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Employee engagement. What in the blazes does employee engagement actually mean?
Unfortunately it’s nothing matrimonial.
It’s one of those broad and clunky HR terms that’s trying to accommodate lots of abstracts that every single employee feels during their day-to-day.
Happiness in their job. Satisfaction with their current salary, workload, team atmosphere. Commitment to the targets or KPIs in their job. Day-to-day productivity while they’re at work. All of these things are huddling under the umbrella that we call employee engagement.
And just to confound matters, we’re all individuals, with unique home lives and families and burdens and dependants and goals and motivations. We all have different levels of ambition, patience, expectation; different perceptions of a strong or weak work ethic.
So with all of these things sizzling in the same wok, how can we expect to fry up one all-satisfying definition of anything?
In other words, how can we measure employee engagement?
Well, here are five methods you can use that’ll enable you to get an inside view of how your staff perceive their job, their targets, colleagues, their boss (you); as well as how valuable they think you think they are, what they think you’re doing right, what you’re most definitely doing wrong, and how you could improve.
1 One-to-one meetings
Remember when people had one-to-one conversations, using body language, gestures, and facial expressions to augment the words they used to convey how they felt? Ahh yes, back before screens began ruling the world of interaction…
Well, it’s time to revive the person-to-person chat.
Introduce a system where each of your line managers (or if your business is small, you could take the lead on this) schedules weekly one-to-one meetings with each member of their team. These meetings should last at least 15 minutes, and if there’s a lot to discuss, they could go on for up to an hour.
Make sure both the line manager and the employee are aware of the skeleton of the agenda. Things to talk about:
- Begin casually. Ask how they are. Did they have a good weekend? Try to establish what hobbies they have. If they’re working on a project outside of work, you should ask about it.
- If they ask you in return, try to be open, too.
- Weekly progress from the previous week.
- What tasks the employee struggled with last week.
- What tasks the employee felt they excelled at last week.
- Did the employee learn anything new or enhance a certain skill?
- Their targets for this week.
- Any concerns either of you have about their work.
If possible, hold these talks on a Monday. The weekend is fresh in their minds, which makes opening the conversation easier, and you can help them set out their targets for the entirety of the week ahead.
Furthermore, if you’re going to use an agenda similar to this list above, try to memorise each point on the list. Do not bring a checklist with you. If your staff feel like you’re robotically working your way through a fill-out form, they’re going to feel less like you care about each item on the agenda and more like you’re simply completing paperwork.
By actively engaging with your employees each Monday, you can get a feel for where their head is at. You’re keeping on top of their weekly progress, helping them to set targets, and the more you talk to them about both their work and their life outside of the office, the more you’ll learn about them, and your understanding of each employee will grow.
Where would we be without a good feedback survey?
Surveys have shown countless times that the most engaged employees are the employees who feel satisfied in their job. Who feel valued, who consider their workload to be reasonable and the right level of challenging.
Surveys are best when they’re easy to answer and you’ve asked questions that your staff want to answer. You should never run a survey just to gather some statistics. If you’re going to eat into your employee’s work time by having them answer questions, make sure they answer questions relevant to them.
Pulse surveys help an employer maintain an up-to-date view on their staff. They’re short but you should repeat them regularly. You might use a pulse survey once a week or fortnight, and you should ask simple questions, and encourage multiple choice or textbox answers.
With longer, more corporate surveys, twice a year is the Goldilocks just right number.
Try running one survey in December, and the other in June.
The 1-5 or 1-10 measurement scale can be effective for giving answers in a survey.
However, the strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree format can help an employee to better articulate their stance because they feel like they’re answering a question based on how they feel.
The number scale can sometimes be too open to interpretation.
Whether you design the survey yourself, or enlist the help of an online tool or piece of software, we advise that you give employees the option of anonymity in the survey.
3 External reviews
Your staff should be aware from day one of working for you that their feedback is important to you. And you should make it very clear in your company’s handbook that you welcome all feedback in order to continuously measure employee engagement.
When you introduce your company handbook to employees, the underpinning tone of the handbook should be one of the company’s ambitions to grow while harnessing the skills and talents of your employees in the best possible way.
A survey can help you establish feedback in-house, but when your staff are willing to participate in external reviews, they’re expressing to the wider world how they feel about their job. What your employees say or write about you can give you an indication of how they feel about their job, their workload, and the company’s management and how line managers go about feeding back, recognising performance, and offering opportunities for growth or development; you can also learn their feelings on their current salary, their position in the business, and much more.
If you’ve got social media channels like Facebook, invite your staff to leave a review.
Glassdoor is one of the busiest platforms for people who are looking for their next job. And thousands of businesses have a profile on Glassdoor, where their current or former staff can leave anonymous reviews. They can rate the business 1-5 stars, and list what they believe to be the pros and cons of their role and the business as a whole.
If numerous former employees are giving your business a low rating, with similar complaints about a specific aspect of the business, you might have found something that needs an internal review.
Exposure to feedback is critical if you want to grow your business and enhance its reputation.
4 Exit interviews
When you conduct an exit interview, you’re saying goodbye to an outgoing employee while trying to figure out why they’re leaving.
Something has driven the employee to seek employment elsewhere, which often means their engagement at work dropped. Were you paying them too low a salary for their workload? Did they feel underchallenged? Did they feel undermined or threatened? Is there a poisonous blame game in their department when targets aren’t met?
Exit interviews help you determine the reasons for diminished employee engagement.
Sometimes the departing employee is one whose value is going to be hard to replace. And sometimes, even worse, they’re leaving to go and work for one of your competitors. The nerve!
But if they’re doing so, why is that? An exit interview is the ideal time for you to be a humble employer and investigate where you’re going wrong. What are you doing, or in some cases, not doing, that’s driven this employee and others before them to move on?
Make sure you structure an exit interview; ask questions like:
- What would you change about senior management?
- What would you change about your workload?
- How did you rate your salary here?
- What do you think this business needs to do to improve?
If you feel like you need a little pick me up, you can always ask them what they feel your organisation is doing right, but is this really the time to be massaging your ego? No.
Remember, always try to end on a positive note with outgoing staff. Wish them well, thank them for their hard work, offer them a reference, and remind them that the door is open should they ever wish to return.
5 Stay interviews
For every employee that does leave your business in a given month, there’s probably far more employees who don’t leave. Who stay. And there must be reasons for their continued commitment, or, should we say, engagement, too.
So that’s why a stay interview is as important as an exit interview. Without wanting to seek praise, you should desire to know what your staff believe senior management are doing right, that’s making them stay.
But how do you ask someone why they haven’t left yet? Well, tentatively:
- What aspects of senior management are you pleased with?
- What aspects of your job do you enjoy?
- Which challenges in your role are helping you to develop professionally?
But, always presume your organisation’s management has room for improvement:
- Do you have any concerns about your role, colleagues, management?
- What would you improve about the business?
- What would you improve about your role?
- What would you change?
You should always be looking at ways to improve your business to keep your employees engaged. Whether that means reviewing salary benchmarks, or exploring ways to reward your staff, such as fun activities on a Friday.
The subjectivity warning
As we discussed right at the start, every employee you’ll ever hire has their own personal life, their own interpretations, and their own views and beliefs. What one employee deems good management or a worthy salary might for another employee be neglectful management or too low a salary. You have to try to attain a panoramic view of your entire workforce while working hard to learn about your staff, and making them feel valuable.
You’ve measured, now it’s time to act
Most employers want to increase employee engagement with these goals in mind:
- To increase staff productivity.
- To improve staff retention and in turn, reduce turnover.
- To grow the business.
Now that you’re going to the effort of incorporating the above methods, you need to communicate with your staff, and act on their feedback.
Once you’ve examined any staff feedback and begun plotting your course of action, you should communicate a transparent plan with your workforce. In so doing, you’ll be thanking them. They’ve given you feedback, and now you’re taking it on board to improve your organisation.
Remember, the most productive workforces are full of employees who feel valued, who know they’re earning a competitive salary, and who enjoy coming to work each day to face their challenges.