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To Measure or Not to Measure Engagement – that is the question

I recently had a fantastic conversation with one of my Operations partners around the topic of employee engagement. Like many companies, we do employee surveys and measure many things, including employee engagement “scores.” Our discussion initially started out focused on engagement scores and what it meant for us, how we could improve, etc. However, about 10 minutes into the conversation things took an interesting turn.

Yes or NoWe really started to ask ourselves, why exactly are we measuring engagement and what does that mean for us? Is it not more important for us to make sure that our employees are effective and efficient at what they do? Can an employee be “engaged” but not effective or efficient? Better yet, is measuring engagement a positive or negative indicator, meaning, are engagement scores a good “negative” indicator vs. measuring something positive? That is to say, is it more important to identify and measure a LACK of engagement in the workplace vs. a LEVEL of engagement? All good questions, right?

We came to the conclusion that a suitably engaged employee, in theory, should be more effective and efficient in their role, so why don’t we simply measure that in the first place? Of course, to be able to do this, you also need to have an effective performance management system in place. In essence, there needs to be an unbroken line drawn from corporate strategy and desired outcomes to individual performance goals and objectives with clearly defined KPI’s – i.e. effectiveness and efficiency metrics.

The other side of the argument here is that it is probably highly unlikely an employee will achieve these efficiency and effectiveness metrics if they are not “engaged” in their work. In other words, if your organization was not hitting corporate/departmental/individual metrics and targets, the root cause analysis should start with an investigation into how corporate goal planning occurred and was it communicated and cascaded down to departmental and individual levels. At the same time, I would also take a deeper dive into engagement levels to see what else maybe effecting an employee’s ability and desire to engage in their work. In other words, you need to determine the source of the disconnect.

In my mind, it IS important to measure engagement but I don’t feel it should the primary measurement of survey “success” or lack thereof. I also don’t think it should be your main indicator of employee “health” and retention. At the end of the day, you may have engaged employees, but for a plethora of reasons, you still have a performance and/or retention problem. Conversely, your engagement scores may be “good” depending on how it is measured and you may not have a turnover issue; however, your overall organizational performance may not be where it should be (possible due to a company malaise, etc.)

What I am getting at it is that there are other measures to take into consideration when determining your organizational health and taking the pulse of your workforce. For example, when looking at engagement, if your company was performing “well”, and we wanted to make a “good” company better, I wouldn’t focus too much on engagement scores. Instead, I would focus on a metric like the Employee Net Promoter Score or eNPS. This has become a popular method for tracking customer satisfaction and is now making its way into organizations as a means of measuring organizational health amongst its employees.

I first became aware of this methodology back in March 2014 when I read a great blog post from The Starr Conspiracy – you can check it out here. According to The Starr Conspiracy, the eNPS, “with a single question, measures the likelihood of your employees to engage with your brand, act as your ambassadors and continue to help grow your business.” Because I know you are wondering, the eNPS question is:

On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague as a place to work?

The “scoring” scale is pretty clear cut – Scores from 0-6 are considered to be “Detractors,” 7-8 are “Passives” and 9-10’s are “Promoters.” I like this measurement a lot because, as The Starr Conspiracy puts it, it is an “effective measure of at least three key emotions that are linked to workplace engagement AND performance:”

1) The employee’s emotional connection to their company – i.e. I belong;

2) The person-organization fit – i.e. shared values

3) Intention to leave – i.e. how motivated is the person to jump ship?

You essentially calculate the difference between your promoters and detractors as a percentage of your employee base. This gives you your score that you can trend over time. Personally, I believe this is a much better measurement to track/trend and focus on than engagement. Your retention activities should be focused on improving and/or maintaining your eNPS score because at the end of the day, it truly does measure everything that you want to know about how your employees are feeling and acting. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. Much simpler approach than the Q10 or other in-depth surveys! What are your thoughts on employee referral for pay programs?

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Wendy – great to hear from you! If you are referencing employee referral programs, in a general sense, I am a big fan of them. I have had a high degree of success with hiring, especially with niche skill sets. Typically, the more “technical” of functionally specific the job is, the more referral programs work – i.e. compute programmers, engineers ,accountants, etc.

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