Have you participated in the annual “employee engagement survey fail”? That’s where employers conduct yet another engagement survey, hoping that this year’s results will be better than last year’s, only to be disappointed once again.
Paying the Price of Low Employee Engagement
If you can relate to this, you also probably experience the pain of one or more of the following consequences of low engagement:
- Costly turnover, especially the loss of mission critical, hard-to-replace talent
- Employee relations issues taking up managers’ time and energy
- Employees showing lack of initiative requiring managers to “babysit”
- No “We’re all in this together” spirit…which leads to turf battles, silos, and overall lack of teamwork
- Low morale resulting in less-than-stellar customer service
While it’s No Consolation, You’re Not Alone
Despite employers investing tremendous sums of money on improving employee engagement, employees remain largely disengaged across the globe. Very little has changed since Gallup started measuring employee engagement in the 1990s.
From the recent Gallup State of the American Workplace report:
While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2- to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70 percent) are not reaching their full potential.”
How does this happen?
Why, despite all the time, effort, and money invested, does employee engagement not improve? More importantly, what do YOU need to do to improve engagement in your organization?
Four Things to Do Immediately
The following list—while far from exhaustive—identifies some of the most powerful things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your employee engagement improvement efforts.
- Examine whether you are making the four “failure guaranteed” mistakes employers make, despite knowing better:
- Not reporting the results of your survey
- Not reporting the results in a timely manner
- Not making any changes based on employee feedback
- Not explaining the reasoning behind why some input was not acted upon
- Identify if you are guilty of the “employee engagement deal killer”; mistakes that lead to low engagement, along with a resentful, cynical workforce, such as:
- Employees don’t understand the big picture—Research shows that only 4 out of 10 employees know their employer’s goals, key initiatives, and other aspects of the big picture. How can we expect employees to be engaged, if they don’t understand what they’re contributing to?
- Employees don’t understand how specifically they contribute to the big picture—When employees don’t understand how they matter, and what they can do to make the biggest difference, they don’t have the passion and commitment of those who have a line of sight between their actions and the big picture.
- Employees feel unappreciated—This is one of the biggest sources of employee disengagement and low morale, and one of the most easily solved problems, and it costs nothing.
- Managers are unresponsive, teaching employees not to care—Unresponsiveness takes many forms, including not responding to emails and voice mails, not responding to requests, and not indicating they received time-sensitive material they had requested from a direct report. This last form of unresponsiveness—and thoughtlessness—is especially off putting to the employee who moved mountains to make the deadline and is now left wondering “Did they not get it? Do I follow-up and seem like a nag?” Unresponsiveness leads to the attitude “If you don’t care about me…why should I care about you?”
- Stop treating employee engagement as an aggregated statistic, and learn how to individualize the employee experience. This could be a game-changer for your organization. While it’s important to understand overall engagement levels in your organization, in the end, employee engagement is an individual experience.
Just because your organization—or a department—receives a particular score on an engagement driver such as “My opinions and input matters”, doesn’t mean it’s true for an individual employee. When that employee is a high value, hard-to-replace employee, this distinction becomes even more critical.
At the micro level, employee engagement being an individual experience means that each employee has their own “engagement recipe” of drivers and causes of disengagement. Boosting engagement requires understanding each employee’s unique recipe and then co-creating a work experience that satisfies those drivers.
When this happens, not only will employee engagement levels rise, but each employee will be far more productive and will generate far greater economic value.
Reducing employee turnover is a primary goal for almost every human resource professional. By reducing employee turnover, organizations save money on recruitment and training, as well as encouraging a stable, experienced workforce. Efforts to increase employee retention start with improving the recruitment and training process, but continue on to providing challenging, interesting work, a cooperative work environment, and comparable compensation programs. Additional factors that contribute to reducing employee turnover include opportunities for professional growth, additional training, and organizational stability.
Turnover is understood by human resource professionals to be the rate at which an organization’s workforce terminates employment and requires replacement employees. In other words, employee turnover is the ratio of vacated and refilled job positions compared to the total workforce of the organization. Certain industries, such as food and beverage, janitorial, and retail, have statistically higher employee turnover rates than others. High turnover rates in such industries typically relate to low pay, a young workforce, high stress, and poor opportunity for advancement.
Improving or reducing employee turnover first requires assessing the reasons why employees leave. Increasing pay rates, for example, may not reduce turnover if the majority of employees leave because of poor work conditions or lack of opportunity. The best tip for reducing employee turnover then is to first determine its cause. Absenteeism rates, productivity levels, and employee complaints are a good place to start when evaluating the reasons behind high turnover. Personal interviews, especially for exiting employees, provides additional insight.
Changes in recruitment and employee training programs can also lead to reducing employee turnover. When candidates are better suited to a particular job role, whether by virtue of past work experience, personality traits, or future career plans, turnover rates are typically not as high. Proper training to prepare candidates for new job roles likewise lessens turnover. Additional training throughout an employee’s tenure provides opportunities for professional growth the employee would otherwise need to fund out of pocket, which can increase loyalty and retention. Cross-training employees for additional responsibilities likewise increases each employee’s perceived value, as well as providing opportunities for new and interesting challenges.
Organizational culture is also an important factor in reducing employee turnover. Cooperative environments, team work, supportive supervisors, and clear communication of expectations all contribute to a stable, encouraging organizational culture. Studies show that organizational culture and workplace environments are two of the most often cited reasons why employees choose to leave a particular job position. Employees who feel empowered, supported, and valued typically report a higher sense of job satisfaction and, therefore, are less likely to pursue other employment opportunities. As such, instigating changes in managerial hierarchy, employee accountability, establishing open door policies, and similar efforts that bring employees into key decision-making roles typically reduce turnover.
Numerous studies regarding employee turnover and job satisfaction place compensation and benefits far below other factors that contribute to turnover. Although most employees report workplace environments, personal motivation, and challenging opportunities as more important than compensation, it can be a factor in reducing employee turnover. If an organization’s base pay and benefit package is not in line with other organizations in the same industry, employees will leave to pursue better opportunities. Periodic review of common industry practices regarding pay and benefits ensures an organization remains competitive and loses fewer employees.
Because employees have a huge impact on the bottom line, companies need to ensure their workforce is engaged and committed. Numerous studies have linked employee loyalty, customer loyalty, and financial results with one another.
Employee dissatisfaction leads to lower productivity and higher turnover, having a significant impact on organizational performance. Therefore, anything that can reduce the investment of time and money currently channeled into sourcing, hiring, and training new employees is beneficial.
Enterprise surveys enable business leaders to find out what their employees really think and what issues need to be addressed. Through the survey, the organization can communicate to employees that their opinions matter and so increase employee morale, understand key organizational issues, and build an engaged workforce. Carrying out a well-orchestrated survey — and listening, consulting, and acting on the results over time — will have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line.
An enterprise survey is a structured process in which staff can openly discuss their opinions of the organization without fear of reprisal. They can review key areas that the organization has deemed important (e.g., culture, company strategy, career development, reward systems, training, onboarding, orientation, and customer service) and provide input and ideas on what is working well and what is not. The aim is to present staff with a method that encourages them to give honest answers on a variety of topics in a manner that they find comfortable.
Why conduct an enterprise survey
Would you like to uncover key organizational issues that would lead to demonstrable improvements? Do you want your workforce to provide feedback and suggestions on how to improve and feel more engaged and committed to your company?
Employee engagement is a central goal of a smart company that understands that is only as good as its employees and that there is great value in knowing their opinions, drivers, and behaviours. Numerous studies have established that a moderate increase in employee engagement can garner huge returns for a company. Being aware of what employees are saying about their work experience provides insight into a company’s key issues and makes available crucial information that can be positively applied to the future.
An organization can reap many benefits from conducting an enterprise survey:
- It’s a strategic organizational tool to identify important issues.
- It provides an assessment of current organizational culture and gauges the level of employee engagement.
- It allows employees to communicate views and concerns.
- It isolates the root causes of such continuing problems as high turnover or low productivity.
- It enables companies to find solutions to issues that will lead to profitable improvements.
- It fosters stronger employee relations by creating an environment of openness and trust.
- Empowered employees lead to higher retention rates, lower absenteeism, improved productivity, better customer service, improved morale, and measurable savings.
How to conduct an enterprise survey
To implement an enterprise survey, you must plan — to create governance policy, clarify objectives, establish timelines, allocate resources, identify topics, and define a reporting structure. Once you have dealt with these elements, you need to develop survey items with the input of key constituents. You must also address administrative details, including who will receive the survey, communication, and timing, and then create your plan of action to analyze and identify priorities. Over time, you implement and monitor key recommendations, ensuring that you provide regular updates and communicate progress.
Your organization must keep your employees informed through all phases of the survey, including preparation, data collection, action planning, and implementation. You need to develop a communication plan to get out the key messages — objectives and rationale, timeframe, importance of participation, how results will be reported, and action priorities identified add implemented. Be sure to allow for two-way communication.
Explain suggestions that cannot be implemented in a timely manner and tie changes that are made back to the survey. Communicating effectively throughout the process establishes a solid foundation for future surveys.
When employees see the changes that take place as a result of their feedback, they will understand the connection between that and their response, leading to an improvement in future survey scores.
Timing the enterprise survey
If you conduct a survey only once, you lose the survey’s value in monitoring progress over time and uncovering new or developing issues. If you conduct surveys too often, fatigue can occur. To be effective, you should schedule the survey process so that any initiatives that come out of it can be incorporated into the business planning cycle.
Once it has been distributed, allow enough time for staff to consider their responses before completing the survey. Providing the opportunity to fill it out while at work will increases response rates.
Once collected and compiled, release the data to all employees without delay to signal that the information collected matters and that management has given it high priority.
Action planning and implementing results
There is little point in conducting enterprise surveys unless the information is going to be used to make your company more effective. Without action and follow through, there is no value.
The results need to be analyzed and presented in an efficient and cost-effective manner. How do you keep on top of the volume of information without letting the process weigh you down? How do you respect privacy issues? Effective evaluation of enterprise survey outcomes requires you to identify trends and patterns of key issues perceived by the workforce. Benchmarking the results from one period to the next enables you to compare valid data and opens the opportunity to monitor progress.
Many dedicated HR departments do not have the time or skill to gather or analyze the data or implement the recommendations they reveal. Outsourcing an enterprise survey frees up the time of internal resources by enabling a third-party provider to oversee the design, facilitate planning, provide guidance, and implement and coordinate the survey in a way that minimizes demands on employees and their managers.
As well, employees who are not fully engaged will not provide honest input unless an external advisor assists in prioritizing results based on objective, statistically reliable data. To ensure that your organization capitalizes on the potential rooted within the results, a third-party provider is ideal.
A well-designed and implemented process will guarantee that the concerns identified by your enterprise survey are the right ones. Equipped with this crucial information, your company will be in a position to address key issues, which will result in greater employee engagement.
By managing it properly, using the right resources, asking the right questions, processing and responding to the answers, and using the information to create necessary change, you can convert enterprise surveys into one of the most valuable management tools your company has.
Have you ever been charmed by an applicant? Hired a friend or family member and been disappointed? Kept poor performers long after they should have been asked to leave? Added up the costs of making a poor hiring decision?
Why is our gut feel about people such a poor indicator of success? Most of us want to like the people we meet: We naturally look for positive attributes and try to see a fit where one may not exist. However, in hiring, it is important to reduce our subjective opinions and develop better predictors of future success.
Research tells us that past behaviour is one of the most reliable predictors of future behaviour. Using techniques to uncover past behaviours — a behavioural-based process — will enable you to successfully recruit new team members who can perform well in the job and who fit your organizational culture.
The process begins with the development of a well-researched position description and culminates with a behaviourally-based interview process.
Create a well-researched job description
To create an effective job description, define:
- Where the position fits into the larger organization
- The outcomes of the position and the tasks required to produce them
- The physical requirements of a job
- The mental attitudes, unique skills, and competencies required
- The expected performance standards
The two types of competencies are technical and behavioural. We tend to hire people based on their technical competencies — how long they have been doing a particular task, how much training they have, whether they are qualified in a particular skill, and so on. However, we tend to terminate people based on their behavioural competencies — how they act on the job. To determine your preferred behavioural competencies, make a list of the personal attributes of your top performers or others who have performed well in the job that you are filling. What were they like? Describe their style, values, and attitudes. Now you are beginning to develop an understanding of their behavioural competencies.
Job descriptions should be linked to performance — what the new employees are supposed to do and the standards by which they will be measured.
Ask yourself, “If my hires perform well, what results should we see? How could we tell if they were effective?” Now you are beginning to craft some useful performance measures. Ask the right people the right questions
Recruitment is the process of encouraging the appropriate applicants to apply for the job. Make sure your recruitment process reaches a wide audience. Don’t discount the importance of social media: Many jobs are advertised on Facebook and Linked-In, as well as online sites like Craigslist and CareerBuilder.com. Research the sites that might draw the best applicants for your opening.
In your job advertisement, be very specific about the competencies you are looking for. If you are looking for a high-energy individual who is self-reliant, able to work independently, and make quick and accurate decisions, then say so.
When you interview, don’t be fooled by a charming and friendly applicant. Be prepared with a process that helps you understand how an applicant has responded to key situations in the past.
It is very important to ask the same questions of each applicant to provide consistency between applicants and increase the validity and reliability of the interview. Develop a list of questions, keeping them short and realistic. Design questions that ask for examples of past behaviour. For example, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a really difficult customer. What did you do and what was the outcome?”
For each question you develop, make sure you have also determined what you believe is an accurate or effective answer. Judge your candidate against what you have decided is the kind of answer that fits your organization.
Be careful not to use leading questions, as this may prime applicants to give you the answers they think you want. An example of this is: “We think it is important to call customers by their first name. What is your approach to addressing customers by name?” Avoid trick questions or hypothetical questions like: “Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?” These have little bearing on a person’s ability to do the job, unless you are scoring them on creative thinking.
Finally, always respond to all applicants, even if it is just to say that you received their résumé but have chosen other candidates for an interview. Remember, every step of the application and interview process reflects on your company and a chance to build or tarnish your reputation. The recruitment and selection process should demonstrate your professionalism at every turn.