What Should Replace the Employee Engagement Survey?

It’s time to rethink the employee engagement issue.

The change we need to make is to redefine engagement beyond an annual HR measure to a continuous, holistic part of an entire business strategy. Here are a couple things we all know:

So if the employee engagement survey is dying, but employee engagement is critical to performance, what should we measure?

The issue with employee engagement surveys

The biggest issue with employee engagement surveys is that much of the data is not acted on, which ends up doing more harm than good. As an employee, it’s disheartening to think that your feedback amounts to little more than a report that gets passed up to leadership.

For leaders, while the survey information is interesting, the data you get does very little to actually help you manage core business objectives like revenue, expenses, market share, customer churn, etc. For example, let’s say you get a score of 10 from an employee net promoter score (eNPS) survey. It’s hard to say if increasing it by another 10 points will help increase revenues, or retention, or market share by a correlated amount. There are ways to do this, but they aren’t easy.

An alternative way to measure employee engagement

One way engagement shows up is as motivation to do the right thing for the company and team. We can see engagement through the input, feedback, and ideas that employees have to improve work. People who care about their colleagues and workplace are motivated to correct issues and work on ways to get better results.

A company’s best customers are not just those who are loyal but provide important input, feedback and ideas for improvement. A company’s best employees are not just those who stick around and do their jobs, but contribute above and beyond their job descriptions. They have a desire to co-create success.

Input, feedback and ideas are something that you can measure and are the ultimate form of engagement. 

Input, Feedback and Ideas for Engagement

Studies support that taking action on employee engagement delivers better results than an analyze and kick-off projects approach. Rather than just measure employee engagement, engage employees in providing feedback and ideas on how to improve engagement, or deal with challenges that lead to disengagement. Co-creation is also known to increase commitment to proposed solutions. By involving employees directly in improving engagement, you’re far more likely to succeed in actually making a difference.

But you don’t have to stop there. It’s also possible to engage employees directly on business priorities – which is the type of engagement that all business leaders crave.

Engagement as cost-cutting and operational efficiency

A leading global resources company selected SoapBox to uncover employees’ ideas for cutting costs. More importantly, with falling resource prices, they didn’t want this to become a one-time effort. They wanted it to become embedded in their culture so that all employees were always looking for ways to create efficiencies and improve productivity.

The customer used SoapBox to collect input on: productivity, cost cutting, health and safety and improving workplace culture. When they first launched, employees naturally gravitated towards workplace culture. It represented over 50% of the input received. This was great, but leadership also needed employees engaged on cutting costs. Over the course of the next six months, leadership focused more communication on where they needed help. The result was exactly what they wanted. Not only did they get lots of ideas (over 1,700 ideas, 2,000 comments and 32,000 votes), but they was aligned to the most pressing business needs with over 95% of the trending ideas focused on cost cutting, productivity and health and safety.

In addition to engagement surveys or pulses, use feedback to measure engagement

Engagement surveys do provide useful information, but they fall short on taking action. Partly because the information isn’t immediately actionable.

A feedback system that gathers employee input on how to improve engagement creates a bias towards action. It also increases employee commitment to making a difference because they’re part of the solution. Furthermore, feedback can also be aligned to business priorities.

As a final anecdote for supporting direct feedback as an engagement key performance indicator, at SoapBox we’ve seen that the amount of input an individual provides is a good predictor of turnover. Employees who are engaged in providing input are more invested in the long-term success of the organizations they’re working for.

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