It’s time for the annual employee engagement survey again. Conducting a survey sounds easier than it actually is. What are the best practices you need to keep in mind? In this article, we will discuss the 5 must-know employee engagement best practices.
Measuring employee engagement can be a very powerful tool to improve employee wellbeing and increase the revenue for the organization. However, engagement suffers a little bit from the same reputation as HR: It is often seen as ‘soft’ and – to be honest – a little bit of a hassle to deal with.
In this article, we will take a tactical approach to measuring engagement and give advice on how to measure it right. As such, we will go over 5 employee engagement best practices.
If you’d rather watch a video on how to improve measuring employee engagement, check our Learning Bite below:
Employee engagement best practice 1: Measuring the right thing
A common problem with engagement surveys is the way engagement is measured. The technical term is ‘construct validity’. Are we really measuring engagement, or something different? This is not the most sexy starting point – but definitely the most important one!
Do we want to measure engagement, or happiness? Or do we want to know how empowered our people are?
The term engagement is used for many different things. They all relate to some state of wellbeing but an engaged worker is not necessarily a happy worker. And a happy worker is not necessarily an empowered worker.
Different companies measure different things. For example, even when two companies have the same engagement score, workers may feel very, very differently.
Knowing what you measure is especially important to create a sense of urgency about improving engagement. We all know that engagement is related to higher productivity, lower product defects, lower turnover, and higher revenue.
However, if you are actually measuring something different, these positive effects may not occur at all! This could mean that you’re trying to improve something that doesn’t lead to more productive employees.
The first best practice is, therefore: measure the right thing. In line with this, employee engagement should be related to business outcomes. Certain ways of measuring engagement show more evidence of bettering business outcomes than others.
2. Use proven methods
The two best-known questionnaires are the UWES, or Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (also available in an ultra-short, 3-item version), and the GALLUP scale. Both are very well tested. For both scales, higher scores are related to superior business outcomes. For a full comparison between the two, check this article on measuring employee engagement.
Other scales are less tested. This is one of the disadvantages of niche providers: some may use licensed, validated scales but others may use a self-invented scale. This risks your engagement survey being (virtually) worthless. The best practice is therefore: use proven measurement methods.
The person who pays, decides. This is usually a good thing but it can be a bad thing when it comes to adding or changing individual questions.
When you’ve successfully applied the previous two employee engagement best practices, this shouldn’t pose a big problem. However, if you want to take these validated questions and ‘tweak them a bit to make them work in your organization’ you may end up with an invalid scale again.
In addition, when you want to compare the score with next year’s score, you need to have the exact same questions to make a good comparison.
Adding, removing, or changing questions is therefore not advised unless you’re a psychometric expert and have all the time in the world to test questions and scale validity. Unfortunately, you usually don’t have that time when your next survey is due in 2 months.
3. Confidential, not anonymous
The time of measuring engagement for the sake of measuring engagement has long passed. Measuring employee engagement should have a business reason. We will discuss the importance of analyzing this yourself in the next step but for now, let’s focus on the data.
A common mistake is guaranteeing the anonymity of data. This means that you can never use this data for further analysis.
The fourth employee engagement best practice is thus: guarantee confidentiality, not anonymity. Measuring engagement for the sake of measuring engagement has never really helped a company.
4. Using your data for value added-analysis
What has helped a company is value-adding analytics. It’s nice to know you’ve achieved a 7% increase in engagement since last year but what does this really mean?You can use the data to measure how engaged workers impact business outcomes. To give an example, at Best Buy a 1% increase in engagement led to a $100,000 growth in revenue per store.