Cutting through the Noise: How should your Organization be Thinking about Engagement?

Callie RushtonEmployee Engagement, Pulse SurveysLeave a Comment

Employee satisfaction. Employee commitment. Employee engagement. Employee experience.

Since the ’80s, each decade has brought with it a new buzzword for HR professionals to call on their leaders to rally behind. And for good reason: we’ve learned over the years that making workplaces attractive to and supportive of employees gives organizations a competitive edge.

This is particularly true in the global age. With increased competition and a major shift toward an experience-based economy, organizations have had to become more agile and flexible to keep up with the pace of change. Traditional industries like manufacturing and agriculture have declined, forcing major cuts to their personnel.

For workers, these changes have all but dispelled the idea that they would be with one company for their entire life. This isn’t a product of lack of loyalty; it’s a product of necessity. To be successful in today’s world, we need to be learning and growing constantly, willing to adapt to new opportunities as they present themselves. We’ve given up the traditional office for more flexible and remote options, and are willing to relocate if it’s in the interest of reaching our professional potential.

Just as organizations have had become more nimble, so too have the individual employees that comprise them. And as this parallel shift occurred, employers began to realize that some crucial team members were walking out the door for greener grass on the other side. Turnover is undeniably expensive, and attracting and retaining incredible talent is increasingly difficult when employees have so many options.

Enter the terms listed at the beginning of this blog. Each one has been purported to be the solution to these turnover woes, as studies have shown that employees who are deeply committed to their work (and workplaces) are more likely to stick around, put forth extra effort, and care more about customers. 

But which of these buzzwords should your organization be pursuing? At Newmeasures, we frequently work with clients who are well-versed on these topics and are curious to know what we think is the best terminology to use in structuring their HR strategy and engagement surveys.

Our answer? Don’t get bogged down in semantics—they’re not all that important. Sure, you can spend time debating why the employee experience is more or less important than employee engagement, but is that really a good use of your time? The truth is, no matter what you call it, each of these terms is just a repackaging of the same core principle: it is important to gain insight about how your organization is engaging and supporting employees, and determine key strategic priorities that would improve those experiences.

To this end, organizations should not worry so much about the latest HR trends and instead focus on measuring the right things in the most effective ways. If there are major changes happening in your organization, such as a new CEO or a merger, you will probably want to ask questions about how the organization is managing and communicating those changes on your next survey. If your industry was brought under scrutiny because of the #MeToo movement, you may want to know how your employees perceive diversity, inclusion, and transparency in your organization.

Being smart about the topics you measure will give you the most meaningful insight to transform your organization. The next thing to consider is your listening strategy: how you plan to keep tabs on those topics of interest. In our view, one listening approach alone will likely be insufficient. Using an engagement survey once a year is a great way to gather a lot of data at once about how your organization is faring, but it only offers a snapshot in time. Alternatively, a pulse survey is quicker for employees to complete and therefore can be used more regularly, but it’s best suited for measuring the same topic over time. These approaches are more effective when used in conjunction and when complemented by other listening mechanisms, whether formal or informal, that allow employees to provide feedback at any point in time. So the next time the topic of employee engagement (or experience, or satisfaction, or commitment) comes up in your organization, remind everyone that arguing about semantics isn’t useful; designing a smart listening strategy is.