Imagine you have employees who are focused and attentive to their work and believe in the organization’s purpose. They don’t just “get things done” ; they go above and beyond, achieving goals and willing to do more. They put forward ideas, collaborate, take less time off, attract and retain customers and therefore increase your profits.

Sound good?

That is the essence of engagement and is why so many organisations want to increase their engagement levels. But the reality is that engagement across organisations really hasn’t changed over the last 20 years. According to Gallup, less than a third of American workers are considered to be engaged, and less than 13% of worldwide workers in organisation. These are pretty terrible figures which haven’t shifted since Gallup first started tracking this in 2000.

So if we know engagement is important, but it is not shifting, what is going on? Does this mean that employee engagement surveys are dead? Well, no, they’re not and they are so easy to do. The key is to do something with the information and to align your surveys to your company strategy and future goals.

1. Running an employee survey

Lots of organisations run engagement surveys, try and get a benchmark against other companies and industries. But a score is just a score. And if you are benchmarking against others, when we know that engagement worldwide is low, then what are you benchmarking against?

An area where many organisations fall down is that once they have the survey and they have the results that don’t actually do much with that survey other than referencing the scores in various reports.

That is missing a huge opportunity.

If we go back to what is engagement, from a scientific standpoint, it’s a psychological construct. The scientific research suggests engaged employees bring their “full selves into their work roles”. And in psychology speak, we say that they “cognitively attentive, emotionally invested and physically energetic in their work environment”.

Huh?

Let’s put that into a language we can all understand.

Cognitive engagement is basically how much mental energy you put towards positive organisational outcomes. So if you have a cognitively engaged employee, you would describe them as being much more concentrated, focused and attentive towards their work and their job than others.

Emotional engagement is intensity and willingness to invest emotionally towards the positive organisational. These are employees that believe in the purpose of the organisation that the organisation has a lot of personal meaning to them.

Behavioural engagement is probably the one most people have heard of, which is that employee who is willing to put in extra effort (“discretionary effort”), they work harder for their teams and organisations, and they do more than you expect. Essentially, they’re psychologically willing to give more and they go above and beyond what is expected.

Employee Engagement is different to job satisfaction, but they are related, as you’re going to have higher job satisfaction if you’re engaged. But job satisfaction is about being fulfilled in your work rather than that psychological state of being engaged which is more related to motivation.

If you want to increase your employee engagement is a great idea to get a baseline. Do a survey with your staff that looks at satisfaction with the organisation and with the job as well as employee engagement, because those factors will go into your employee experience (more on that soon).

Questions that measure employee engagement are questions around putting in extra effort, recommending family or friends to work for your company, having a sense of belonging to the job believing in the purpose of the organisation.

Whereas questions around organisation and job satisfaction, will give you really important information for your employee experience. These are questions like how effective training and development is, if they have regular one on ones with their manager, and what internal communication is like.

Make sure the questions make sense for your organisation and you are asking the questions that you want to know the answers to. So they should be aligned to engagement and satisfaction, but they should also be aligned to your values and the purpose of your organisation and your organisational strategy and goals.

What are you looking to do over the next three to five years? If you’re looking to implement an Agile-like methodology for example, then some of your questions should be around innovation. Ask your employees how easy it is to put ideas forward. If your business is looking at merging with other companies, then you want to be able to develop and retain top talent, so you may be asking questions regarding training and development and if employees they feel they have a career path with the organisation. So looking at your questions through a specific company and strategic lens is going to give you the most value.

A SIDE NOTE ON EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE

Before getting into what to do with your survey data, we need to first mention employee experience. If you’re only focusing on measuring engagement, then you’re not actually focusing on increasing engagement. Which means not a lot is going to happen. In fact, you’re probably likely to decrease engagement as your employees start to become demotivated and disenfranchised about engagement surveys and then not seeing any changes happen as a result.

Well this is where the concept of employee experience comes in. Employee experience means looking across your entire employee lifecycle and looking at it through the lens of what is the employees experience.

Engagement is an output of employee experience.

2. Using the survey data

Take that data and look at it critically. So if you are getting really high scores in certain areas, then that is a fantastic thing to leverage in your business, internally and externally. For example, if you get great scores on development opportunities, then that becomes part of your employer brand. That is what you sell out to the market when you’re looking for candidates and that helps you to get great employees on board. If you’re getting really low scores in development, and you know that that’s a critical component of what your organisation needs then that’s clearly an area that you need to focus on.

Ideally, you want to have focus groups with your employees to discuss those questions to try and understand the context of the scores. Employee surveys are standard questions, and people are going to rate them differently and through different lenses. So there’s fantastic value in having focus groups where you discuss the questions within those groups, and really get to the nuts and bolts of what you can do to increase employee engagement and employee experience.

3. Action Planning

Now you have run the survey and have some great qualitative data from focus groups, you can get into the fun part and start action planning. The action plan should sit within your People & Culture strategy, and not form a separate plan. Because you have aligned your survey to your organisation goals and strategy up front, this should not be difficult to do. As you put together actions, consult with key staff and leaders and create some buy-in. Then once the strategy is completed, share with your organisation and publicly track progress.

4. Pulse Checking

Running a survey once per year gives enormous value, but it also just gives a “point in time” view. So running a smaller survey after 6 months around some key questions ; or if you have a larger organisation, running short surveys (around 10 questions) with a random selection of employees each month ; will give you ongoing feedback and help keep “on the pulse” with what is happening in your organisation

Getting started

Having a strategic view on engagement, rather than just running a survey is a fantastic process that you can start today to get you on the right track to become, or remain, a highly profitable organisation.

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