How to meaningfully measure employee engagement

Business leaders, managers, and HR professionals across many industries are wising up to the ways employee engagement contributes to any organization’s success. And as modern businesses increasingly rely on data to drive their decision-making, employee engagement data is no exception.

If you’re looking to better understand your company culture and identify ways to improve it, measuring employee engagement is a critical part of the equation. You’ve got to know where things stand to unpack where your people are thriving and where there’s room for growth.

What is employee engagement?

While employee engagement is closely linked to job satisfaction, they’re not quite the same thing. Satisfied employees may be happy with their salary, do good work, and show up to most company events, but as soon as a recruiter lands in their inbox with the promise of greener pastures, they’re gone in a flash.

On the other hand, engaged employees feel a personal connection to your company’s mission and values. They take pride in their work, and their future plans involve growth with your organization. They bring new ideas to the table, take new employees under their wing, and proactively collaborate with their team and other departments.

In short, engaged employees are the people any organization wants to keep around for the long term.

Why should you measure employee engagement?

The numerous benefits of employee engagement are well-documented. Workplaces with engaged employees enjoy an average of 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability, in addition to more satisfied clients and customers.

However, many companies are falling short when it comes to achieving full buy-in from their workforce. Survey data shows just 32% of employees are engaged at work, and 17% of workers are actively disengaged.

That’s nearly one in five people who are merely going through the motions, often to the detriment of their colleagues and the whole organization. It’s estimated that low employee engagement costs the global economy as much as $7.8 trillion per year.

Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement. And the first step in building a more engaged workforce is accurately assessing the current state of your company culture.

four individuals engaging in a multiple choice poll

How to measure employee engagement

We’ve covered why employee engagement matters, so let’s talk about the best ways to measure it. To get an accurate picture of your company culture, it’s important to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when polishing your employee engagement strategy.

Establish a survey cadence

Regular engagement surveys are one of the most important components of staying informed about your company culture. While a more robust survey may be warranted if your organization is just starting to measure employee engagement, short pulse surveys are a great way to check in regularly without turning responses into a chore.

To keep your engagement surveys feeling fresh, consider varying topics between surveys. For example, one survey could focus on job satisfaction while the next takes on learning and development, and the following one could inquire about organizational alignment. Before long, you’ll collect some great insights into what you’re doing well and where you should focus on making changes.

Calculate your employee net promoter score

Employee net promoter score (eNPS) is considered one of the most important employee experience metrics because it offers a numerical analysis of workers’ buy-in based on one question: How likely are you to recommend our products and services to a friend or family member?

When people believe in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, it shows up in their work and how they speak about your company to others. Your eNPS is calculated by dividing responses on a 10-point scale into detractors (scores from 0-6), passives (7-8), and promoters (9-10). By subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters, you’re left with the net promoter score, which gives you a good idea of how many employees are truly committed to your organization.

Like many employee engagement metrics, following how this number changes over time is more informative than the number itself.

Create clear goals and benchmarks

To get the most out of measuring your employee engagement, you’ll also want to establish clear benchmarks of how you plan to improve. While it makes sense to wait until you’ve gathered meaningful data to finalize the metrics you hope to achieve, it helps to have a good idea of your ultimate goals.

Here are a few examples of meaningful benchmarks that can help you determine how well your employee engagement efforts are working over time:

  • Improve employee net promoter score (eNPS) by X%
  • Reduce absenteeism and/or turnover by X%
  • More employees report seeing a clear path for advancement
  • Employees feel more aligned with your goals and values
  • More employees report receiving helpful feedback from their manager

1.    Leverage one-on-ones with managers

Quantitative survey responses are fantastic for spotting big-picture trends across large sample sizes, but they can’t measure things like body language or ask personalized follow-up questions about what’s going on in somebody’s life. That’s where good management comes in.

One-on-one meetings with managers create an environment for employees to speak their minds and share more details than they can give with numerical survey responses. Even when surveys include questions encouraging open-ended feedback, some people are more comfortable opening up in a conversation.

The information managers gather from these meetings will be more qualitative than numerical. However, it’s still invaluable to help company leaders identify recurring employee pain points that may not be on their radar yet. Actively involved managers can have a huge impact on determining and sustaining engagement—employees who have regular one-on-ones with their managers are three times more likely to remain engaged at work.

2.    Pay attention to retention

Highly engaged employees are also significantly more likely to stick around. If your organization is seeing lots of turnover within certain roles or departments, it could indicate your culture is in need of a shift—whether that means reevaluating onboarding processes or retraining your managers.

Besides looking at any available data around employee turnover, you can also ask anonymous survey questions about how likely employees are to still be with the company in a year or two. Crunching the numbers on employee retention and turnover can be illuminating, especially when compared to whatever is happening with your eNPS scores.

3.    Keep an eye on absenteeism

Everybody needs time off for vacation, sick time, doctor’s appointments, and mental health days. But if you notice an increasing trend of people unexpectedly taking time off throughout your organization, your employee engagement is likely to be lagging as well.

Engaged employees miss 70% fewer work days due to health issues, so a spike in absenteeism is a major red flag for low engagement. None of these engagement metrics exist in a vacuum, so it can be insightful to cross-reference absenteeism with other indicators like turnover, retention, and eNPS.

How Poll Everywhere makes employee engagement easier

A versatile and powerful software tool for measuring and increasing employee engagement, Poll Everywhere is helping all types of organizations better understand their culture and change it for the better.

Easily create and distribute engagement surveys

Poll Everywhere’s streamlined interface makes it easy to create surveys at a moment’s notice and distribute to your teams either asynchronously or in real time. With a huge variety of templates for different kinds of questions, you can measure quantitative benchmarks like eNPS or gather “softer” insights like word clouds made from common responses.

Encourage candid feedback with open-ended responses

Whether as part of your regular engagement surveys or in real time during an all-hands meeting, Poll Everywhere enables anonymous, open-ended responses so you can get an accurate picture of what your employees are really thinking. And because anyone can create surveys in a snap, managers can regularly check in with their teams outside of more formal engagement efforts by HR or company executives.

Make meetings and presentations more interactive

Aside from helping you measure employee engagement, Poll Everywhere can play a role in changing your culture and bringing teams closer together. By using real-time Activities that allow meeting attendees to weigh in via text, app, or browser, you can turn dry, soul-crushing meetings into inspiring, collaborative conversations.

Ensure everyone has an equal voice

While some people are more comfortable than others speaking up in front of a group, it’s important to solicit input from all your team members, not just those with the loudest voices. By leveling the playing field and ensuring everyone’s opinion is weighted equally, managers and leaders can build a culture where employees’ input is taken seriously.

For organizations looking to create a healthier work environment, measuring your employee engagement with Poll Everywhere is an excellent place to start. Not only can you gather insights about the current state of your workforce but you can start making the cultural changes that lead to more connected teams and more successful businesses.

If you’re looking for more ideas about how to boost collaboration and build stronger relationships with your employees, download our free employee engagement ebook. It’s packed with useful insights on how remote-first teams can improve engagement and host more meaningful and productive meetings, presentations, and other virtual events.