How to measure employee engagement

by | Jun 9, 2024 | All Articles, Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement is important – but how do you measure it?

Many employers recognise the importance of “employee engagement” – but the depth of understanding of what this actually means varies from company to company. One of the main reasons for this lies in how it is measured. Here, Sam Monteath of Employee Engagement specialists Reason Why LTD, explores how to measure Employee Engagement – and it’s importance…

Remember, no-one has ever turned to their boss and asked to be more engaged. What we’re really measuring are the conditions to be engaged.

Remember too, no-one has ever been interested in engagement as a pure number, what they want to know is how to preserve or improve that number.

But you do need to know what you’re measuring, and most of the big providers don’t agree.

If Gallup say that 23% of the global workforce are engaged, if Gartner say 31%, if in 2020 Peakon had the figure at 41%, and if Kincentric say its 67%. That means that they are measuring different things.

So, there isn’t any agreement on what engagement is?

There is good agreement – it’s just very hard to put a number on.

The inception of the work of Engage for Success is almost 20 years old, and the four enablers of engagement remain sound.

  • Strategic Narrative
    Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.
  • Engaging Managers
    Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.
  • Employee Voice
    Employee voice throughout the organisations, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally. Employees are seen not as the problem, rather as central to the solution, to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their experience, expertise, and ideas.
  • Organisational Integrity
    Organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap. Promises made and promises kept, or an explanation given as to why not.

It’s just a question of how to measure that.

So, are engagement surveys useless?

Surveys are great, probably essential to measure engagement. Surveys are absolutely the best way to hear the views of the majority of your workforce. Surveys which put a number on levels of engagement, also allow you to see how you are moving the needle over time.

But surveys have two major limitations:

  • You can’t confidently benchmark against other organisations
  • Surveys tell you what people are feeling, they don’t usually tell you the reason why

Why can’t you benchmark?

Every organisation will have a different heritage, purpose, strategy, values, culture, etc. You’ll be on a different part of your journey. There will be different cohorts of people with their own history in the organisation.

So, it’s hard to see that if you ask the same questions to Organisations A and B, that you’re going to get easily comparable results.

You need to look at your own numbers. You can compare those and see how numbers shift over time.

You can get an accurate measure of conditions for engagement, in your organisation. But without the reason why you get those numbers, effectiveness of actions will be limited.

Why don’t surveys tell you the reason why?

Let’s think about a traditional engagement survey – a number of statements to give a level of agreement to. Plus, a smaller number of free text boxes. The statements give you the numbers; the free text gives you a chance to understand the reason why.

You might well experience Strategic Narrative, Engaging Managers, Employee Voice, Organisational Integrity. But if you get paid peanuts, or don’t have any opportunity to learn, or just work with terrible humans – you might very well feel you just don’t have the opportunity to be engaged.

That means you want to cover a lot of different things. And that means adding questions.

But…the more statements that you as, the less energy that people are going to apply to the free text questions.

The more you want to ask, the fewer of the reasons behind the answers you’re likely to discover.

If you stick with just a survey you will need to compromise. Either on detail or on understanding of engagement.

So, how do we get to the details and the reasons why?

It can be pulse surveys. Far more focused questions will take you further into the detail of how people feel, on a specific topic. But a total reliance on surveys is an opportunity missed.

We feel heard when we are listened to by humans.

And so, a process of getting into detail with the people that live the experience is essential.

That can be in focus groups or workshops. In-person, or technology offers different formats. Considered design offers many different ways for people to respond in diverse ways, so we hear all voices.

And there are many other ways of hearing employee voice. This gives you the vital opportunity to understand why people feel the way they do, what must remain, what can be built on and what ought to change.

Because that’s the ultimate goal. Your future measurement will then tell you if you succeed.

Summary

Be careful with what you want to measure, and understand your efforts should be balanced between:

  • Gaining measures to compare distinct aspects of the conditions for engagement, and see progress over time
  • Understanding what’s behind those measures so you can plan far more accurately to enhance or improve

You’ll be unlikely to achieve that purely in a survey – you will need ways to get to the real opinions and suggestions of your people.

Sam Monteath - employee engagement consultant

Sam Monteath

Helping you attract, engage and communicate with employees with research-led strategy. Employer Value Proposition, Employee Engagement, Internal Communication, Culture.

You can follow Sam on LinkedIn by clicking here.

Help us to Help You

To find out more about Sam’s services, feel free to drop us a line and we would be more than happy to introduce you to Sam – or please feel free to find out more about Reason Why by visiting their website here.

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