The rising importance of employee engagement
It’s the time of year for predictions. If your inbox looks anything like mine, it’s full of articles forecasting what’s to come in 2016 and how to shift priorities accordingly. In the world of feedback, there does seem to be a common denominator across many of these lists: employee engagement.
When most companies think about feedback, it’s usually in the context of customer satisfaction and experience. But creating channels for staff feedback is gaining momentum due to new research connecting employee engagement to the bottom-line success of a company. Entrepreneur.com recently went as far as saying that employee engagement is more important than the customer. The same article stated that 90 percent of leaders think an employee engagement strategy impacts the bottom line, but only 25 percent develop one.
This is clearly the next frontier in feedback because everyone agrees that if you can’t engage and retain good people, it’s very difficult (and expensive) to remain as agile and aggressive as you need to be in today’s highly competitive landscape. Steve Hurst of Engage Customer wrote in his most recent letter from the editor, “Over this year I have interviewed a number of chief execs from various business sectors, from financial services to retail to FMCG to telecoms to leisure – and a common theme was recognition of the virtuous circle that is linking employee engagement to customer engagement to performance and profitability.”
Capturing employee feedback not only provides the data points needed to build a more thriving business, it can also pave the way to a higher energy, more enjoyable workplace. Here are a few tips to get started (if you’re not doing it yet) and some ideas on doing it most effectively.
- Keep it short and simple. Gathering employee feedback should not require a PhD in market research or statistics. Even the biggest consulting firms have been accused of creating overly complex, convoluted surveys that are “…highly unscientific at best and fraudulent at worst.” Rather than hiring a team of researchers, simply gather your department heads and determine several (probably no more than five) questions that you really need answered. Obviously, this isn’t an easy undertaking and you’ll need to work through inevitably differing opinions of what’s “nice to know” versus “what really matters.” One good technique is to only create questions that can drive specific actions. If the topic is too broad, it needs to be chiseled down to something that could be acted on. Note also that experts advise offering both quantitative questions, such as 1-5 ratings, and open-ended questions to gather a mix of statistical and anecdotal information.
- Ask the right questions. There are a few unavoidable topics that you have to cover in an employee survey, and yes, some of them are classically touchy subjects (e.g. money and feelings). 1) You have to address work-reward (i.e. salaries and bonuses) to confirm that you’re staying competitive in the eyes of employees. Money does not directly correlate to employee satisfaction, but the feeling of being appreciated certainly does. 2) Ask if benefits are up to par. Yes, it’s a can of worms, but benefits packages can make or break employee attraction and retention rates, as any HR professional will tell you. 3) Develop at least one good question about culture and emotional commitment to the organization (e.g. do you feel valued). A recent Glassdoor study showed “Culture and Values” as the leading factor in employee satisfaction, even above compensation and work-life balance. Note that “Culture and Values” responses will point straight to how well managers and execs are doing.
- Don’t ask unless you intend to act. Employee surveys without follow-up are worse than no surveys at all. If you choose to do them, you must take action on the results. Are the complaints about benefits, salaries, lackluster culture, or do you just need fancier coffee makers? No matter how significant the issues, get them on the table in front of HR and execs, and make some decisions about which will be acted on. One thing you can be sure of — once an employee submits feedback, she will be watching to see if anything changes or at the very least, concerns are addressed. Research shows that doing nothing will have a more negative effect than not asking in the first place.