Employee Engagement

5 Things about employee engagement surveys you may not know

employee engagement surveyHave you recently created an employee engagement survey? Or perhaps taken one?

The answer for a majority of people is “Yes!”

Since the 1950’s employee surveys have been widely used, become increasingly standardized and are seldom the change agent that they once were.

The employee engagement survey has been relegated to the proverbial “status quo.”  Many managers, executives and companies are missing out on the opportunity to gain the valuable insights that they are looking for.

Organisations with highly engaged employees outperform those with low levels of employee engagement by 202% - Dale Carnegie

In this blog post, we take a look at five important elements of employee engagement surveys that are not commonly known or often overlooked.


1. Frequency matters

Annual Survey

The annual employee satisfaction survey was first introduced in the 1920’s. Originally called the employee attitude survey, it has been the staple measurement tool for HR departments and executives for the last century.

The annual employee engagement survey allows companies to get collective feedback and data from their workforce.

The challenge with an annual survey is that it does not accurately represent actual engagement levels within a company for a given period. It merely gives you insight into engagement levels and how people feel at the time of the survey. 

If a particular employee has had a bad day and they aren’t able to be objective, their answers might not accurately reflect how engaged they are.


Quarterly Survey

The quarterly survey is certainly a move in the right direction.

The increased survey frequency will significantly improve the relevance of your data. It will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your employee recognition and engagement strategy. This is relatively simply done by measuring the change in results from one quarter to the next.

More regular employee data means that employee engagement will not simply be a subject relegated to a discussion once a year. It can become part of managers quarterly KPI’s.

That being said the quarterly survey starts to fall a little flat when companies want to get granular. How happy are your employees at work? How engaged are they? How motivated do they feel?

A quarterly is an effective tool to measure employee engagement change over time but companies need more real-time data to accurately answer the questions surrounding employee engagement.

Pulse Survey

Welcome to the future of measuring employee motivation, engagement and satisfaction.

A pulse survey is effectively a short questionnaire that is sent out daily or weekly. It will usually only consist of one or two questions which makes it much easier for the employee to complete and the manager to analyse.

With data coming in frequently managers can establish benchmarks, track engagement trends and quickly react to what works and what doesn’t.

The added benefit is that a pulse survey also takes a lot less time to create, send out, receive feedback and it costs less. Pulse surveys also have significantly higher response rates.


2. Don’t leave it up to HR

Let’s get one thing straight…

Employee engagement is not an HR problem. Managers are ultimately responsible for motivating their teams and if someone becomes disengaged it is their job to take action.

The results are pretty clear. A 2015 Gallup study showed that managers account for an incredible 70% variance in employee engagement.

A great starting point for managers is to spend more time with the results from their surveys. Often managers merely act as the intermediary between their teams and HR. Distributing the survey, encouraging participation from their team and then moving on to the next task on the list of to do’s.

This is an opportunity missed.

Once the results are in, managers should review the data and discuss it with their teams. The benefit is teams will feel more invested in the survey. They can help brainstorm possible root causes or solutions and ultimately it should help bring the team closer together.

Here are four quick steps to help managers once the survey results are in:

1. Say thank you

Don’t take their participation for granted. Ultimately their feedback is crucial to improving the organisation, the company culture and team employee engagement surveys performance. Recognising them for their insight is essential to ensuring long-term success and buy-in to the employee engagement strategy. 

2. Discuss the data

This can be done with each individual or team-by-team, via email or in-person. Regardless of the method, managers should cover all the data, the good, the bad and the ugly.

3. Get creative

Now that everyone has seen the results, set up a brainstorming session and get creative finding possible solutions. Don’t get too carried away here but pick 2 or 3 ideas, create an action to implement them and get to work.

4. Follow up regularly

You can never have too much communication, so follow up regularly about the ideas implemented. This will ensure the team stays aligned and will significantly improve the chances of success.


3. Focus on key performance drivers

According to Gartner 80% of senior leaders believe good employee engagement is a critical part of achieving business objectives.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty big deal and has been for several years. So much so that employee engagement surveys in one form or another have become routine for most organizations. employee engagement surveys

Questions like “Have you received recognition recently?” “Do you leave work at the end of the day feeling happy?” “Do you have a best friend at work?” have become mainstays in the employee survey and used by a majority of companies.

This poses an interesting dilemma...

Employee engagement survey questions are widely known and used. Most managers have stopped questioning whether or not their survey data provides an insight into business outcomes.

Employee engagement and organizational performance work hand-in-hand. This means that it is important to include questions that help gauge and understand the sentiment (attitude, motivation and commitment) and performance (efficiency, productivity and company alignment).

Here are three key employee performance drivers that can be tested in an employee engagement survey:

  1. Does the employee understand the company goals and the link between their work and the organization's strategic objectives?

  2. Are employees part of a multidisciplinary, complementary team and are they part of a high performing team that they can learn from and teach?

  3. Do they have the right capabilities and are they confident enough to make use of the tools, information and people to help them navigate change?


4. Survey fatigue is real

At the start of this post, we wrote about survey frequency. Ultimately the best way to measure and improve the levels of engagement within your company is to survey employees more frequently.

employee engagement surveysSurvey fatigue happens when respondents become overwhelmed by the number of questions or how often they are asked to take a survey.  

This fatigue can have a very detrimental effect on your data as it often results in lower response rates or incomplete information.

The trick to resolving or even preventing survey fatigue is simple. Firstly, make sure your questions are relevant. The easier they are to understand and answer the more likely you’ll be to get a response.

If you are using a pulse survey, try stick to just one question specifically if the survey is being sent out daily. This will also get the employees full attention as they aren't left wondering how many questions they’ll have to answer.

Finally, ensure you validate the survey questions. Take the survey yourself and have a colleague take it too. If either of your experience any challenges you’ll be able to make changes before it gets sent out.


5. It’s significant but is it meaningful?

Here’s a quick scenario for you:

The results are in from your latest employee engagement survey and the data shows that your company's engagement is down by 4.2% from the previous year.

The question is, does that 4.2% give us anything meaningful to work off?

When analyzing survey data it is easy and very common to jump to the conclusion that your employee engagement is significantly lower than in the previous period.

But is it?

To answer that we need to understand what is “statistically significant”  and how to determine if that data is meaningful.

Statistical significance refers to whether any differences observed between groups being studied are "real" or whether they are simply due to chance. In this case, does the 4.2% decrease in employee engagement tell us that your employees are meaningfully less engaged?

Or is that change merely due to the fluctuating, capricious nature of human beings?

Statisticians and sociologists typically use a 5% cut off when dealing with people, which means that for our purposes although the 4.2% is significant it is not meaningful and doesn’t require our immediate attention.

When analysing your next survey results avoid jumping to conclusions but rather ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is there a difference?

  2. Is that difference real?

  3. Is that difference meaningful?

There you have it. Five things you need to keep in mind when creating your next employee engagement survey.

Happy engaging!

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