As we begin to exit and recover from the first wave of the global pandemic, employee engagement should be front and centre. We need strategies to keep people focused, happy and productive, all of which naturally contributes to talent retention, innovation, productivity, revenue, customer satisfaction and a positive workplace culture.
"HR isn’t the only driver of change within the organisation – incremental changes at grassroots level also have the power to make organisational change happen".
Although employee feedback is crucial to helping organisations understand the experience of their people, the truth is that for many organisations, insight into employee engagement is lacking. That’s largely due to a number of outdated assumptions or myths about how to create engagement programmes and the surveys supporting them that stop us getting this right.
For the last seven years, Glint has helped companies all over the world to measure and improve employee engagement. During that time, we have come across at least seven prevalent myths. It’s time to examine them more closely.
The seven employee engagement myths -
1. We should measure eNPS
Some companies look at their customer research and all the data they have available to them and assume they should simply replicate this collection process for the employee population. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a common measure of customer satisfaction, so why not an internal employee ‘eNPS’, too? Employee sentiment cannot be recorded in the same way, however. The relationship with the customer is very transactional – there are critical, but few, touchpoints. Meanwhile, the relationship between the employee and the organisation is much more intimate and has multiple touchpoints, over years, even decades.
2. Frequent pulsing invites survey fatigue and rules out a global approach
Some brands think that moving to a more frequent pulsing model rules out a global approach. It is seen as too time-consuming and demanding to run frequent checks across the global population, so the belief is that frequent pulsing only works with small samples. Agile, modern survey platforms, however, allow you to pulse your entire employee population in a matter of moments.
Does frequent surveying lead to survey fatigue and low response rates? Absolutely not. Employees don't have a problem with giving feedback more regularly. What they have an issue with is being asked too many questions, and their employer not taking action. Angela Tonelli, director of financial systems at Fortune 500 company DCP Midstream, one of the largest natural gas processing companies in the US, noted, “surveys make me feel like DCP wants to know my opinion. The thing I love about working here is that our leaders are taking action and doing something with the results”.
3. Surveys are HR-administered and owned
HR isn’t the only driver of change within the organisation – incremental changes at grassroots level also have the power to make organisational change happen. Modern engagement technology empowers managers on the frontline, giving them personalised data and offering suggested actions to drive improvement.
According to Patrick Gallen, HR programmes specialist at application security leader Synopsys, using modern engagement techniques help employees feel more empowered because they see action being taken in a direct response to their feedback. “In just a six-month period, scores on the action planning metric improved by ten points across the entire organisation. Meanwhile, Synopsys’s HR team’s roles also quietly evolved from administrators and enforcers to coaches, supporters, and strategic planners,” he said.
4. Action taking takes months after surveys are closed
Some say they can only survey every two years, so they have enough time to drive action planning and change. With the right technology, however, taking action on survey results should be a real time activity. Line-of-business managers can now get highly personalised and very prescriptive data and suggested actions. Ron Croy, chief talent officer at CHRISTUS Health, explained, “we finished our survey on a Friday – by that Monday we already had action plans rolled out and our CEO was fully engaged”.
5. Surveys need to pose a large number of questions to get real insight
Stanford University and other independent HR experts have explored the data concerning engagement and employee experience. The conclusion is that 90% of variants can be covered by a single item measure. This means surveys don’t need to include 50+ questions to get to the heart of engagement or the employee experience. Instead, a few structured questions are required, along with open-ended fields appended to every question. In fact, the open-ended field is the source of the real employee insight — and by using survey technology that employs AI to analyse employees unstructured comment, whether negative, positive or neutral, you get genuine colour and insight to empower you to move very quickly from data-based insight to data-based action. As Jim Sheehan, director of customer success, Mimecast, told me, “we don’t just get numbers back, but the employee is telling us what they really feel”.
Europe’s largest broadcaster, Sky UK, is also improving its engagement stats. It has replaced the old annual 45-question top-down cascaded results process with two annual surveys, which have just 19 questions and include a real-time dashboard for managers to quickly explore results.
6. Employees don’t leave comments in surveys
Employees can become frustrated when they can’t leave comments after a question or when they only come to an open-ended question at the end of the survey. At that point, they don't want to give feedback anymore, because either they have forgotten what point they wished to make, or they are no longer feeling motivated to do so because they are frustrated by the length of the task.
That's why the fallacy that employees don't write comments has gained traction. Actually, the opposite is true. Using a well-designed pulse, with opportunities for open-ended comment throughout, leads to 60% of employees leaving comments, and usually more than one.
7. Industry specific benchmarking is key to understanding impact
Experts agree that there is little variance in industry data when it comes to engagement, so there is minimal difference in levels of engagement between, say, manufacturing and media. It turns out that the best benchmarking you can do as an organisation involves looking at your own trends, and hence the idea of pulsing more frequently your entire workforce. Looking at one pulse against another you can compare the data and see if you’ve made an impact.
As Marca Clark, director of learning and organisational development at Glassdoor, commented, “we can see not just what our low scores are, but what actually matters to our employees. We can take action on both those things that are high impact and very positive, understand what is creating the conditions for that, and make sure we don’t lose that as we grow”.
By exploding these myths, we can lay the foundation for proper employee engagement, and deliver a happier, more productive workplace in the wake of this global crisis.
About the author
Perry Timms is the Founder & Chief Energy Officer of PTHR, with 30+ yrs experience in people, learning, technology, organisation change & transformation. His personal mission is to see more people flourish through their work, and help shift organizations as a force for societal good (not just profit machines). PTHR's mission is defined as "Better Business for a Better World". In October 2017, his first book, Transformational HR - was published by Kogan Page and the Energized Workplace published in August 2020. He was an extremely proud new entrant to the list of HR Most Influential Thinkers for 2017 and again in 2018 + 2019 (in the top 10 both years).