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Employee engagement survey: How HR can help their people thrive

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In this post-Covid world, retaining talent is more important than ever and an employee engagement survey can help with this challenge.

More than two-thirds (69%) of employers are experiencing difficulties filling roles – a 15-year high for the second consecutive quarter, according to a survey published in September 2021 by workforce solutions provider Manpower Group.

Polling by Gartner recently revealed just 29% of those questioned agreed with the statement: “HR really understands what people like me need and want,” and for 72%: “HR staff sufficiently involve employees when scoping and identifying business needs.”

This might make worrying reading but by knowing what your employees are thinking, what concerns them and what changes they might want to see in your business, you’ll be better placed to hold on to your best people.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

What is an employee engagement survey?

Benefits of using an employee engagement survey

Identifying low engagement among your employees

Determining your Employee Net Promoter Score

How cloud HR software can help with the survey process

Final thoughts on employee engagement surveys

An employee engagement survey measures the extent to which employees feel valued at your company.

The feedback that you receive provides the information you need to respond to issues – some of which, you might not even be aware of.

These days, employee engagement surveys are usually carried out online and can be done with cloud HR software. This is particularly useful if you have staff working remotely or in a hybrid manner (for example, some people based in the workplace, others working from home).

Carried out regularly, employee engagement surveys provide information that can not only help you to provide a better employee experience but can enable you to improve productivity, make the most of the talent that you employ and head off many common employment problems.

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), for instance, showed that in 2021, 77% of companies are using staff surveys to identify and reduce stress in the workplace, compared with just 61% per cent in 2020.

Specifically, the surveys can help you identify how motivated your employees are and whether their understanding of their responsibilities and targets is aligned with your overall goals as a company.

You can use questions to help you to understand your employees’ mood and morale, and what worries or concerns your teams at that moment.

The right questions can also help provide insights into how to improve productivity. Talking to colleagues and employees informally is important but these surveys complement that ad hoc communication by providing regular, specific, company wide data that can be compared with previous findings.

As the name suggests, one of the primary reasons for carrying out engagement surveys is to measure the level of engagement of your employees.

“Following a steady rise over the last decade, employee engagement decreased globally by two percentage points, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020,” according to a recent survey by Gallup.

Disengaged workers are less productive, less loyal and more likely to be inadvertently or even actively working against your company’s aims and targets.

The sooner you can identify low engagement among your people, the sooner you can take action to turn it around.

The information you obtain from these surveys will enable you to identify strengths and opportunities for improving engagement in the business.

You’ll also know what issues will probably be raised during face-to-face meetings and appraisals.

Having a head start here allows you to be better prepared and to hit the ground running with initiatives to meet employee requests. Rather than waiting for issues to come up in these meetings, you and your managers can use the findings of your surveys to be more proactive by raising them yourselves.

With these surveys, employees can have a voice.

Used properly, employee engagement surveys should provide a regular two-way communication between management and employees. Teams are more likely to realise that they have a stake in the business and that their opinions are valued.

This will allow them to make positive suggestions for the overall better running of the business.

One way in which employee engagement tools are more effective than relying on informal communications is that their specific and more detailed findings can be used as benchmarks. This allows you to compare your latest findings with those of, say, six months or a year ago.

With this, you can consider the following examples:

  • How is your employee engagement improving?
  • Has there been a better score on learning and development since the introduction of training courses?
  • Has the new advice on working from home been well received and how should it be changed?

You can also compare your findings with other companies in the same sector or organisations of a similar size.

In order to make these comparisons, it’s important to repeat the same set of questions with every survey. You can add extra ideas on top depending on events within the business, such as a merger or external factors, which might involve the start of the holiday season or the return to work post-Christmas.

Alongside your main surveys, consider carrying out some pulse surveys.

These brief, concise check-ins of just four or five questions might be carried out monthly or bi-monthly. They can identify issues that arise in between your main surveys, and they provide a more regular two-way conversation with your teams.

As with any survey, aim for a mix of questions that will elicit yes/no responses and those will that prompt a longer, more considered answer.

When you’re drafting the questions, think about how the answers will inform actions you’re going to take. In other words, ensure that what you can get back from your questions gives you actionable information.

Surveys looking at employee engagement will allow you to determine your Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).

But what does that mean?

It simply indicates how willing your employees are to recommend the business to their friends, family and acquaintances.

The Net Promoter Score for customers was developed during the 1990s and is based on questions such as: “Would you recommend (our company) to a colleague or friend?”

Similarly, the eNPS poses a question along the lines of: “How likely is it that you would recommend your employer to a friend or acquaintance?” or “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend X plc as a place to work?”

You can then divide the answers into three categories.

These might be Critics or Detractors for those who gave you an eNPS of zero to six. Passives are those scoring you seven to eight. And your Ambassadors or Promoters are those who score you as high as nine or 10 out of 10.

An eNPS is simple and quick to work with, and you’ll find your teams are familiar with the format and questions.

It’s also an easy way to measure your progress over time – are the numbers of Ambassadors or Promoters rising while Detractors are declining, for example?

If the figures are going the wrong way, you know you need to take action quickly.

However, it’s worth noting that although this simplicity might make an eNPS easy to use, it also means you don’t get a lot of nuance or detailed information based on individuals.

Neither do you know why people are promoting you – is it, perhaps, because they regard your quality control as sloppy and see your managers as being relaxed about bad behaviour?

When it comes to managing your employee engagement survey process, cloud HR software can play a key role. `

It’s easy to set up and launch quickly, it allows you more flexibility than buying a one-off package and it can save money too.

You can use your software to customise survey templates so they’re relevant to your sector and your business, whatever its size and geographical location.

You can also provide survey findings in the form of a dashboard, so anyone within your HR department or senior management team can pick up on the results and identify action that needs to be taken quickly and easily.

And if your employees are worried that their views could be linked back to them, you can assure them that their responses will be anonymous – therefore allowing them to be free with their answers, so you can get a true picture of their thoughts.

Even better, if you have an HR mobile app, your employees can quickly and easily respond to the survey on their devices, no matter whether they’re in the workplace, at home, or working from a coffee shop.

The pandemic has meant the battle to recruit and retain talent is more fiercely fought than ever.

It’s also caused HR managers to realise they have to work harder to engage the growing numbers of employees working remotely, as well as those who are based in the workplace.

Using employee engagement surveys effectively can meet both of these important challenges, while also insuring your employees have an outlet to share their views and experiences.

Responding to their feedback in a timely manner will be effective both for your employees and the business as a whole.

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