When it comes to business profitability and growth, business leaders are focusing on employee engagement like never before. Why? Employee engagement affects many things, not the least of which is employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, and more.
But tracking, monitoring, and measuring employee engagement, that’s where it can get creepy. Big companies like Deloitte and IBM are developing software that allows the tracking of sentiment in employee communications. So, not only can an employer access and read emails (nothing new in the business world), they can analyze the sentiment in those emails, Slack messages, and likely other internal collaboration platforms, and use data to figure out if you’re happy in your job, likely to stay, productive as a member of an internal team, providing good customer service, you name it.
The reality is that happy employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees are productive employees. Productive, engaged employees play a big role in business profitability and success.
Companies with high levels of employee engagement see measurably increased levels of business success. Results include 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent greater stock returns annually than competitors, 22 percent higher productivity, “38 percent more likely to have above average productivity”, and increasing investment in employee engagement by 10 percent can yield $2,400 per employee in increased profit.
The Engagement Disconnect
Most employees are not engaged despite the priority leaders claim it to be. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that while 71 percent of managers considered high levels of employee engagement to be a key factor in their organization’s success, only 24 percent of those managers described their employees as “highly engaged.” Gallup tracks levels of employee engagement monthly. In March of 2016, engagement hit a new high of 34.1 percent. By May it slipped back down to 32.7 percent.
Not only do high levels of engagement improve business results, low levels of engagement can increase costs to employers in the form of increased turn over, and hiring difficulties. Given the bottom line benefits to organizations, how can employers successfully measure and increase employee engagement?
Many companies measure employee engagement through surveys. These surveys, however, often developed and administered by outside consultants, can be long, cumbersome, and infrequently completed. As a result, organizations are increasingly turning to new ways of measuring engagement.
One way of simplifying and speeding up employee surveys is to frequently ask one question. For example, John Deere added a motivation question to the review process at the end of two-week development cycles. This approach has allowed John Deere to identify disengagement and make corrections before an employee’s performance suffers.
Another single question measurement is a Net Promoter Score (NPS). This customer satisfaction metric is said to be the only number companies need to track to achieve growth. Similarly, organizations have started to use this methodology to quantify employee satisfaction.
New technologies are also enabling employers to track employee engagement continuously rather than waiting for annual check-ins. Impraise allows workers and managers to provide each other with real-time feedback. A tool called Vibe from Tokyo-based software company, AIR, allows companies to scan digital communications in the workplace by monitoring conversations on chat platform Slack. If sentiment analysis of those messages indicates a drop in employee morale, managers receive alerts so that they can address issues immediately.
Single question surveys and big-brother monitoring of employee questions can identify problems but by themselves they cannot build engagement and monitoring could even damage trust by the intrusive nature of the practice. How then can employers actively boost employee engagement.
Approaches that have proven effective include organization-wide communication, ensuring employees at all levels understand how their work is aligned with company goals, and providing frequent recognition. Former Campbell Soup Company CEO, Doug Conant, wrote more than 30,000 thank you notes to employees at all levels recognizing a specific contribution they had made. U.K.-based hardware company, Screwfix has created a 360-degree feedback culture that ensures their staff understands the company’s business goals and has a voice in achieving them.
Although legal, creepy surveillance software might seem like a quick tech fix for boosting employee engagement when almost 70 percent of employees remain checked-out, but a comprehensive, proactive strategy is necessary. Companies with happy, productive, engaged workers pair measurement with action. Oh, and if you want to explore that, we can help!
A version of this was first posted on xvalabs.com