Engagement measures the emotional commitment employees have toward a company, its goals, vision, and other employees. While it’s largely a human resources issue, it’s also a business problem. Engagement really has nothing to do with salaries and satisfaction. It’s more about leadership and policies that nurture relationships and provide the framework for long-term motivation.
But first, it’s essential to understand why it’s so important and how it has shifted. Then, start looking at the metrics that will help you measure your employees’ engagement. This goes far beyond having employees who are happy or enjoying good relationships with managers. Engagement is intimately linked to profitability, productivity, turnover, and a business’s ability to withstand tough times.
How COVID Has Shifted Employee Engagement
The past year has been a wild ride, and it has taught businesses across the globe invaluable lessons. Employee engagement has always been important. But it’s arguably more important now than it has ever been. As businesses around the world start reopening and adjusting to the seismic shifts that have rocked many organizations, employee needs are evolving.
Leaders have an opportunity to rethink and redesign the employee experience. Engagement metrics provide a solid foundation on which to build that future. On a go-forth, supporting engagement will require creating employee experiences that honor individual needs and differences while remaining nimble enough to respond and adapt to rapid changes.
In March 2020, COVID’s disruption caused the overall well-being of people in America to decline, but engagement remained steady. Gallup’s research revealed that during COVID, most employees felt that they were getting more meaningful feedback from management on a consistent basis. Those working from home part-time and in-office part-time reported the highest engagement. Those working remotely full-time reported the highest level of burnout.
Despite challenging conditions, leadership has become increasingly complex and important. As managers and business owners strived to remain connected with their workforce, employee engagement has actually increased. Gallup’s data revealed that in January 2021, employee engagement in the U.S. increased to 39% from 36% the year before.
What Metrics Matter in 2021 and Beyond
The past year has turned everything on its head. Employees and employers have been under tremendous stress and pressure, two factors that are likely to continue as offices begin reopening and businesses forge their paths forward. By measuring engagement and acting upon what you find out, you’ll better position your organization to retain and attract talent and maintain your unique competitive edge. Although there are many metrics you could use, these might very well be four of the most important:
Employee Net Promoter Score
Based on the Net Promoter Score, which was designed to assess customer loyalty,
The Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), gives you a good idea about engagement levels with just a simple question that employees anonymously answer using a sliding scale of one to 10. The question? Would you recommend a job at this business to others? Based on the answer, employees fall into three main categories:
- Detractor (answers 0-6): These employees are among those with the lowest levels of engagement. Leaders must communicate and try to uncover what their concerns are. By addressing their issues and making them feel heard, employers can improve employee engagement.
- Neutral/passive (answers 7-8): Although these employees won’t talk up the organization, they won’t talk badly about it either. Leaders should work to transform them into promoters.
- Promoters (answers 9-10): This indicates a high level of engagement, but that doesn’t mean leaders should ignore these employees. Asking for suggestions on how to improve things and offering steady support help keep these employees positive and engaged.
Voluntary Turnover Rates
Engaged employees are more likely to stay put. When there’s a high level of employees voluntarily leaving, that’s a clear indicator of low engagement levels. Every time an employee leaves, it costs a business in lost productivity, a loss of the knowledge and skill of the employee who left, the expense of hiring and training a new employee, and the resulting hit to morale among the employees who stay.
This is a relatively easy metric to calculate. Divide the number of employees who voluntarily left during the year by the average number of employees in that year. Multiply that number by 100 for the voluntary turnover rate.
The business world has been turned on its head after COVID-19 forced the world into what many call “the great remote work experiment.” Many employees had to scramble to get makeshift home offices ready for sudden full-time work while also juggling spouses, children, and other obligations. Resilience is simply a measure of how well employees are adjusting, adapting, and moving on from challenges and difficult situations.
Resilience plays heavily into employees’ emotional health and well-being, which can impact engagement. This metric can give you valuable insight into how your employees are faring, which can be a springboard for offering new resources like stress-management workshops and mental health support.
There are a variety of options for measuring resilience, including the Resilience Scale for Adults, a self-reporting scale based on five key factors that contribute to resilience, including personal and social competence, social support, family coherence, and personal structure. Another measurement tool includes the Scale of Protective Factors, which measures individual resilience based on 24 items measuring social and interpersonal factors and cognitive and individual factors.
It’s impossible to have a healthy, thriving business without healthy employees. It’s also a metric that’s intrinsically linked to engagement. Employees with high levels of well-being are more likely to report excellent performance of their own job and their organization as a whole. They’re also more likely to adapt to change, remain resilient and recover fully after injuries, illnesses, and hardships. And they’re significantly less likely to look for a job with a different company in the coming year.
Perhaps now more than ever before, employee well-being should be among employers’ top priorities, making it one of the most important engagement metrics. The best way to gauge this is to ask employees for open, honest feedback. It can be as simple as a weekly check-in. Or you could measure it using advanced techniques like sentiment analysis, a technological strategy that lets you collect data from anything written to and by employees both in the work environment and on social media to assess the tone. Tracking wellness metrics using wearable tech can give you the data needed to figure out basic wellness too.
How to Improve Employee Engagement
Supportive leadership, a positive work environment, and fostering trust between employees and leadership are three key steps to boosting employee engagement. Open, transparent conversations and frequent check-ins are an important way to make employees feel like they’re included in what’s happening within the business while keeping them apprised of opportunities for growth.
Leaders have a golden opportunity to make employees feel included in what comes next. For example, as you’re planning how to return to the office, gauge how employees feel about it and use that information to craft your plan. For many businesses, the office and the workspace will be forever changed. By all accounts, the post-pandemic workplace won’t look or operate the same. Leveraging employee sentiments and using them to redesign the workplace lets workers feel empowered and like they’re being heard.
For some, they need the office as a respite from remote work and a place for focused projects or collaboration. Taking that feedback into account along with supporting employee well-being and creating a strong, supportive culture can go a long way to improving engagement.
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