Moving beyond the survey: 5 different ways to measure employee engagement

Moving beyond the survey: 5 different ways to measure employee engagementMany communicators turn to surveys to get a pulse on employee sentiment and engagement. Other organizations prioritize one metric like Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS). While these can be valuable tools, they have their limitations. According to a recent report by Gartner®, “But a single metric cannot fully convey whether your enterprise provides an environment in which employees feel positive about their experience, productive and supported in achieving their individual well-being goals.” (1) When you rely on one metric, knowing where you should invest your time and money to improve engagement is difficult. 

(1) Gartner, Getting Value From Measuring Employee Experience, Productivity and Well-Being, Poitevin, Helen and Severson, Lane, 8 February 2023 

The limitations of employee engagement surveys 

While an employee engagement survey is valuable, there are a few drawbacks to using it as your sole measurement of employee engagement. 

  • Employees can conceal the truth by responding how they think they should versus how they want to. 
  • Surveys often become just another routine task on employee to-do lists and fail to solicit meaningful responses. Many employees report being burnt out on surveys (survey fatigue). 
  • Employees can feel like they’re being overly monitored and can bring up issues of trust between employer and employee.
  • There is no opportunity to ask follow-up questions. 

Fortunately, company- and division-wide surveys aren’t the only way to measure engagement. Companies are now shifting to a more holistic Voice of the Employee (VoE) process to accurately uncover and assess employee concerns. Here are five ways to expand your employee data set beyond surveys: 

  1. Speak with employees. If you want to solicit employee opinions, have direct conversations with them. One-on-one discussions with team members can provide valuable insight into their engagement. This format allows follow-up questions and includes time to dive into individual concerns. To ensure these conversations are effective, creating a psychologically safe environment where employees are comfortable discussing potentially challenging topics is crucial. When employees leave your organization, conducting exit interviews can also be valuable, revealing the reasons for turnover (and lackluster employee engagement).
  2. Analyze employees’ digital footprints. Employee actions can reveal more than their words. Gartner® suggests, “Employee digital footprints generate a lot of data from which you can infer employees’ productivity, satisfaction with their experience, and well-being.” (2)Some behaviors to review include participation in meetings (e.g., How do employees contribute?) and how much time employees spend on specific activities. The insights you can realistically generate include things like drop-off rates, adoption rates, and activity volume over time.
  3. Monitor employee-employee interactions. How do employees interact with each other? Do they share ideas on your Slack or Teams channel or chat with each other in your office? If employees actively engage with each other virtually or in person, it’s a strong indication of their overall engagement. Recent Gallup research finds that “…having a ‘best friend’ at work has become more important since the start of the pandemic, even considering the dramatic increase in remote and hybrid work.” Conversely, infrequent interaction among employees may signal poor engagement.
  4. Establish an anonymous feedback channel. An anonymous channel can provide a safe space for individuals to share their thoughts and concerns without fear of retaliation or judgment. Gathering candid feedback lets your team capture a more honest view of employee engagement. Additionally, employees are more likely to share constructive criticism that can help improve employee engagement or identify why certain employees are not as engaged as others.
  5. Ask for feedback from managers. Your managers likely have a solid pulse on the engagement of their team members. Solicit this feedback. A structured process may include quarterly, manager-led one-on-ones with each team member. When soliciting feedback, it can be helpful for HR to draft a standard list of questions for managers to talk through with each team member. This list of questions can include prompts like “How do you feel about [Company]?,” “Are there any processes that are getting in your way of being successful?” and “Are you happy in your role? What could make it better for you?”

(2)Gartner, Getting Value From Measuring Employee Experience, Productivity and Well-Being, Poitevin, Helen and Severson, Lane, 8 February 2023 

Incorporating various engagement measurement methods throughout the year alongside your annual survey can produce a more accurate and holistic view of employee engagement. This approach also serves as an early warning system, letting you address disengagement proactively. If you want to broaden your understanding of employee engagement, speak with employees, analyze employees’ digital footprints, monitor employee interactions, establish an anonymous feedback channel, and solicit feedback from managers. Implementing employee feedback into meaningful change is only going to build trust and strengthen your relationship with your employees. 

Although these strategies can be more time-intensive than a survey, it’s worth the investment. Organizations that prioritize employee engagement tend to be more successful, competitive, and resilient, experiencing higher productivity, enhanced job satisfaction, and improved levels of employee well-being.

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