April 30, 2020

Improving the employee engagement survey by adopting an “always-on” approach

Employee engagement strategies can define a company’s success in the long-term, however, to get engagement right, organizations must move away from the annual engagement survey and adopt a holistic and on-going approach. Here’s how organizations can improve engagement surveys to drive business results.

More organizations, regardless of their size, industry or location, are seeing the importance of driving employee engagement, as it can directly impact profitability, the customer experience, and the company’s overall success.

The health crisis has shaken up work for all types of employees across all industries. Organizations are requiring employees to work in new environments and in new ways. Switching up work routines has impacted how employees experience their job and how they feel about their role today and in the future. Many organizations have recognized employee listening and understanding sentiment as a top business priority.

Recent studies back more strategic thinking that engagement isn’t about perks. In fact, most research has shown that every stage of the employee experience impacts engagement collectively, from the hiring process to the exit interview. Further, Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 84% of leaders believe they needed to rethink their entire workforce experience to improve productivity.

Today, the need to improve the employee experience has sharply increased. As COVID-19 continues to evolve, organizations are realizing that employee engagement is a critical part of business continuity. In fact, research shows that many companies are prioritizing engagement and treating their employees better than ever. According to global research analyst Josh Bersin, the health crisis presents a significant opportunity to transform human capital management strategies and engage the workforce for better business performance. Organizations right now need to tailor employee experiences to the needs of the workforce as they stand today as well as pay attention to how the needs of employees will change over time as the workforce re-assimilates into old ways of working.

Moving away from the traditional employee engagement survey

We’ve heard for several years now that annual employee engagement surveys have not been as effective in moving the needle for companies looking to increase engagement for the modern workforce. However, Harvard Business Review supports the notion that engagement surveys should still be leveraged if used strategically. Employers must also move beyond relegating measures of success to an annual employee survey alone.

Large, yearly surveys typically aggregate feedback into huge sums of data, making it challenging for leaders to weigh the data that matters into their decision-making process. Information collected from these types of surveys can also become outdated if employers don’t act quickly to meet the needs of employees. As well, employees can also feel their input has gone unacknowledged if organizations are unable to effectively respond to it.

Modernizing the employee engagement survey

Real-time touchpoints have never been more relevant today as the workforce has a growing expectation of immediacy – an expectation that stems from how they consume information via on-demand technology in their personal lives. Employee engagement strategies should meet these evolving expectations and align with various touchpoints within the employee experience. For example, surveys can be used  in conjunction with other methods in which to collect employee feedback such as sentiment analysis tools and on-going employee check-ins.

Employers need to take a more agile approach to engagement, continuously assessing various elements of the employee experience such as onboarding, learning and development, scheduling, and compensation, and how all these pieces are working together to drive engagement and performance. To achieve this, organizations can work towards an “always-on” approach and make adjustments based on real-time feedback.

A key aspect of an “always-on” approach is that it gives organizations the ability to ask different types of questions, when they want to ask them. It’s responsive, it’s real-time, and it’s actionable. Here are some tips to evolve the traditional engagement survey and help you get started with an always-on approach.

Tips for improving the employee engagement survey

1. Define employee engagement: What does engagement for your organization look like? What types of questions do you want to ask? In asking questions related to employee engagement, think about what’s actionable. That is, if the questions are related to career development or teamwork, what can you take action on?

2. Start listening: Listening to employees means giving them a real opportunity to provide feedback. Employees are not only seeking feedback, but they also want to provide it. This requires rethinking the typical approach of asking for feedback using close-ended forms. There’s valuable information in employees’ answers to open-ended questions.

3. Skip the traditional: If one of the challenges of traditional surveys is that they are long and involved, and can make it difficult to glean actionable insights from the results, simplify. Try a short survey, or even a single question, to take the pulse of the organization on a particular issue.

4. Measure the metrics that matter: Engagement surveys are a measurement tool, not a solution to improving engagement. To bring engagement to life, leaders must make engagement goals meaningful to employees' day-to-day experiences. For some teams, perks such as free snacks and treadmill desks may go a long way. For others, providing challenging work and setting clear career paths will drive better engagement and performance in the long run.

Related: Employee engagement strategies for today’s workforce

5. Set an action plan in place: Organizations will need to think about the action plan that will be driven by engagement survey results. What are priority action items that need to be addressed? When will you roll out new initiatives to support your engagement goals?

6. Hold managers accountable: Managers should build engagement plans with their direct reports and be held accountable for the overall engagement of their teams. Tracking progress will help managers align their team engagement to the overall goals of the organization.

7. Get leadership on board: To truly drive organizational engagement, the leadership team must own it. At Ceridian, we have a fully engaged leadership team that helps to drive our initiatives forward – for example, our leadership reads every single employee comment from our regular and on-going pulse surveys. In response to COVID-19, we have also deployed remote work surveys to monitor how employees are managing the new work from home arrangements. Further, our leadership team encourages employees to email them directly following all-hands meetings and town halls.

To get buy-in from leadership teams, help them understand how employee engagement influences business results. An engaged workforce leads to lower turnover, lower absenteeism, higher productivity and higher revenue. Communicate to leadership teams how gathering and taking action on data can improve employee engagement metrics, and therefore impact the bottom line.

From a strategic perspective, it’s advantageous to be able to make adjustments when and where you need to. An “always on” approach to employee engagement really comes back to results. As employee expectations and needs change, organizations will need to keep pulse of their workforce and identify trends and patterns within teams and across the wider organization.

Organizations that are leveraging innovative employee engagement tools can identify problem areas in certain locations, departments, or demographics, and identify and quickly respond to new opportunities to motivate and engage their workforce.

Learn how Dayforce employee engagement software can help your organization drive performance and productivity amid changing business environments.

Britt Armour

Britt Armour is a content marketing specialist at Ceridian, where she writes about the HCM space, and how Dayforce is disrupting traditional HR solutions.  

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