Measuring Employee Engagement with Employee Engagement Surveys

Why You Need Employment Engagement Surveys

Every company seems to have its own ideas about measuring employee engagement. They also seem to disagree about what exactly employee engagement means. But one thing almost everyone does agree on is that the best way to measure employee engagement is by using employee engagement surveys. To find out why surveys are the best way to measure engagement within your workforce, as well as best practices for the surveys and sample questions, read on.

Defining Employee Engagement

Honing in on one comprehensive definition of employee engagement is a tricky task. It also might not be the best way to approach the subject. Just like every business is different, so, too, should every business’s definition of employee engagement.

A business should define employee engagement based on its expectations for its employees. When asked to define employee engagement in APQC’s 2009 and 2010 collaborative benchmarking study, “Rewarding, Engaging, and Retaining Key Talent,” companies came up different responses. One said it means “commitment, work ethic, and loyalty.” Another defined it as “an individual sense of purpose and focused energy, evident to others in their display of personal initiative, effort and persistence, that is directed toward organizational goals.”

Although differing in exact wording, these definitions—as well as most others—share a common backbone that boils down to this: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals. Emotional commitment refers to the employee caring about their work and their company; they view their job as more than just a way to pay the bills. They work hard because they believe in the work.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

An engaged employee is a happy—and productive—employee. In 2006, Gallup examined 23,910 businesses and compared how their financial success correlated with their employee engagement scores. They found that companies with engagement scores in the top quartile averaged 12% higher customer advocacy, 18% higher productivity, and 12% higher profitability than companies with scores in the bottom quartile.

In 2004, the Corporate Executive Board in Washington, D.C. surveyed 50,000 employees in 59 organizations worldwide and found that employees with lower engagement are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged. They also found that moving from low to high engagement can result in a 21% increase in performance.

In response to Gallup’s results, Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace engagement and wellbeing, said, "These aggregated patterns show that engaged employees are more likely to stay with their organizations, are less likely to steal or experience accidents on the job, and are more likely to please customers and be highly productive. It all adds up to higher profitability, which over time, influences earnings per share."

Proof of this is seen in the story of Fabick CAT. In 2002, Fabick CAT, a company that sells, rents, and repairs Caterpillar construction equipment, began measuring employee engagement. At the time, it was only at 16%. They started making culture changes based on the results, “putting the right people in the right jobs” and investing in developing the talents and strengths of its managers.

They also paid Gallup $500,000 to conduct an analysis to determine how the new initiatives influenced performance outcomes. After working with Gallup and using the results gathered to implement more changes to engage employees, by 2006 employee engagement rates were at 48%. Not only that, but Fabick CAT’s profits increased by $3 million from 2005 to 2006, a “600% return on investment” that company owner Doug Fabick credits to the higher employee engagement.

With such benefits at stake, every business should want to know where its employees fall on the engagement scale in order to have the best-performing workforce possible.

How to Measure Employee Engagement

The most common and efficient way to measure employee engagement is through surveys. While you could have one-on-one, in-person conversations with employees in order to see how they’re feeling and ask them for feedback, this is a time-consuming and, often, uncomfortable approach. Putting people on the spot might make them feel too nervous to voice their real opinions, especially about management.

Surveys, on the other hand, provide an anonymous, thorough platform through which employees can honestly express themselves. Not only that, but engagement surveys are an opportunity for management to establish two-way communication with employees and involve them in the development process by giving them a direct voice to the management team. This involvement makes employees realize that they have a stake in the company and that their opinions are valued.

Employee engagement surveys also benefit companies by providing clear sets of data to use for comparison purposes. By asking the right questions, businesses can compare results with industry-specific data to gain an understanding of their business ranks next to similar organizations. Not only that, but benchmarking also allows businesses to measure growth over the years by comparing data from one year to the next.

What to Ask in Employee Engagement Surveys

To get the best possible results, it’s important to know what questions to ask. While there are no standard drivers of engagement, some commonly assessed factors are:
  • Recognition and feedback
  • Pay and benefits
  • Respect and fairness
  • Training and advancement opportunities
  • Leadership
  • Work environment
  • Mission and purpose

Here are the exact sample questions that companies like CustomInsight consider for each of these categories (to be answered in a 0-5 scale, ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree):

  1. Recognition and feedback
    a. At work, my opinions seem to count.
    b. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
    c. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
    d. I receive useful and constructive feedback from my manager.
    e. When I do a good job, I receive the praise and recognition I deserve.
    f. Employee performance evaluations are fair and appropriate.
  2. Pay and benefits
    a. I am paid fairly for the work I do.
    b. My salary is competitive with similar jobs I might find elsewhere.
    c. My benefits are comparable to those offered by similar organizations.
    d. I understand my benefit plan.
    e. I am satisfied with my benefit package.
    f. I understand the guidelines for receiving bonuses and raises.
  3. Respect and fairness
    a. My manager always treats me with respect.
    b. The organization’s policies or promotion and advancement are always fair.
    c. Favoritism is not an issue in any way.
    d. My coworkers always treat me with respect.
    e. This organization respects its employees.
    f. My manager values my talents and the contributions I make to the company.
  4. Training and advancement opportunities
    a. I have adequate opportunities for professional growth in this organization.
    b. I receive the training I need to do my job well.
    c. My manager is actively interested in my professional development and advancement.
    d. My manager encourages and supports my development.
    e. I am encouraged to learn from my mistakes.
    f. My work is challenging, stimulating, and rewarding.
  5. Leadership
    a. I am very satisfied with my manager.
    b. I respect the senior leaders of this organization.
    c. Senior management leads by example.
    d. Senior management communicates well with the rest of the organization.
    e. Employee job satisfaction is a top priority of senior management.
    f. Senior management is held accountable for achieving results.
  6. Work environment
    a. My workplace is safe.
    b. I have the resources I need to do my job well.
    c. My workplace is a physically comfortable place to work.
    d. I am comfortable sharing my opinions at work.
    e. My ideas and opinions count at work.
    f. I can disagree with my manager without fear of getting in trouble.
  7. Mission and purpose
    a. I have a good understanding of the mission and the goals of this organization.
    b. I understand how my work directly contributes to the overall success of the organization.
    c. My job is important in accomplishing the mission of the organization.
    d. My supervisor provides me regular information about the mission and the goals of this organization
    e. Doing my job well gives me a sense of personal satisfaction.
    f. I agree with the mission and goals of this organization.

Next Steps

The myriad benefits of higher employee engagement and proof of success with employee engagement surveys are outstanding. Other ways to boost workplace morale and participation in addition to using employee engagement surveys include: putting these five proven ways to motivate employees into practice, implementing healthy favoritism in the workplace, and effectively managing change in the workplace.

This Information Is Not Legal Advice