How to measure employee engagement in this new age

Organizations can harness the power of people analytics to measure how engaged their employees accurately are

An old saying is, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.’ The same is the case when we talk about engaging our employees. Organizations take many steps to ensure their workforce is engaged and productivity remains high. But all their efforts can only be successful if they measure the impact of their employee engagement programs and activities. We need to understand that the preferences of employees are ever-evolving. Moreover, we cannot put all employees in the same basket. However, we agree that the ‘One Size Fits All’ theory no longer works.

So, HR and employee engagement specialists must keep evaluating and measuring their employee engagement activities and learn what works and does not work for their employees. Further, now it is about giving a better experience to employees. Measuring your employees’ engagement can give you insights into what must be done to improve and provide an overall high employee experience.

Measuring Engagement

There are various ways companies use to measure the level of engagement in their employees. Some of the popular tools are engagement and pulse surveys. On top of that, some companies have found ways to measure employees’ engagement levels. For instance, Microsoft changed the way it analyzed employee engagement levels of their employees. Last year, the company decided to leverage people analytics and go beyond engagement. It analyzed ’employee thriving’ rather than ’employee engagement.’

Apart from leveraging people analytics, the company moved on from the traditional annual employee survey and started taking employee feedback every six months. Coupled with that, the company decided to take immediate action on issues. The annual survey took a much longer time, and on top of that, Microsoft found that even when the employee engagement numbers looked fine, things were much different when the company dived deeper into the responses. Microsoft’s new version of ’employee thriving’ draws inspiration from ‘The 5Ps’: pay, perks, people, purpose, and pride. Unlike the term employee engagement, which had a different meaning for different people, now Microsoft has a common understanding of employee thriving, which means ‘to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work.’

Conventional methods of measurement

Annual engagement surveys, one-to-one interviews, small discussion groups, exit interviews, and stay interviews are mostly adopted tools or methods to gouge or measure the engagement level of employees. Many companies have used these for a long time to calculate their engagement scores. Though these tools have been helpful, they also have many challenges. The data collected from these tools heavily depends on the employees’ responses, and we assume they are telling the truth. Moreover, such surveys have challenges like any other survey in the world. It gets dated quickly and can involve availability bias (where people might respond based on only recent events) and game results, where people would respond to what you want to hear rather than what they really want to say.

Analyzing engagement in the new age

While it is essential to analyze what employees think, companies should also go beyond these traditional methods. Harnessing the power of people analytics is vital in today’s time. Apart from the conventional ways of analyzing employee engagement, organizations can use some extra data points to understand their people’s needs better.

Number of working hours

It is essential for organizations to know how much work is happening outside an individual’s working hours. This helps us understand the level of discretionary effort the employee puts in. Suppose it is seen that when an employee is willing to go beyond the regular working hours for the company, it is a good sign and a mark of a highly engaged employee. But we need to be very cautious. Many studies have also confirmed that employee burnout has increased recently, which can be a significant deterrent for an engaged employee. Organizations can get this data from the login timings of their employees. It can tell them how much work is happening on weekends and late evenings.

Network building & cross-functional collaborations

Companies can analyze how much cross-functional collaborations are happening in the company and if employees are trying to build a network outside their core working teams. An increase in such activities signifies a highly engaged team and individual. The HR can get data on how many cross-functional projects and activities are running from the managers and analyze the level of engagement.

Participation in Ad-hoc meetings & initiatives

Employees are prepared for planned and structured meetings and events. But it is the unplanned gatherings and meetings which people often do not prefer. Still, these gatherings hold value. Therefore, a high amount of participation in such events and meetings is a sign of increased engagement in employees. Similarly, high participation in structured events alone indicates low engagement.

Going beyond the normal scope of work

If the number of instances where employees go beyond their usual scope of work to help a colleague or a customer has increased, it shows a high level of engagement among employees. For example, at times, Vandita, a marketing manager in an e-commerce startup, must write marketing copies when the copywriter is unavailable. She does not find it inconvenient. But the same behavior is not common in other teammates. This tells us that Vandita is an engaged employee compared to others in her team.

Level of attrition

Experts also correlate the level of attrition with employee engagement. If the level of attrition rises, it is a sign that employees are not engaged. Instead, they choose to switch jobs for better pay and environment. In fact, companies can also analyze the level of attrition in different teams and departments. Some departments have high attrition, and others may not. Then the HR teams can dig deeper into why some teams have a high level of attrition. This can solve major engagement issues.

Companies can integrate the above data points into their already established employee engagement review systems and get a better perspective. Moving on, organizations can also leverage the benefits of technology, such as wearable gadgets, which can provide real-time data on the overall well-being of employees. Moreover, the frequency of measuring employee engagement also needs to increase. Traditionally, employee engagement surveys take place annually. But this can be changed every six or three months for better results. This will also allow the company to compare and analyze the data periodically for a year.