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A comprehensive guide to employee engagement

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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is defined as the level of enthusiasm and emotional connection an employee has towards the organization. This means that the employee is eager and ecstatic to get up every morning and come to work. The employee looks forward to their work, collaborating with colleagues, contributing towards fulfilling organizational goals, working on new assignments, accomplishing their goals, and helping their peers achieve theirs. It is a measure of how motivated employees are to put forth extra efforts and how committed they are to stay with the organization. Staff engagement is NOT a program. Instead, it’s the outcome of all the experiences employees have from the moment they first encounter your organization to the moment they exit it. It is influenced by words, behaviors, actions, values, and beliefs employees encounter (or don’t). And it is directly correlated to how leaders, managers, and supervisors drive those experiences. Organizations need to realize all employees and functions contribute to workforce engagement, and hence, it cannot be something that’s only run by or looked after by HR managers.

How can you measure your organization’s employee engagement?

Using an employee engagement survey is a great way to understand what employee experiences impact it. It helps you determine what employees think about your work culture, their intent to stay, and overall factors affecting their productivity. HR managers and senior leaders can use this survey data to improve on existing processes and propose new ones. People engagement measurement tools are easy to use, come with a host of options to conduct, deploy, measure, and analyze surveys.

Here are the 5 things you can consider when developing your employee engagement survey:

1. You can’t just ask about engagement

While it may be tempting to ask, “How engaged are you?”, that won’t cut it. You’ll need to include questions that get at engagement’s core components (intent to stay, willingness to put forth discretionary effort, sense of connection, and affiliation). We believe, by the way, that the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is a fantastic proxy for that. And it’s only one question: “How likely are you to recommend someone you respect to this organization for employment?” How an employee answers that says a lot about how engaged they are. An engaged employee is not only productive but he is also your biggest advocate. A truly engaged employee will always want to recommend your organization to their loved ones. Engagement isn’t only about good work or great benefits or a great work environment. It’s way much more.

2. Don’t do it alone

There are innumerable providers of employee surveys out there. Some are long-tested, reliable, and valid. It is up to you to do the right research and select the platform that suits best to your organization’s needs. Sign up for a trial version, get to know the tool, experiment on it, send surveys, compile some reports, and make the call. There is value in using a trusted third-party to help you measure staff engagement. Your employees will feel more at ease with how their responses will be treated, and if they feel anonymous, they are more likely to respond candidly. Anyone can conduct a survey, but doing one that is scientifically and statistically proven will produce meaningful findings that you can act on. It’s an investment worth making. Data gathered can be shared with the management and various managers to improve employee processes, introduce new initiatives. This can be used as a reference point for all future developments. Using this information will be easy to gauge the effectiveness of new/improved efforts.

3. Study drivers, not just outcomes

Companies that use employee surveys designed by QuestionPro Workforce use our Driver Analysis to analyze what is directly influencing engagement (up and down). It primarily examines how their most engaged employees experience work differently than everyone else in the organization. The result is a prioritized list - top to bottom - of which behaviors are most likely to drive higher staff engagement in your organization. It’s easy to single out an event or process and blame it on that; one must remember its never one thing that influences workforce engagement.

4. Benchmark, but not to a fault

It’s essential to know how you compare to other organizations. Your internal benchmarks are more (most) vital. Set your benchmarks and then watch your progress against them. All you’re looking for is positive momentum...no matter how small it is.

5. Prioritize

Associate engagement starts as and when recruiters reach out to prospective employees. How have you reached out, have you given out the entire information about the role, did you set up an interview, who is the interviewing manager? Employees start noticing things about an organization then and there. You may not think it, but right from that time, they begin evaluating your company and whether they should join if/when selected. Their experiences, after that, also play a crucial role in onboarding, management interaction, performance review, etc. You need to know where employee engagement levels are dropping or surging, only then will you be able to take the necessary steps. Gauge it - is it in the pre-hiring phase or onboarding, etc. - and prioritize your efforts accordingly. This way, you can also learn what’s working and what’s not as and when you are implementing it. Plan and conduct your surveys accordingly; this will give you a proper direction and a flow to your survey and initiative. It’s best to start small and in batches than doing it all together.

How to ensure staff engagement is positively high?

Here are some aspects that you need to take into consideration to ensure staff engagement is positively high. As a leader or manager, you need to aid efforts to drive engagement in your organization effectively.

  1. Goals and plans: Ìt is essential to set and manage individual goals; managers also need to ensure that these are aligned with organizational goals. The goals need to be challenging but achievable, and the importance of aligning individual goals with organizational goals needs to be adequately conveyed. As a leader or manager, you would have some visions and plans; you need to be transparent about these and also invite suggestions.
  2. Crystal clear expectations: Whatever expectations you or the management team have, must be communicated to the team. This is crucial in avoiding any discrepancies, issues, or discontent later. Clear communication is imperative for staff engagement.
  3. Employee enablement: Let your employees freely express their ideas, suggestions, give them the freedom to pursue any projects that they like, any skills that they need to acquire or sharpen. Let them take important meetings and discussions, if they commit any mistakes, that will be a lesson for them.
  4. Exit interviews: Employee churn affects all organizations, no matter what the industry. There are several reasons for employees leaving an organization; you need to speak to them and understand what these reasons. You may retain these employees, and even if you are not, you can at least avoid future attrition.

Why should you conduct employee engagement surveys?

Surveys are a good way of measuring your organization's people’s engagement. You can use an online survey generator tool to prepare and conduct surveys. These platforms also provide detailed reports that can help you make informed and timely decisions.

Here’s why organizations should conduct workforce engagement surveys?

1. Gauge staff engagement levels

This is an ideal way to gauge your people’s engagement levels, get feedback directly from the employees. The feedback is genuine, and if organizations act on the feedback, they will be more than willing to fill in surveys.

2. Be receptive to employees

Conducting surveys is not enough; you have to listen to them and act on their feedback. If they see their suggestions, ideas, grievances are acted upon; they will be more vocal.

3. Get results, take corrective action

Once you have the data you need from your surveys, you need to take corrective action wherever necessary, start new and end old programs as required. Any actions post surveys need to be visible to all the employees.

4. Track organizational changes and growth

While many organizations conduct surveys only once or twice a year, we encourage you to do it more often. Regular surveys help you track new developments which is essential in understanding the organization, its employees, etc.

Why don’t you view our recent blog on employee engagement survey questions; it includes areas to be covered, types of questions, how to write these questions, and much more.

Five quick ways of improving employee engagement

Employee engagement levels directly affect your workforce’s productivity, experience, and retention, among other things. It is crucial to monitor the standards regularly. Here are five strategies organizations can use to improve levels of employee:

  1. Use an actionable survey: When an organization deploys an associate engagement survey and asks for their opinions, those employees expect some action and changes. But most organizations end up with collecting irrelevant data that cannot be acted upon or is not relevant. The fault is in your survey. QuestionPro Workforce has pre-designed questions that will not only help organizations collect the right data but also benchmark it on a year-on-year basis. You can select from a host of pre-defined surveys and questions.
  2. Bring the change locally: Real changes occur at local levels. Most companies fail to realize that real engagement is woven throughout the fabric of the organization. All employees own it. It’s also easier to bring about changes in small increments and replicate the success on a larger scale. You can replicate what works locally to your organization’s other offices.
  3. Start building engagement during the recruitment process: What employees experience while being recruited has an indelible impact on how engaged they are going forward. Experiences last. Give them the right ones from day one. As they say, you only have the chance to make a first impression once.What employees experience while being recruited has an indelible impact on how engaged they are going forward. Experiences last. Give them the right ones from day one. As they say, you only have the chance to make a first impression once.
  4. Empower your managers: Permit your managers to drive engagement in the way they see best. If they are closest to the employees, they are behind what they experience more than anyone. If the decision making or approval process burdens them, they’ll never be able to affect change in any real or permanent way. You should also regularly meet with managers, get their responses, let them know of the feedback that’s being received. Collectively working on it will help improve workforce engagement immensely.
  5. Stay the path: Be realistic about the levels of engagement you want to achieve in your organization. Don’t expect to get there overnight. It takes time, intention, and persistence. Treat your staff engagement, workplace culture, and employee experience strategies as an operating system in your business. If it is as important as you say it is, the organization should be focused on it consistently. Every. Single. Day.
We recently published a blog that talks about staff engagement ideas and activities, why don’t you check it out for more ideas.

What are the top 7 employee engagement tips and trends for 2020?

Here are some workforce engagement trends that we see picking up in 2020.

1. Employee engagement will improve in 2020

According to Gallup’s latest poll workforce engagement has been stagnant for the past 10 years. Only 31% of employees in the U.S are reported to be engaged in their workplace in 2018. The trend was last seen significantly fluctuating in 2011, where it rose from 29% by just a couple of points.

2. Focus on professional development

Technology is evolving at a pace faster than we can imagine. AI, automation, augmented reality, software, and tools are changing the job market drastically, leaving employees and organizations on edge. While not all or many jobs will be taken over by AI and automation, the fear is real for employees. Concerns like this can lead to disengagement in organizations.

3. It improves employee performance

Employees that feel connected to, committed to, and proud to be affiliated with their employer are far more likely to do more than is asked of them. They are productive while “on task,” are absent less, and contribute because they want to (not because they have to). They also make for better team members; they help their peers and improve team productivity levels. Millennials, in particular, are more skilled when compared to their counterparts. Deloitte Insights states professional development is the number one driver for staff engagement for employees between the age group 25-35 years.

4. Improved performance management

Traditional performance review tools have become outdated and inefficient. They don’t serve the purpose. Today the use of real-time feedback tools has revolutionized the way feedback is provisioned, collected, and used. The ability to provide continuous feedback has a direct impact on workforce engagement. Give regular feedback to your employees - as a natural extension of your work, not only as part of some formal annual system. Employee surveys are a great tool to aid your continuous performance management (CPM) efforts. With the number of options that you get on employee review platforms, it has become quite simple to manage employee performance management.

5. A more diverse and inclusive culture

An organization that respects individuality, different perspectives, and authenticity is more successful than the ones that don’t. Trust us on this one. Having a diverse workforce ensures there are a lot more ideas coming to the table. Colleagues learn a lot from each other, and it certainly helps in their professional development.

6. Employee performance feedback

Staff performance feedback is a very crucial part of your HR process, and it needs to be done regularly and with due diligence. For the longest time, organizations have relied on annual employee performance reviews. While these yearly staff performance reviews may work for some organizations, it’s dated, and ideally should be replaced with periodic reviews. Continuous performance management is necessary to keep the workforce engaged. They need to know their efforts are bearing fruit, are being noticed, and need guidance from seniors wherever necessary. Workforce performance reviews aren’t only about corrective feedback; they are also about recognizing and celebrating achievements, among other things. Employees look forward to review meetings; it gives insights into what can be done to up their performance, achieve new highs, and manage goals effectively.

7. Training and development

Constant reskilling and upskilling is necessary for today’s workforce, no matter what the role or function. Organizations need to realize and support them. Ask for employee requirements, use information collected through employee performance reviews, develop and organize programs that will benefit most, if not all employees. Employees tend to stay long with organizations that encourage and aid training programs. This helps organizations too, having a workforce that is current, well-trained, and productive.