Ready, Fire, Aim: 5 Things NOT to be Neglected in Employee Engagement Research

Employee engagement surveys use many of the same tools we use in general marketing research. There is, however, a very important difference: employees and their relationship with your company are different from your customers and their relationship with your company. Not to overstate the obvious, but that difference means that employee engagement research should be handled differently than other marketing research.

There is a sort of psychological contract between employer and employees that governs expected inputs and outcomes. The key word there is “expected” and introducing measurement of employee engagement into the contract can cause concern for managers as well as employees. What corporate motivation is this initial employee engagement signaling? What changes should we expect?

Corporations must manage this anxiety and concern about employee engagement measurement – especially the very first time the survey is conducted. Not managing this process appropriately, in addition to having an unsettling impact on employees, can seriously damage your employee engagement research and the resulting data.

Here are 5 IMPORTANT TIPS for your employee engagement survey:

  1. Manage Managers’ and Employees’ Expectations. Don’t just spring an engagement survey on your organization and see how things fall out. Managers will try to influence their employees’ input. Employees will be reluctant to answer the survey at all or will answer in the most glowing (but not the most honest) responses. If you want to get the best data from your employee engagement survey, communicate well in advance that the survey is coming, why you’re doing it, what company you’ve hired to conduct it, and how you will use the results, so you can flush out concerns and respond to any questions.
  2. Incentives are Nice but NOT Necessary. While most customer and market research survey work involves some sort of incentive to encourage or boost participation rates, we have found that employees typically want to provide feedback (as long as you take the steps in Tip 1 above.) That said, if you have the bandwidth to do so, simple incentives can help increase response rates even higher than the 75%-85% we typically see. Pick some rewards that your employees value. For example, maybe offer the first department to reach 100% response money to go out to lunch or throw an ice-cream sundae party for themselves. Some companies have set company-wide participation goals that, if achieved, result in a drawing to win gift cards or extra days of PTO.
  3. Confidentiality is CRITICAL. This is why using a 3rd party organization to conduct and analyze the survey can make all the difference. The knowledge that an impartial 3rd party, rather than their boss, will be seeing and analyzing the data inspires employees to give honest responses! In fact, most companies require that results only be reported at the department level if there are sufficient responses (e.g., more than 5 responses for that department) to ensure that managers won’t be able to identify the employee from their responses. Using a professional employee engagement survey firm can credibly ensure employees that their responses will be treated Indeed, if you can’t use a professional employee engagement survey firm to conduct the measurement, you probably should not even undertake the effort.
  4. Include All Employees. Do you think that because those factory people don’t use computers, they can’t include them in the project? Not true! Worried about the fact that you have employees in other countries speaking other languages. Not a problem! None of these issues are real barriers to a company used to conducting employee engagement surveys. Most quality survey tools allow for surveys to be conducted in a variety of languages and a good survey company offers other methods for survey administration to people who don’t work on computers every day. Either way, it’s essential that everyone can have a voice.

And perhaps the most important employee engagement survey TIP…

  1. Act on the Results. Conducting an employee engagement survey sets the expectation that you are going to make changes that will improve employee engagement. Making those changes shows employees that you care about their opinions. You don’t have to do everything employees suggest – but you do need to tell them why you aren’t doing it, and when you will do something about it. And make sure to communicate that the changes are the result of the survey – that will encourage participation in next year’s survey. Even more compelling, case studies show that companies that communicate the results of the survey, create action plans to address priority issues, and then implement those action plans see an increase in engagement in as little as 6 months. Those that don’t take any steps often find engagement has eroded the next time they measure it.

Employee engagement is a key business strategy, and employee engagement surveys are different than other marketing research projects. If you don’t have sufficient time and resources to do the job properly, you can severely damage employee confidence in the process – as well as produce highly questionable data! Accurate, high-quality employee engagement survey results ensure you make the right decisions to optimize this important resource.

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