It’s likely that your business, like many others, has been adapting to a new way of operating. After all, the opening quarter of 2020 irrevocably changed the way most companies across the Western world approached the relationship between organisational structure, productivity and employee satisfaction. So, with all of this turbulence happening at a macro level, how do you ensure that alignment is maintained between employees and the organisation?
Why does employee engagement need to be a serious consideration?
Granted, there is no universally accepted definition of engagement, but, the CIPD describes it as a “psychological state experienced by employees”, in which they display “vigour”, “dedication”, and “absorption”. In practice, this means that your workforce will be enthusiastic with their work, concerned with the company’s performance and resilient in carrying out their assigned tasks.
Here are a couple of reasons why you should make engagement an integral part of company policy-making:
- CIPD studies have evidenced a link between employee engagement and performance; if your people feel better about their work and their place in the company then the results are clear via an increase in output. Likewise, if they perform better, evidence suggests that they’ll be more engaged employees.
- If you don’t pay attention to encouraging staff participation, your company will quite literally be left behind in the business world. Even before the pandemic, HR practitioners such as Lars Schmidt have been talking about the trend towards flatter, more people-centred organisational structures. More people are working from home (35.9% in 2020) with less oversight from colleagues and managers, and this trend is quickly becoming the norm. Understanding levels of engagement is the best way to navigate these changes and ensure a cohesive and content workforce.
Not everyone is so high on the idea of engagement, however. Professor Rob Briner from Queen Mary University argues that engagement is too much of an ill-defined term to be usefully applied. Moreover, Birkbeck’s Professor Vlatka Hlupic warns that engagement strategies can be unpopular with British workers, who might suspect a hint of manipulation in efforts to get them more invested in their labour.
These are valid criticisms, but not insurmountable ones, considering the weight of evidence for engagement’s positives. It therefore stands to reason that the best way to gauge levels of engagement would be to ask and surveys are the strongest tool businesses can use to do so. That being said, it’s important to craft your engagement surveys with the right approach so that they are precise and open enough to avoid these concerns. So how do you do that?
1. Gather any engagement data that already exists.
The first step will be to draw a broad outline of what is going on with the workforce. This can be done by consulting company leadership to get their impression of affairs, based on their insights of the organisation. Brainstorming sessions are also a worthwhile exercise in order to gather insights about the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s employee engagement.
Next, look at the data. Consult previous engagement surveys, including exit surveys that can elaborate on what ex-employees thought about the company and what issues might have driven them to leave.
It’s also helpful to access Benchmark data that allows you to compare your company to others that are similar in size and structure. This can help gain an idea of what engagement should look like in your organisation. Plus, if you’re a Lattice customer, this is built into the software.
2. Choose the right type of survey for your organisation.
There’s no doubt that surveys are the best way to quantify employee engagement and when it comes to conducting them, timing is key. Here are some of the options:
This is a single, large and expansive survey to gather information on how employees are feeling at the end of the year. Although this is the traditional option for most workplaces, the results that an annual survey might produce are actually quite limited. For example; the resulting data might not represent employees’ year-long engagement because their responses will be skewed to their most recent experiences. For more accurate and time-relevant insights, it’s worth considering other ways of running surveys more often. Lattice Advisory Services recommend carrying out employee engagement surveys at least a biannual basis, ideally with pulse surveys in-between.
Conducted at the end of every three month period, these surveys allow a check in with employees throughout the year, and keep track of how their attitudes might fluctuate in response to events at the company. This option will give a more detailed dataset about employee engagement, and can be used to craft whatever tailored strategy your company needs!
Sent out on a frequent basis with short question sets, perhaps only two or three sometimes, pulse surveys allow you to gather real-time data to track the effectiveness of your employee engagement initiatives. In fact, a combination of carrying out a biannual survey along with pulse ones every so often is the most ideal way to track how staff are responding to the engagement programme. This is the most precise option for tracking fluctuations in attitudes over the year. For example; you might want to put out a pulse survey to find out whether your push to have managers improve their employee recognition activity is actually resulting in employees feeling more recognized for their work.
3. Pay attention to how the questions are crafted.
Once you have decided on how you would like to structure the timing of your survey, you’ll need to determine what type of questions will work best.
- Use direct, simple questions that are neutral and unambiguous. And remember, it’s important to frame questions positively, for example, “I am happy to come to work every day”.
- When choosing which questions to ask, ask only about topics you’re prepared to act on. If you’re asking about things you can’t actually change or improve, you may end up with some very disappointed employees should the results show strong opinions on those questions.
- When it comes to answers, a Likert scale (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree) will help you to obtain precise and detailed responses. If your employees aren’t happy to come to work, the Likert scale will allow them to respond accurately.
For help with crafting the questions you could also look at using a template. It’s important to check that the template covers the areas of employee engagement that you wish to address, such as: Commitment to the Company; Diversity Climate; Feeling Valued; Fairness, Fit and Belonging, and more.
If you're a Lattice user, the software actually has a pre-prepared “question bank” built in with sections that are designed to address these different areas.
4. Get responses to your survey.
Once the engagement survey has been designed, just as much effort will need to go into ensuring a high response rate from the workforce. As mentioned earlier, there is a risk that employees may be skeptical of the term, ‘engagement’’, so details about the survey, the whys and how the data will be leveraged will have to be well communicated. It is important to reassure participants that their answers are anonymous. Here are other considerations to ensure a good response rate:
DO remember that employees’ time is just as important as yours. Give a good indication of how long it will take to complete the survey so they know what to expect. Get the management team to set time aside on the workday for survey responses, if possible.
DON’T make your survey compulsory.
DO use creative and fun reminders over Slack or email! Be imaginative in how you communicate the importance of the survey!
DON’T offer rewards for survey completion because that will hurt your dataset in the long-term, undermining the objectivity of response, even though you might get a high response rate.
DO let your employees know that their participation in the survey ultimately empowers them to suggest positive changes in the work environment. You’ll need to keep them in the loop as to how their suggestions will be implemented after the survey.
For more detailed insights and guidance on how to structure, carry out and utilise the results of an employee engagement survey, take a look at The Complete Guide to UK Employee Engagement. Alternatively, request a Lattice demo for some hands-on experience of how the software can support your employee engagement efforts.