Employee Engagement Scare Tactics
It’s rare these days to pick up an HR publication or attend a conference that isn’t at least partially dedicated to employee engagement. Many of these articles or events begin with alarming—although not always accurate—quotes like “over three-fourths of your employees are actively disengaged, and unlikely to be making a positive contribution to the organization.” Scary.
While most of these statistics are hyperbole (i.e., do you really think an organization can function if seven out of eight employees are either actively sabotaging your company or darting for the exits?), there appears to be little challenge to the idea that an organization’s success is directly tied to the employee experience (EX). Engaged employees are far more likely to deliver results than disengaged employees. Also, few dispute the notion that keeping your finger on the pulse of the organization is critical to business success. The question is no longer one of if an organization should gather feedback but, rather, how that feedback should be gathered.
How Are Organizations Measuring Employee Engagement?
For the past two years, consulting firm DecisionWise has surveyed HR practitioners to understand just how organizations go about measuring engagement and the EX. Based on responses from more than 200 companies across the globe (representing over 1.2 million employees), two-thirds of organizations (67%) claim to formally measure employee engagement on a regular basis, and have specific initiatives in place to address their findings. Interestingly, over the past several years, the question of “how often and how should we solicit employee feedback?” seems to have replaced the previous question of “should we solicit employee feedback?” Much of this results from a new wave of technology that allows organizations to gather real-time feedback, as well as to continue collecting more strategic feedback through their traditional annual employee surveys.
Which Employee Survey Method Is Best?
There has been an increased push over the past several years to downplay the role of the traditional annual survey, with some recommending instead that feedback be gathered more frequently—even as often as once a day or in “real time.” Further, in a push fueled primarily by survey software providers, rather than HR professionals, some organizations are enticed by technology that allows them to both solicit and provide feedback at any time of the day or night, in real time. On the other end of the spectrum, many organizations still prefer a more traditional approach to surveying their employees, opting instead for an annual or semi-annual engagement survey. However, while most organizations won’t be abandoning the annual survey anytime soon, most agree that an annual check-in with their employees is not enough. It’s simply too infrequent to understand the employee experience (EX).
So, which of these methods is the most effective? More importantly, which of these survey methodologies provides the best information upon which to make critical employee and strategic decisions?
As with most people-related questions, the answer is, “it all depends.” While one solution or a group of solutions won’t be right for every organization, it is important to understand the options available before settling on a particular solution or set of solutions to use in your organization.
Although numerous variations are currently available, employee engagement survey solutions generally vary by two main factors:
1. Scope – Scope refers to the magnitude and depth of the survey (number of employees surveyed, number and depth of questions or items, level of reporting detail and analysis, how the results will be used, etc.).
2. Frequency – Frequency is simply how often the survey will be conducted (annually, quarterly, weekly, always-on, etc.).
These two main factors, scope and frequency, create four primary types of employee survey options. Remember, numerous variations of these four types exist. However, they can generally be broken down into the following, ordered from most frequent to least frequent in administration:
1. Always-on surveys
2. Spot surveys
3. Pulse surveys
4. Anchor surveys
While various survey providers may use different names and features, these four types listed above generally cover the range of variations and options.