work when no one’s watching; how you understand the human experience for your employees and create a happy environment for them. Basically, all the things that stop them from jumping at the first great job offer a recruiter wafts their way.
When employees are truly engaged, they want to do a good job for you; they pay attention to your comms and share in your newsletters; they celebrate your successes as their own, and they talk with passion about their role to anyone who’ll listen (which is also why engaged employees make for brilliant brand ambassadors).
Ultimately, employee engagement is all about getting the best from your people, by giving them your best.
Why measure employee engagement?
As with anything in life, you can’t improve something if you don’t know it needs improving.
Measuring employee engagement allows you to see just how invested your people are: if you’re doing a grand job then fabulous, you’ve got some validation that you’re already smashing it and are free to crack on. If your scores leave something to be desired, then you’ve just discovered a golden opportunity to makes things better. Don’t you just love a win-win situation?
When you understand what drives employee engagement, you can create strategies that both play to your strengths and deliver what your people actually want and need. And the reason all this matters so much is because having an engaged workforce is one of the biggest determiners of success.
Engaged employees give more: they’re more productive, more creative, and more likely to remain loyal (meaning less attrition for you to contend with). Engagement empowers people to achieve, but in a healthy way. Ruling with an iron fist might return results for a time, but the second your employees have a chance to jump ship, you won’t see them for dust.
When you measure employee engagement and take steps to improve it, your people know that you’re committed to them. They feel respected, valued, wanted, and needed; they understand the importance of their place in the organisation, and their role in helping you to meet long (and short) term business goals. You’re taking them along for the ride, and they want to be there.
Remote and hybrid working has thrown a few engagement challenges into the mix: how do you keep people engaged when you rarely see them? But whatever set-up you’ve plumped for post-pandemic, there are plenty of tried and tested methods for increasing employee engagement in your workplace.
How to measure employee engagement
- Find out what drives employee engagement
Before you can even think about measuring employee engagement, you need to get to the root of your engagement drivers (these are the factors that affect engagement levels in any organisation). Some of the most common drivers include development opportunities, teamwork, communication, remuneration, recognition, trust in leadership, change management, and whether your people have confidence in your future. Measuring these will give you an idea of what matters most to your employees.
- Create a focused engagement survey
Using what you’ve learned about drivers of employee engagement, you can create a company-wide survey to evaluate just how engaged people are in each of these areas. In any engagement survey, your questions should be a mix of qualitative and quantitative – giving you both actionable data, and a valuable insight into the thoughts, feelings, opinions and suggestions of your workforce. Surveys should be sent to everyone in your organisation at regularly-spaced intervals (such as monthly or quarterly). This will give you the chance to compare your findings and measure the impact of any changes you’ve implemented along the way.
- Measure every manner of relationship
The quality of people’s working relationships has a massive impact on how engaged your employees are. You should be looking to measure vertical relationships (between manager and employee), horizontal relationships (between employees and their colleagues), and institutional relationships (the relationship your employees have with your organisation, and factors such as your values, goals, and fairness). Measuring these things allows you to identify any problems in company dynamics.
- Monitor email open rates and click-throughs
Want to know if your employees are interested in what you have to say? Tracking open rates will give you a feel for how engaged your people are with company comms, and in turn, your company. Monitoring click-through rates allows you to see whether people are curious about your updates, as well as helping you to form a picture of what content your employees are interested in, and what they tend to bypass.
- Take a quick pulse survey
You shouldn’t rely on pulse surveys alone as they don’t have the depth of a full-on engagement survey, but they can be great for giving you a snapshot of employee feeling around a particular issue, topic, or area of work. Pulse surveys typically cover satisfaction-based questions (does your role make the most of your skills?), opportunity-based questions (are development opportunities clearly communicated?), and alignment questions (does the company vision inspire you?)
- Don’t overlook employee wellbeing
The world is far more focused on wellbeing since the plight of the pandemic threw public mental health into the spotlight. Most employers understand well enough by now that you can’t have an engaged workforce if workplace wellbeing is floundering. That’s why it’s essential to take a temperature check of employee wellbeing whenever you send out a survey; this should always include a question on how supported people feel at work when it comes to their wellbeing.
- Schedule regular one-to-ones
Your people need to feel seen, heard, and understood. One-to-ones can sometimes offer a more personal and in-depth measure of engagement than anonymous surveys. But do keep in mind that for your employees to be honest, you’ll need to gain their trust: no one is going to complain about a company if they think their job will be at risk. Get that right, and you’ll have a depth of actionable insight to dive into.
- Explore focus groups
Whether you home in on one department or target a cross-section of your company, focus groups offer up an opportunity to explore employee feeling through a representative sample. This is something that larger businesses can really benefit from, as it may be challenging to hold one-to-ones as often as you’d like. You can ask your focus group to discuss pre-set questions, such as “does this company live its values?”, or “am I supported to achieve my potential?”
- Measure (and compare) retention rates
One of the biggest indicators of employee engagement is your retention (and attrition) levels. When people aren’t happy, they’re far more likely to jump ship; when they’re engaged and on-board, it takes a lot more for your competition to lure them from your door. When looking at retention rates, it’s important to compare the same time period (i.e., Q3 2021 against Q3 2022) and consider whether you’ve done anything differently.
- Look at absence data
Sometimes, your people get sick. They have family emergencies. They’re in need of some personal time. That’s all fine and expected. What you need to look out for is trends across teams, departments, and in your organisation as a whole. If employees are often absent from work without a valid reason, it’s highly likely that they’re feeling disengaged – and you need to act on that.
Mistakes to avoid when engaging employees
There are some pretty common pitfalls that a lot of employers when it comes to measuring employee engagement. Here’s what you need to look out for.
- Over-reliance on pulse surveys: Pulse surveys are great for getting a snapshot of employee feeling around a particular issue, but they shouldn’t be your only measurement tool. You need to go deeper if you want to elicit valuable, actionable data. Pulse surveys offer up lightweight feedback: you need in-depth data if you have a strategy to inform.
- Only surveying sections of your workforce: Part of the effectiveness of employee wellbeing surveys is that your employees see a visible demonstration of your attention and concern. You need to give every last employee the opportunity to have their say. You’ll also get a more accurate picture if you measure engagement across the board, rather than in silos.
- Creating surveys with no depth: Remember when we spoke about drivers of engagement? When you design your survey, you should be asking questions that get to the bottom of how your people feel in relation to these particular areas. Don’t just pluck questions out of thin air; they need to have real meaning behind them.
- Tracking too infrequently: Data can become irrelevant pretty quickly in the world of employee wellbeing. You might send out a survey and see that things are hunky dory; then you hire a new manager who upsets the apple cart, and engagement plummets. But if you only send out a survey once a year, you’ll only find out when it’s too late.
- Not acting on your findings: Few things are quite so damaging to morale and engagement than being asked for feedback, and realising your employer has no intention of acting on it. If you’re going to the trouble of garnering company-wide opinion, make sure you have plans to analyse and act on that feedback quick-sharp.
- Not conducting exit interviews: Exit surveys are gold for gauging employee engagement levels and understanding what’s having the biggest influence on those levels. When people are flying your nest, they’re no longer worrying about losing their job – which means they’ll answer honestly. You just have to be brave enough to ask the question.
How can Forsta help?
Want insight that’ll boost your business? With our Voice of Employee (VoE) survey software, you can pick your people’s brains for a real reflection of how engaged they are.
Get to the bottom of what you’re doing well and where you need to improve with our customisable survey templates – crafted to get at the data you most want to see. And because you can run the entire VoE program yourself, you can either go it alone, or get back-up from our experts.
We believe that employee engagement should be a constant conversation, so our software is designed to equip you with a steady flow of valuable feedback, rather than an annual snapshot of employee data that’s rendered irrelevant with every passing season.
We deal in simple, customisable and automated surveys to keep you constantly up to speed. Now, you can’t say fairer than that.
Recognising the value of employee engagement
Having an engaged workforce is good for business, which means that measuring employee engagement makes sound business sense – but you have to act on those findings if you actually want to reap the benefits.
A recent study from Gallup found that creating a culture of recognition can result in employees who are 4x more likely to be engaged, so go big on recognising and rewarding your workers, tap into what they need to feel supported at work and aligned with your vision, and never stop looking for ways to make improvements. The world doesn’t sit still for long.
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