Measuring Employee Engagement During Volatile Times

June 23, 2016 | Sue Lam | HCI
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employee engagement in times of change

When following global news, one can easily see that we live in an uncertain business environment. Oil prices have dropped over the last couple of years and they have continued to stay low. Global stock market performance has waxed and waned.  Countries are struggling internally with social and political issues. Seeing all of this turmoil, it would make sense that employee engagement would drop. However, there appears to be a shift in the trend of low employee engagement—the levels seem to be on the rise. Aon Hewitt’s 2016 trends report shows that global engagement is at 65%, which is a 6-point gain from 2012. Half of that gain came from last year and the research found that globally, the drivers that contribute to the largest engagement increases include rewards and recognition, work-life balance, performance management, career opportunities, and learning and development.

Given the ebb and flow of employee engagement levels, maintaining accurate diagnosis of engagement is critical. How can organizations effectively use employee surveys to sustain and drive performance during volatile times? In addition to the tried-and-true methods, there are some areas that may be fruitful to incorporate in your organization. Here are 4 trends in the employee engagement survey space that researchers and practitioners are talking about.

  • Consider linking other people measures with engagement results: Employee engagement results are a snapshot in time and can provide employers with important information for implementing employee initiatives. To increase the success of these programs, it is useful to look at other types of people measures such as the personalities of your employees. People are motivated in different ways depending on their personalities and understanding the differences between employees can help HR craft onboarding programs or target learning and development interventions based on needs in order to increase engagement. If your organization is considering this measurement, care must be taken to ensure the confidentiality of the data.
  • Take a quick pulse: Pulse surveys on small yet representative samples are supplementing the yearly engagement survey. Quick pulse surveys help organizations get an understanding of their workforce throughout the year, which may help organizations correct their course if something is not going well.
  • Look into different ways of measuring engagement. Continuous engagement tracking may be something deployed in the future. New technologies can help us quickly collect data on engagement throughout the day or over the course of weeks without increasing survey fatigue; there may be certain activities, working relationships, days, or times that affect engagement and deriving insights from that data will help companies increase engagement.
  • Allow employees to share the engagement responsibility: Organizations typically look at managers and leaders as the biggest driver of engagement. However, some companies are starting to provide individual employee reports detailing their own engagement and how that compares to the rest of their peers. These confidential reports help employees understand their engagement and provide tips on how they can improve. The message that organizations are sending with this is that both employees and companies have a shared responsibility in employee engagement.

The employee engagement surveying space is ever evolving with the advent of new trends and technologies. Some areas have worked while others were good experiments. In order to maximize the benefits of doing an employee survey, companies must continually evolve how they collect data and what they do with it. What does your organization do with employee surveys? What works and what hasn’t worked?