“How to measure and understand employee engagement in the modern workplace.” 

Imagine a company using a business system from the 1950s , say an IT system or payroll or a performance management system – hard to imagine isn’t it?

Yet this is exactly what we do when it comes to employee surveys.

Once or twice a year the annual survey is trotted out and questions from 50-60years ago are asked and re-asked year in and year out. We only get to see the results 3 months after they’ve been submitted and use them to compare ourselves to organisations that might be nothing like us or to tell us how we’re doing on our journey. And, for good measure, we can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for this privilege.

Madness? Most definitely. And yet today most large companies do just this every year without fail.

Not anymore. Companies are now looking for real time answers, they want total transparency on the answers and they know that engagement is based around how we feel. And behind the emotion you need to understand why employees feel the way they do – what’s stopping or enabling engagement?

At Heartbeat we don’t believe the daily pulse surveys will work in the modern workplace as we have found they disengage employees with their repetitive nature. Who really wants to be pulsed every day? And how can you respond as a Manager to a dump of data every day?

We believe that the answer lies between the annual survey and the daily pulse – we call it Heartbeat moments. Those moments in work when knowing how people are feeling and why really matters. Like at annual results, or after a town hall or during a change programme. This has to be done in a a fast, flexible and user-orientated survey. One that happens when it needs to,, not all the time or once a year.

And the results must be visually appealing, not just visually but in being able to take action and respond more quickly. Clients using it are finding that the solutions required more often than not involve a conversation between the leaders and employees rather than huge actions that involve new projects to be created.

Understanding how employees are feeling about the year ahead, the organisation they work for and their Manager is a good first step. Long surveys, that can take months to return results, largely fail to engage employees and rarely do anything to actually make things change as a result. Reports are produced and simply get passed down the line. An Aon Hewitt report stated: ‘Only 18% of employees strongly believe that their survey results will be acted on.’

By contrast, we’re finding companies are beginning to expect more from their engagement process and survey they want a platform and approach that can measure and facilitate engagement in real time. So what should you look for?

  • Lead with emotion (how people feel is the key driver of engagement)
  • Multiple Survey options (engagement is multi-faceted)
  • Real-time results (this is what the modern workplace expects)
  • Powerful and simple analytics (what are the results saying)
  • Great user experience (keep the questions to less than 12 and don’t just ask 1-5 questions_
  • Simple, easy to use platform (anyone should be able to set up and use the platform not just the experts)

It’s my passionate belief that the whole process of engagement should be ‘transformational’. The capturing of data must engage people and reflect how many of us already interact through social media. So no more intensive statistics-based approaches, weighed down with tick-box paper copies to reach those remote, out of the way places. And it means delivering the results to everyone all at the same time. This is where technology can play a big part: to create a more natural and interactive experience for employees to engage with, forging a more engaging culture. So the ‘survey’ gives everyone a voice, harnesses what they are used to in their personal lives, and fosters an engaging management style and brings the company’s values to life.

Adopting this approach will mean moving away from a reliance on the statistical measurement of ‘engagement’, to one that views the engagement as a dynamic, social and emotional relationship between employer and employee. To know that your ‘engagement index’ or ‘score’ has risen two points may be interesting to the leaders whose bonus is decided by it, but is almost utterly useless to the employee experience, as you can’t take action to improve it because of a score. Knowing how they feel and why can make all the difference!

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