A number of studies point to the impact of employee engagement on productivity and profitability of companies. According to Gallup News (2013), globally, only 13% employees are engaged at work. A recent Gallup study (2016) suggests that employee engagement has hardly budged over the years.
So, what exactly is employee engagement and how can it be measured? To understand ways of measuring and evaluating employee engagement, we must understand what it means. An engaged employee is one who is fully absorbed and committed to the organization, is motivated and enthusiastic to contribute to organizational success and works with a positive attitude.
The common approach
With a changing workforce, new demographics and external competition, organizations need to make sure that their employees are highly engaged. In order to understand the level of engagement, organizations follow a number of methods depending on internal and external factors. Measuring engagement is not that easy because after all, engagement is a feeling, something that is not tangible. How does one measure something like that?
The most common method used by organizations is an annual engagement survey where employees are asked to answer various questions in order to rate their own level of engagement. This approach heavily relies on employees’ honesty and hence is not the most efficient way to gather objective data.
Although organizations choose to ask hundreds of questions, Gallup says that measuring employee engagement can be simplified to just 12 key questions (Buckingham and Coffman, 1999), as follows:
- Do I know what is expected of me at work?
- Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
- At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
- In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
- Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
- At work, do my opinions seem to count?
- Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
- Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
- Do I have a best friend at work?
- In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
- This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
In a report for the Harvard Business Review (2014), Ryan Fuller, CEO and founder of VoloMetrix, lists direct measures for companies trying to better understand engagement levels. He mentions that observing the following traits can help measure levels of engagement:
- A good indicator of engagement is the willingness to be flexible. The amount of work that an employee does outside the office, after normal work hours and readiness to work beyond the standard expectation in terms of time and effort indicates his or her engagement.
- Employees who are highly engaged make efforts to build broad networks with people outside of the immediate team and region. The larger the number of connections and more the time spent in building these networks points to the level of engagement.
- Participation in emergency and impromptu meetings and initiatives hint at the willingness to contribute in every possible manner.
- Time spent collaborating directly with customers outside of the normal scope of work indicates that people are highly engaged even though they may not get credit for it.
Sue Stoneman, CEO, NKD Learning, talks about different ways of measuring employee engagement in the Strategic HR Review, 2013. Stoneman mentions that measuring employee engagement falls into two broad categories:
- Off-the-shelf solutions that include a survey with generic questions.
- Company specific bespoke systems. This would include surveys with specifically tailored questions that relate to the particular organization. This approach provides flexibility to measure exactly what is important to the organization.
Increasing employee engagement is important and so is measuring it. But before organizations can learn about their employees, it is important for them to hire employees that are highly engaged to add to organizational success.
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