The Truth about Employee Engagement Surveys

The Truth about Employee Engagement Surveys

Some employees view employee engagement surveys with a mixture of irritation and skepticism. Employees must take time from their busy days to answer survey questions, but research shows that many employees in the United States feel disconnected from their managers and company mission statements. They are concerned that their responses won’t make a difference in their work lives. Essentially, 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 in the U.S. is at its highest rate since 2000, but still only 31.5% of American 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 suggests 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 in U.S. businesses. Naturally, this quickly brought about an increase in companies offering employee engagement surveys, but the truth is that few of these companies have the background necessary to write and interpret employee engagement surveys in a truly meaningful way.

At NBRI, our survey architects have years of organizational psychology training, which gives them the insight needed to write employee engagement surveys designed to glean your employees’ true sentiments, rather than simply encouraging them to tell you what they think you want to hear. Additionally, it’s important to write surveys that discourage answers based solely on recent events to help employers gain a true perspective of their employees’ engagement.

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 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 in other departments, less time in “ad-hoc interactions”, and even less time being social and active outside of work. Essentially, “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. Unfortunately, many employee engagement survey companies don’t understand the gradual process of disengagement, how to measure it, or how to fix it.

What Truly Engages your Employees?
An article recently featured online by 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. A well-written 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 above-mentioned article in Forbes 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—not only do they rely on these methods to foster their personal lives when they work too many hours, but they also 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 knowledge and experience to dig into this and many other causal factors that drive human behavior.

Employee Engagement Survey Experts
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 Josh Bersin 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.”

With such high stakes, is it wise to trust your employee engagement survey to an HR specialist or to a survey company whose results simply don’t match their boasting? Doesn’t it make more sense to trust a survey company with deep experience in writing and interpreting employee surveys and a sincere interest in your success?

At NBRI, each member of our survey research team understands the true factors contributing to employee disengagement. Even more important, we understand how to encourage employees to express their own values and levels of engagement honestly and in a manner that leads to a deeper understanding of company climate and culture as a whole. Once we have successfully deployed and analyzed your employee engagement surveys, we then assist your business leaders so that they are equipped to address and rectify factors contributing to disengagement and attrition. With extensive psychology backgrounds and Ph.D. level degrees, we are uniquely equipped to understand the needs and motivations of employees at all levels of your organization and to help you foster a more engaging environment conducive to satisfied employees, increased profit, and a direct path to success.