New Twists on Employee Engagement Best Practices

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Principal Science and Innovation AdvisorEmployee EngagementLeave a Comment

The art and science of building an engaged workforce continues to evolve into new directions. As a leader or HR professional, it’s tempting to focus on the latest fad. Some of the new ideas in employee engagement we find incredibly valuable and some we find to sound good but be less impactful – think focusing on happiness, which is really just a re-packaging of engagement or the daily smiley face survey that yields frequent data but is not always actionable. Here are new takes on 3 tried-and-true employee engagement best practices.

Simple is better. At Newmeasures we have been focused on the power of a short, yet impactful engagement survey for the last 20 years. This practice is still incredibly valuable in that it asks questions that are the most meaningful, quickly gets to the root of engagement opportunities, and allows leaders to quickly move into taking action.

What’s new:

Digging deeper: While short, validated surveys have the benefit of simplicity, they
often result in leaders not fully understanding employees’ concerns. For example, if a key driver of
employee engagement is a need for more information, the natural next question is, “what kind of
information do employees need?”

At Newmeasures we have been helping organizations gain richer information by asking employees who do
not respond positively to a survey item a follow-up question with choices in a drop-down list to
better understand where to improve. For example, when employees say they do not have enough
information, the survey branches to an item in which employees are asked to indicate which types of
information are most needed. The result is a simple survey that digs deeper based on the employee’s
responses so that managers have a better understanding of key issues.

Trust is the currency of business. As so well stated by Stephen Covey, when trust between employees and leaders is in place, businesses move faster. There is less drama around misunderstandings, questioning intentions, or uncertainty. As a result, employees and leaders can focus on doing good work and valuing people, which accelerates the speed of progress.

What’s new:

Measuring trust: Over the last several years, we have seen organizations struggle
with building trust between senior executives and employees. In fact, in both 2014 and 2015, it was
the top driver of employee engagement. However, senior leaders often struggle with how to act on the
feedback that they need to improve trust because it is such a broad and complex topic.

At Newmeasures we have been helping clients dive deeper into what is really getting in the way of
trust. While there are many facets that make up a trusting relationship (from caring for others to
delivering results), there are often just one or two behaviors that need attention. In both our
employee engagement surveys and leadership 360 surveys, we enable organizations to drill into this
critical topic to provide feedback in a way that leaders are able to take meaningful action.

Gathering regular feedback. Regular check-ins on employee engagement are critical to understanding how engagement evolves over time. Traditionally, employee engagement surveys have been conducted every one to two years, with a heavy focus on results and action planning afterward. Starting with a full-blown engagement survey is a great way to begin to understand key issues and areas in which the organization requires focus.

What’s new:

Pulse surveys: Short, frequent surveys are a new trend in employee engagement because
they are more in synch with the ever-changing dynamics of the organization and they allow leaders to
be proactive about managing the workforce. They also have the benefit of keeping engagement top-of-
mind throughout the year, as opposed to a once-in-a-while initiative.

As a general guideline, we recommend that organizations conduct 1-3 pulse surveys between their annual
engagement surveys. Topics of the pulse survey change to mirror what is happening in the organization
and can cover areas such as:
-Key engagement drivers and outcomes
-Checking in on key initiatives (new technology platform, merger or acquisition)
-Focusing on elements where culture change is needed
-Ensuring that survey follow-up efforts are happening

At the end of the day, employee engagement happens one person at a time and is all about ensuring employees feel valued and have what they need to be effective. Using these new twists on employee engagement best practices, leaders can accelerate the speed at which they earn the motivation and loyalty of their workforce.

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