Is the annual employee engagement survey dead?

Jess Fuhl
Published on 15th January 2019
3 min read

Do you feel truly engaged and happy in your role?

Chances are, if you do, then the colleague next to you doesn’t.

That’s because, according to management consultant company Gallup, over half (51%) of employees aren’t engaged at work

The impact on business performance is huge. Companies in the top quartile for engagement report higher performance in almost every area, including:

  • 21% higher profitability
  • 20% higher sales
  • 17% higher productivity
  • 41% lower absenteeism
  • 59% lower turnover
  • 705 fewer safety incidents

Companies know that engagement’s vital to business performance, but in the words of Gallup, although creating a culture of engagement is a steadfast goal, it is one that remains elusive.

The annual employee engagement crisis is cited as a perfect example of this.

Employee engagement requires something more than completing an annual employee survey, hoping leaders will learn something from the results that will change the way they manage.

Goodbye annual employee engagement survey?

HR and People Teams have used staff-based questionnaires such as the annual engagement survey to gauge how their employees feel about work for decades.

However, in today’s fast paced, on-demand world, is a survey once a year really going to cut it? No, of course it isn’t.

The key to true engagement is creating workforce experiences that employees feel a part of.

To really create change for the better, employees need to be consulted regularly. It requires an organization to take a close look at how critical engagement elements align with its performance development and HR and People strategies.

Here are four alternatives to the annual engagement survey, which if used together can really make a difference to your company.

Timely employee touch-points: pulse surveys

Pulse surveys are a quick and easy way to check the pulse of your workforce. Typically, web or cloud-based, they are easy and quick to deploy. By providing a real-time snapshot of how the workforce is feeling, employers can respond quickly to any problems that might affect engagement.

Unlike annual engagement questionnaires, pulse surveys ask less, but more relevant, questions and can be deployed more regularly – even once a week if you like.

This means that questions can be tailored to whatever the prevailing issue or challenge is at that time. If the employee feedback throws up more questions, the pulse survey can be tweaked and deployed again.

This enables employers to really drill down into the feedback without putting off workers with long surveys that take an age to complete.

Up to date actionable insights: People analytics

Do you know your people as well as you know your customers?

HR and People teams can use analytics and People Science to drill down into People data and flag up any concerns or areas of high achievement.

Are employees leaving from a certain department? What’s making them leave? Are people performing better in one area of the company than another, and why? What are they doing right that can be emulated across the company?

By understanding People trends such as turnover and productivity, you can gain a sense of engagement across the business.

The role of technology and other measurement software

Technology allows HR and People teams to gather real-time and continuous feedback from the workforce, whether it’s through a pulse survey or an emotion-monitoring device where employees can register how they feel about the company or their work.

For example, companies like IBM are using sentiment analysis software to measure employees’ comments and posts on the company’s internal social networking platform to detect any problems or complaints that they can rectify.

Just as technology has enabled businesses to gauge customer satisfaction through the Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a common metric for measuring customer satisfaction – the same rating system can be used on employee engagement.

Technology can even link customer data with employee data, to identify the incremental revenue generated by those more engaged employees.

The benefits of simply having an open-door policy

Companies can’t rely on technology alone, however. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable to talk openly about their workplace experiences, to offer new ideas or to highlight where things could be done better.

Feedback should be encouraged at all times, even if it’s outside a formal process. Managers should operate an open-door policy where employees can talk to them, or ‘feedback’ can be added as an agenda point at the end of each meeting.

Other methods include a dedicated feedback email address, an ideas box in the common areas or a town hall meeting with the leadership.

Is it time we stopped analyzing engagement, and instead look at employee experiences?

Employee engagement is not the same thing as engaging employees. Employee engagement is the outcome of actively engaging employees through a strategy that drives improved performance.

Ultimately, as Gallup also point out, engagement is simply a measure in a single point in time. It’s a symptom of how your workforce is performing.

To really boost company performance, you need to create workplace experiences that employees love – and that requires more than putting together a survey to measure employees’ level of engagement.

What’s the point of acting on last year’s feedback when employees have something to say now?

Progressive People Companies know this and design other ways for employees to feedback quickly and interactively so that they can take remedial action and design workforce experiences that really work.

Find out what really gets your people productive by downloading our research from 3,500 employees ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’.

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