“How likely are you to recommend this business to a friend?” Companies have relied on that question and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology since 2003 to measure customer satisfaction toward just about anything, from software to burritos.
With engaging and retaining top performers top of mind for most companies, Human Resources departments have brought the concept of NPS to the workplace. The resulting metric, employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), has risen to importance on many HR analytics dashboards, taking its rightful place alongside standbys like turnover and retention.
Today, eNPS represents one of the most popular survey methodologies used by HR teams. We’re excited to share that Lattice clients can now use our employee engagement software to measure eNPS. Read on to learn more about the metric, how it’s scored, and how it complements your engagement surveys.
When asked if they’d recommend your company to a friend, employees respond using a scale of zero (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). While that sounds intuitive enough, calculating eNPS isn’t a matter of averaging scores. Based on their feedback, respondents are grouped into one of three categories: promoters, detractors, and “passives.” Keep in mind that in order for an eNPS survey to work properly, it must use this scale (as opposed to a shorter Likert scale, for example).
Promoters, Detractors, and Passives
Promoters, or employees who score 9-10, are your biggest advocates. They’re a major asset to your employer brand and recruiting efforts. These employees are more likely to share job postings on LinkedIn and within their network — they’re your company’s brand ambassadors.
Detractors aren’t just apathetic about the company’s prospects for success, they could hurt your brand in the long term. These individuals are unhappy enough to “gripe to friends, relatives, acquaintances — anyone who will listen,” wrote Fred Reichheld, NPS’s creator. Detractors score anywhere between 0 and 6, meaning they account for over half of the rubric.
Lastly, passive respondents are neutral. They might like working at your company, but not enough to actively refer friends to it. If you could sum up their feelings as a LinkedIn status, they’re “open to opportunities” but not actively looking. Scores from 7-8 are considered passive and won’t factor into your final calculation. There is a lot of value in understanding feedback from this group to discover what can be done to move them into the promoter category.
Calculating Employee NPS
Once you have your survey responses, subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. This calculation will yield your company’s eNPS. Keep in mind that an eNPS can be as high as +100 (the absolute best) or -100 (the absolute worst). Intuitively, anything below zero is cause for concern. Note that while you're subtracting a percentage from another percentage, your NPS score is not read as a percentage.
If you use Lattice, our employee survey software will handle this calculation automatically. But if you already have your promoter and detractor percentages handy, you can determine your eNPS score by using the below calculator. Again, remember that passive respondents do not factor into this calculation.
What a "Good" Score Looks Like
You already know that 100 and -100 are the worst and best eNPS scores you can get, respectively. But companies seldom approach anything near those scores, making them unrealistic benchmarks for the vast majority of businesses.
"Generally, what good looks like is somewhere above a zero," said Julia Markish, Director of Lattice Advisory Services. "I've seen scores as high as eighty, and scores as low as negative fifty," Markish added, hedging that companies should focus more on their internal benchmarks versus other companies'. While you could conduct market research to see where your competition landed, those findings might not be particularly useful.
"The real question to ask yourself, is what's a good score given your current situation?" she said. Employees' likelihood to recommend your company as a great place to work is influenced by a multitude of factors, including some beyond HR's control. For example, Bain & Company found that eNPS survey scores varied significantly between cultural groups (e.g., Protestant Europe vs. Catholic Europe), absent other factors like geography, industry, or profitability. Other factors to consider include:
- The regional and global economic climate
- Being a private versus public company
- Whether you're in the middle of a leadership overhaul
- Slow versus rapid growth
"When it comes to benchmarking, look at yourself first, at yourself second...and maybe the competition tenth," she said. Knowing how your scores compare across different departments or quarters, for example, will give you a more actionable understanding of your engagement baseline and where you can improve.
Surveying for Employee NPS
If you're bundling your eNPS question into a broader employee engagement survey, make it the first question employees see. You want to maximize the chances you'll not only get an accurate read on how employees feel but potentially also detailed comments. Employee comments are critical to diagnosing company culture issues, and Markish encouraged HR leaders and managers to pay particularly close attention to them.
"Survey fatigue is real. If you put it at the end of your survey, you're less likely to get the richness you need in the form of employee feedback and comments," Markish said. She added that getting the question out of the way early helps mitigate the chance that other survey questions might influence how employees respond.
If you conduct pulse surveys, consider weaving eNPS into them as well. These short surveys consist of one to five questions and can be administered as often as needed — month over month, bi-weekly, or even every week. While annual engagement surveys can sometimes take up to minutes to complete, these surveys take just seconds, giving you a consistent insight into progress.
Employee NPS vs. Engagement
Management thinkers love “silver bullet” approaches to work and measuring customer loyalty. After all, it’s why NPS was billed as the ultimate question when it was first introduced. But while it’s a useful tool for measuring employee satisfaction and loyalty, HR experts warn against using it solely to get a read on employee engagement. After all, it’s a measure of faith in the business, not individual happiness or productivity. In that respect, it’s a great metric for recruiters to track as they look to roll out or update referral programs.
Pete Sosnowski, Head of HR at Zety, uses eNPS as a “temperature check” on employees. He goes a step further by complementing it with more pointed questions. “You need to dive deeper into the issues to find the root causes. While it’s an important metric to track, it doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said. At a minimum, Sosnowski recommends following up eNPS questions by asking respondents to explain their scores.
Magdalena Żurawska, an HR Specialist at LiveCareer, echoed that sentiment. “Employee satisfaction consists of factors like your relationships with colleagues, quality of management, challenging and motivating projects, and culture,” she said. While eNPS tells companies which way the wind blows, it represents just one facet of the employee experience.
Even those instrumental in its creation have stopped short of saying eNPS is a direct measure of engagement. But given its simplicity and popularity among business leaders, it's still valuable to report on. "Even Bain & Company pivoted and said that eNPS isn't the best for measuring engagement," Markish pointed out, saying that the global business consulting firm now views "inspiration" as a more accurate indicator. "But it remains hugely popular because it is simple, and already mirrors other metrics the business is used to, including those used by customer exerperience teams."
A Holistic Approach to Surveying
Olivia Bair, Director of Global HR at Instapage, appreciates the value HR teams get out of eNPS. But for it to be really meaningful, she thinks it needs to be part of a much broader employee survey strategy. That means combining it with questions relating to belonging, work-life balance, and other critical HR focuses.
“It's hard to sum up everything we do into just one question. We're about engagement, we're about career development, performance management, goal setting, and everything else that’s part of that employee lifecycle,” she said. Two questions she gets particular value from are “Do you believe in our CEO’s vision and mission?” and “Do you believe in the direction of the company?” Questions like those go further than satisfaction and speak to employees’ intrinsic motivation for coming into work.
Rather than look at eNPS as a catch-all survey question, she thinks of it as a North Star. It won't reveal all of the obstacles nor treacherous seas you'll need to overcome, but it will give insight into the general state of things. This makes it a great complement, but not a replacement, to other questions that measure employee engagement.
In addition to experimenting with different questions, Bair encourages teams to test out different survey cadences. Depending on your company’s needs, that may mean trying pulse surveys, monthly questionnaires, or something completely different. “We've made the decision to hold engagement surveys with different topics on a quarterly basis, and we're seeing pretty good engagement. But we're always trying to see what we can do to change it up, to make sure that we're accurately capturing sentiment,” she said.
It’s important to remember that this extra survey data doesn’t replace eNPS. Rather, it actually empowers you to improve your scores. That’s a useful distinction to make when your leadership team has its heart set on measuring eNPS.
“Using questions around communication, trust, and fulfillment, we are able to backtrack exactly where employees think we’re falling short as a company,” said Gary Stevens, founder of Hosting Canada. “The pain points we try to focus on are those that are mentioned by the passive group in the NPS breakdown. Our hope is to isolate areas of improvement that could raise these employees’ scores to that of a promoter,” he said.
Using Technology to Track Employee NPS
Lattice empowers companies to run engagement surveys, collect feedback, and build people-first cultures. In addition to our customizable and industry-vetted survey templates, our software now enables you to measure eNPS, too.
Lattice eNPS packs a ton of insight into one question so you can instantly gain an understanding of your culture and entire employee experience. And you can start getting those insights immediately because implementing eNPS in your next survey takes just one click. After creating an employee survey, simply click the toggle button on the bottom of the "questions page" to enable eNPS. For a more detailed tutorial, click here.
Once you begin tracking eNPS in Lattice, you'll be able to filter your results by department, manager, demographics, and other custom attributes — giving you a more comprehensive view of engagement levels and satisfaction. You can also weave eNPS into your ongoing pulse surveys, giving you an up-to-date view of promoters, detractors, and passives. We'll automatically handle the calculations and reporting for you.
Want to learn firsthand how one simple question can transform your understanding of employee loyalty and satisfaction? To see how our surveys can help turn your company into a best place to work, schedule a Lattice demo today.