Thinking of an Employee Engagement Survey? Walk Before You Run!

So, you are planning an employee engagement survey. Why?

To check engagement levels of course, right? Why?

If the following statement is accurate, the employee engagement survey should be used to determine how engagement can be improved and how this could translate into business success.

Most companies equate high employee engagement with higher employee performance, reduced turnover, more discretionary effort, improved product/service quality, etc.

This leads to a critical question, “How can you achieve higher employee engagement and what business goals are you hoping to positively influence?”

Purpose of Employee Engagement Surveys

Clearly, the employee engagement survey is not an end in itself, but can serve three key purposes:

  1. To check engagement levels

    The employee engagement survey questions need to be designed to check engagement levels, not satisfaction or happiness! This requires honest and direct questions. Examples: “Do you feel appreciated and recognized for your effort and contribution?” Or “Does your work have meaning and purpose?”. In too many instances organizations have been unwilling to ask the hard questions. Unfortunately, this soft approach has led to unreliable engagement data resulting in false conclusions. Organizations need to answer the question, “Are we really seeking to improve employee engagement so that our business can be more successful, or do we just want favorable feedback?”

  2. To provide insight on how and where engagement levels can be improved

    Engagement surveys should be designed to determine which of these categories are working well and which areas need attention so you know what areas to concentrate on!
    Three primary areas influence engagement of employees:

    a.  Culture and work environment including rules and regulations, company policies, workplace environment, corporate programs (recognition, health and wellness, etc.) and having values that are visible and lived (such as respect, employee opinions matter, etc.).

    b.  Relationship with their manager including management’s trustworthiness, open and transparent communication, development and coaching, appreciation of effort and contribution.

    c.  The meaningfulness of the work employees do. For example, do employees have a sense of purpose, does the work align with the employee’s strengths and passions?

  3. To correlate business results with survey data so organizations understand what business objectives should improve when employee engagement levels rise

a. If you see low employee engagement in certain business units or regions, how do these relate to organizational performance, product/service quality, employee turnover, innovation, customer satisfaction, etc.?

Preplanning Employee Engagement Surveys

With these points in mind there is a lot of preplanning so survey findings can support organizational change and improvement. This includes:

I.  Determining where your business problems exist and which ones you would like to improve on through post-survey actions. For example, if are you seeking to improve employee performance you need to explore how increased engagement can impact this issue. Or, if you would like to reduce employee turnover you must examine how improvements in engagement would impact this issue.

II.  Designing questions that align with documented employee engagement drivers will help you to validate whether these are the true determinants of employee engagement.

III.  Begin to examine the potential engagement strategies you should use if survey results identify challenges with one of the categories above (Culture, Manager/Employee relationships or Work roles/responsibilities). How would you deal with issues such as the following if survey results show?

a.  your leaders are not living up to the company’s core values, or

b.  there are communication challenges or lack of trust, or

c.  employees don’t feel appreciated, or they don’t find meaning and purpose in their work.

IV.  Identify the exact metrics you are using to measure business performance indicators so you can compare pre-and post-survey results when you implement interventions aimed at improving engagement and addressing problems.

V. Develop a pre-survey communication to all employees and managers that explains the importance of this project in order to maximize employee participation. In it describe the post survey strategy. Remember the obvious-if you make promises (for example, that there will be a series of actions after the survey), deliver on those promises! Surveys with no follow-up can easily backfire!

Conducting the Survey

Once you have done this preliminary work you can move forward with the survey. The survey will provide the insights and answers you need to understand where engagement needs improving to positively impact the businesses challenges. Improvements seen in key metrics will further support the business case for investing in engagement initiatives designed to help improve organization success!

Light a Fire Inside Employees Instead of Trying to Light a Fire Under Them!

Remember that what transpires in the weeks and months following the survey will have a big impact on management’s credibility and employees’ continuing interest in participating in improvements. Before the survey, not after it, you must start planning what actions you will take.

As you get ready for your survey, keep your ultimate goal in mind and the host of actions, big and tiny, that can influence engagement. Engagement is driven by the emotions, and the actions you take after the survey should spark the necessary emotions to sustain or even better, increase engagement levels.