Employee Surveys

Five Key Reasons Why Employee Engagement Practices Must Change

REFFIND’s Rob van Es says that we need to innovate the ways we engage staff, as current practices are proving ineffective or, worse, even counter-productive

Globally, organisations spend an estimated US$720 million each year on employee engagement initiatives – and that’s set to rise to $1.5B. Yet according to Gallup, only 24% of employees across Australia and New Zealand are actively engaged – and we’re doing well; that figure is 13% globally! In 2016, Gallup says, “The world has an employee engagement crisis with serious and potentially lasting repercussions for the global economy.”

Too often, leaders focus on trying to measure employee engagement rather than taking steps to actually create it. The most common workplace measure of employee engagement is the annual employee survey. But it’s effectively changed very little since the 1970s, and I believe that many are, in themselves, one of the key factors in poor results and outcomes.

The traditional annual employee survey, including many provided by high profile consulting firms, contain intrinsic pitfalls that end up making them counter-productive:

  • Far too long: Professional researchers know that when people become bored, tired, distracted or just plain disinterested while completing a survey, the information given becomes increasingly less accurate and reliable.
  • Too infrequent: An annual process dilutes the opportunity to identify fluctuations in real time and accurately measure the impact of current changes and conditions.
  • Of questionable validity: Annual employee surveys often don’t actually measure engagement accurately. Recent research cited in Strategic HR Review indicates that up to 76% of employees who leave a company indicated an intention to stay and, of those employees who intend to leave, only 38% actually do.

Despite these difficulties, the highest performing organisations do get employee engagement programs right. So, if you’re going to gain a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing global marketplace, here are my top-five reasons why your employee engagement practices need to change, and quickly.

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  1. Employee experience can be a game changer. The relationship between employee experience, customer experience and financial performance have been consistently demonstrated and repeatedly proven through research and in practice by leading organisations.
  2. Innovation is essential. Engaged employees apply more focus, effort and creativity to problem solving, and both recognise and seek out high value innovations and improvement opportunities. They challenge the status quo and drive initiatives with direct bottom line impact.
  3. High turnover rates are costly for organisations in a range of ways including loss of critical knowledge, work flow disruption and productivity loss, and the time and cost demands of recruiting and integrating new people.
  4. Positive employee experiences promote emotional health and wellbeing. According to the World Health Organisation, healthy workers are significantly more productive. Healthy workplace environments enable greater employee participation and encourage continued skill development.
  5. Recognition and Reward strongly correlate to employee engagement. In practice, reward and recognition programs are often underutilised, ineffectual and undervalued by leaders.

Because employee engagement has become so mission critical, it’s time to consider making staff surveys an ongoing, active and – above all – fun process that results in timely, accurate and actionable insight.