Every employer has heard the words "employee engagement," but do most executives truly understand what it means? More importantly, do they know how to measure it?
Employee engagement is important because involved employees are typically more productive, have more energy and are more creative.
"Engaged employees are passionate about what they do," said David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos Incorporated. "Highly engaged employees build better products and take better care of customers – because they want to, not because they are told to."
Scott Johnson, founder of Motivosity, noted engaged employees are the people giving extra time to help the company succeed.
"The environment that yields an engaged employee is one that offers trust, autonomy and recognition to its people," he said.
If you're not measuring engagement, you can't improve it. Here are five tips to help organizations quantify how engaged their employees are.
1. Define what employee engagement is.
Employee engagement may mean something different depending on who you ask. Some employers may define it as happiness, while others describe it as productivity. It's important to decide what it means to your company, because once you do, you'll be able to develop a plan on how to measure it.
Almeda defines employee engagement as the measure of personal investment in one's work.
"Many describe it as the 'discretionary effort' employees invest in the job," he told Business News Daily. "We add our own unique spin: How inspired are Kronites in their roles?"
2. Conduct surveys.
Sending out an employee survey and analyzing the results is an easy way to measure employee engagement by finding trends and problem areas.
Andrew Sumitani, head of marketing at employee engagement company TINYpulse, recommends anonymous pulse surveys for businesses trying to measure employee engagement.
"[Use] super-short surveys – one or two questions maximum. This makes it easier for managers to collect survey data regularly and drive timely action," he said. "Protecting employees by making the surveys anonymous encourages critically transparent feedback even if the feedback is negative."
Almeda agrees that surveys are a great way to measure employee engagement, but he noted that it should be one of multiple sources of feedback.
"We recommend that companies take in feedback from multiple sources to understand general employee sentiment," he said. "It is also important to measure some of the known drivers of employee engagement – this will arm you with data you need to improve it."
For example, Almeda said managers have a significant impact on employee engagement at Kronos. Therefore, Kronos measures its employees' perceptions of their managers.
3. Ask quantitative and qualitative questions.
Surveys are useless if you're not asking the right questions. Sumitani suggests measuring both quantitative and qualitative components to receive well-rounded feedback. For example, he recommends asking employees, "How valued do you feel at work?" as well as "Why do you feel that way?"
"Perhaps a high percentage of employees feel overworked or underchallenged," he said. "Perhaps they don't feel adequately recognized for their work by their managers and colleagues. Or maybe they just feel they are in a dead-end job when reality could not be further from the truth. All of these responses call for a very different response from leadership."
Johnson recommends measuring how employees respond to statements on a scale of "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." The statements can include "I receive recognition or praise at least once a week," "My boss or supervisor cares about me as a person," "I have a best friend at work," "I would not take another similar job for 10 percent more money," "I tell my friends they should work here," and "I agree with and live by our company values."
4. Have individual conversations.
Informal, individual chats with each member of your team is another way to measure employee engagement. This can be more beneficial than a survey because you can follow up with questions and receive more detail about each problem. However, the only way for these individual conversations to be effective is to create a safe environment so employees feel comfortable having what could be a tough conversation.
Exit interviews are already routine in most companies, and they're an important way for employers to learn what they could have done better to improve employee engagement. But if you're conducting an exit interview, it's already too late to help that employee. To achieve similar results, you can interview employees who plan to stay with the organization. Instead of asking, "Why are you leaving this job?" you can ask, "Why are you staying at this job, and what can we do to make sure you do stay?"
5. Plan to measure employee engagement often.
If you just send an employee engagement survey once a year, it's hard to determine trends and find areas of improvement. Supplement the surveys with other forms of measurement so you can consistently keep track of engagement within your organization.
Kronos, for example, conducts internal global engagement surveys twice a year. "That data is supplemented with external surveys for various best workplace awards and social media feedback, such as from Glassdoor," Almeda said. "We use multiple sources to give us an ongoing pulse on engagement."
"Having honest feedback means business leaders can stop speculating and act on what's really top of mind for their employees," added Sumitani. "Collecting that feedback on a regular, frequent basis allows leaders to gauge how effective their actions [are] and guide smarter future engagement."
After you measure employee engagement, be ready to act on it. There are few things more frustrating than providing feedback that isn't heard.