EMPLOYEE engagement is often seen as a feeling of commitment, passion, and energy that promotes high levels of persistence with even the most difficult jobs, exceeding expectations, and taking the initiative.
When you visit a company, you can observe that many of the staff are switched off. They don’t greet visitors along the corridor. Another company has staff that approach you to see how they can assist. It shows that they are engaged and are ready to go out of their way to help.
Some managers do walkabouts to assess the workers. This kind of assessment is selective and impressionistic. Informal feedback becomes more difficult once an organisation has 25 or more employees.
Once, when I was admitted to a hospital ward, two trainee nurses came to write my name for display at the head of the bed. After my name, the nurse drew a smiley but the other nurse told her to rub it off as it was not appropriate. I thought that the smiley would have cheered me up. The nurse was enjoying her job and will always be engaged.
The bigger the organisation, the more necessary it is to have a kind of survey to complement informal employee feedback to find out if employees are engaged.
Written surveys can garner serious concerns such as discrimination or harassment which employees may be reluctant to bring up in group discussions. Many chief executives are surprised that the firm knew more about their customers than it did about the employees.
Surveys help the firm to achieve a deeper understanding that allows employee engagement and its drivers to be addressed. Survey results can turn on a red light about potential workplace issues. They can help in measuring key outcomes such as retention, or employee recommendation of the company to friends and relatives.
Small companies can conduct their own employee survey if they already have the trust of employees. They can get a simple tool from the market and adapt it to the organisation.
But a company-developed survey tool is not recommended for larger companies because you need experts to design suitable questionnaires. Questions may be vague and misunderstood by workers.
The survey may be inadequately validated and so the results are unreliable. Some companies may skew the survey to focus too much on immediate concerns, rather than designing it to provide a fair perspective of engagement levels.
Employees may be suspicious of their employer running a survey on their own and may not cooperate fully. It is always good to spend some money to hire an external consultant.
The results of a home-grown survey cannot be compared to external benchmarks to find out where the company stands in the industry.
A few years ago, I conducted a business writing course for the local staff of a European company. I was specifically told to include topics about sensitivity during the course. Apparently, the European staff complained that the locals were insensitive in their interactions with them.
During the course, our discussion found that the European staff were haughty and often talked down on the local staff. The solution was for management to engage both sections of the staff rather than listening to one side. A survey for both parties would have yielded results on how to reduce misunderstandings.
When conducting a survey, how questions are formulated are critical to accurate results. The Society of Human Resource Management Foundation in the United States identified 10 common themes that are typically used to measure engagement in third-party surveys.
They are pride in employer; satisfaction with employer; job satisfaction; opportunity to perform well at challenging work; recognition and positive feedback for one’s contributions; personal support from one’s supervisor; effort above and beyond the minimum; understanding the link between one’s job and the organisation’s mission; prospects for future growth with one’s employer; and intention to stay with one’s employer.