How to reliably and effectively measure employee engagement

It’s all too easy to view measuring employee engagement as a task for the HR team to manage. Often measured once a year, employee engagement is rarely given the attention it deserves and as such, the findings are questionable. With COVID-19 creating global chaos, keeping employees engaged and motivated is more important than ever, but how do you reliably measure the engagement levels of staff right now?

How to reliably and effectively measure employee engagement

The flaws of an annual survey

An annual survey can be useful for tracking levels of engagement and change over time, but only if combined with other methods of feedback. Organisations that rely solely on an annual survey as the only method of collecting feedback will have results which are ineffective and inaccurate. Employees won’t complete an engagement survey if they think nothing will change, and on its own, an annual survey isn’t an honest assessment of ongoing engagement levels. On top of this, many companies don’t know what to do with the results.

So what can organisations do to track engagement more effectively?

Utilise many methods of feedback

Businesses shouldn’t just rely on one or two methods for gathering employee feedback. A variety is needed including surveys and more informal methods. Pulse surveys are recommended as a good, ongoing way of getting continuous feedback from employees. A fast and frequent survey system intentionally designed to be done weekly, or every few weeks, pulse surveys include quick and simple questions that can be published immediately. This is especially valuable right now as the COVID-19 crisis is ever-changing.

Other feedback vehicles include one-to-one meetings with leaders, team meetings and casual conversations. However, in the absence of physical ‘one-to-ones’ and team meetings, leaders must ensure regular virtual catch-ups over video conference to understand employee mood, wellbeing and levels of engagement.

Look at multiple factors of engagement

It’s important to avoid just measuring satisfaction, or likelihood to recommend. Employees should be asked about various aspects of workplace culture, their employee experience and how they feel about leaders. And COVID-19 specific questions should be added to the mix to better understand how people are coping and how they’re feeling about their company’s handling of the crisis. Do employees feel safe working from home or whilst in their place of work? Do they feel informed about what the company is doing to navigate the crisis? Are they feeling supported by their employer and believe they’re a valued member of the team? Are leaders being accommodating and understanding of individual circumstances?

A battery of questions should be developed to accurately measure what’s important to people, and baseline measures need to be set before embarking on any new engagement initiatives to effectively measure impact.

Be transparent with results and planned improvements

This is a critical step that most organisations miss, and with so much change happening, this is especially important right now. Communicating results and what changes and improvements will be made after asking for feedback is critical in building trust with employees. And with transparency being demanded by employees during the pandemic, those organisations that fail to deliver on this do so at their peril.

In fact, our Transparency Pulse Survey (6-10 April 2020) found that, in those organisations where perceived transparency fell since the start of COVID-19, there’s a 25% reduction in employee engagement. So, companies must actively show that they value employees by acting quickly on feedback. This, in itself, will start to improve employee engagement levels.

Measuring engagement never stops

Organisations must be prepared to measure engagement on an ongoing basis. Finding out how employees feel about their organisation simply can’t be a task thrown over the fence to HR, and then ‘measured’ once a year. It’s far too important to side line.

Annual surveys can be used but in addition, there must be regular pulse surveys, team discussions, one-to-ones and any other means in which to find out the true feelings of staff towards their employer. If companies haven’t been doing this before COVID-19, now is the ideal time to change direction to ensure employee engagement is a top priority.  

The author is David Danzig, director from O.C. Tanner Europe.

This article is provided by O.C. Tanner Europe.

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