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The Truth about Employee Engagement Surveys

Some employees view employee engagement surveys with irritation and skepticism. Employees must take time from their busy days to answer survey questions, but research shows that many employees feel disconnected from their managers and company mission statements. They are concerned that their responses won’t make a difference in their work lives because many bosses intent on measuring employee engagement are badly out of touch with their employees.

Why and How to Measure Employee Engagement

Research has shown that employee engagement is at its highest rate since 2000, but still only 31.5% of employees reported being engaged at work. Employees were deemed to be engaged if they were “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Research also shows that businesses with high employee engagement could see a 20% or higher increase in productivity and profit.

NBRI began to measure employee engagement in the late 1990s, and since then employee engagement surveys and initiatives have become increasingly more common. Naturally, this quickly brought about an increase in companies offering employee engagement surveys.

Employee Disengagement is Gradual

Today’s business owners and managers are aware that employee engagement can have serious effects on their companies, but perhaps don’t realize how vital it is to remain aware of signs of waning engagement at shorter and more regular intervals than the average annual employee survey. In an article about employee engagement in the Harvard Business Review, a study is described in which a company has a growing issue with talent shortage and attrition. Through regularly measuring key factors of employee engagement, they realized that their workers showed signs that they were approaching a quit date a full year before they actually left. Gradually, these employees became less engaged as they spent less time interacting with coworkers and even less time being social and active outside of work. “These employees hadn’t decided to quit a year in advance; rather, their engagement levels started dropping… and dropping… and dropping… until they reached the point where they realized it was time to quit.”

If the managers at the company noted in this article had been aware of the increasing disengagement of their employees over the course of many months, they could have taken steps to create a more engaging work environment and fostered employee loyalty.

What Truly Engages your Employees?

An article featured in Forbes called “Why Companies Fail To Engage Today’s Workforce: The Overwhelmed Employee” explains that many of today’s workers are far more concerned with work that is meaningful than they were in the past. Not only do employees want to feel valued at work, but they also want work that fulfills their personal ethos. An employee engagement survey is the ideal tool to determine if your workers feel that both they and their work are important.

Today’s employees need to feel that they are doing meaningful work and they also want to live more meaningful lives outside of work. The Forbes article states that 40% of men in America work more than 50 hours per week and that most employees in the Unites States feel overwhelmed at work. This could be a reason why our employees are so heavily engaged by their phones, social media, or other distractions during work hours—they rely on these methods to foster their personal lives when they work too many hours and feel so overwhelmed that they require regular “mini-breaks” to get through their days.

Here, author Josh Bersin suggests that the typical employee engagement survey may effectively measure “discretionary effort” and other markers typically used to gauge employee engagement, but that they don’t focus enough on what is truly important to our employees. Josh Bersin goes on to say, “they do not help organizations understand the passion, soul, and real issues going on day to day.” In other words, one of the ways to measure impending burnout is by understanding changing levels of discretionary effort and most survey providers do not have the analytics to dig into this and other causal factors that drive human behavior.

The Importance of Employee Engagement

It seems business owners and managers are now beginning to realize what their workers have always known: a strong, positive, and engaged workforce is every company’s best asset. Perhaps the Forbes article best sums up the vital importance of fostering and promoting employee engagement:

“Let’s face it. If you’re a CEO or business leader, the only thing you really have is your employees’ commitment and engagement. This is not ‘one of the things’ to worry about, this is ‘the thing’ to worry about.”

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