How to properly measure employee engagement

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Updated on: Published on: July 3, 2017 |  Reading time: 7m

If you were asked to rate your relationship with your spouse on a scale from 0-10, how would you do that? If you answered with a 7 out of 10, what does that mean exactly?

Not a whole lot, because engagement is an emotion, and it’s hard to quantify an emotion.

What you can do, is ask questions that infer engagement, like how often do you think about your significant other? Or how likely are you to think about leaving them? Or when you’re with them, are you mostly happy?

By answering these questions that infer engagement, you can get a better idea of how you truly feel about your relationship.

That’s exactly what happens when you try to measure employee engagement.

It’s tough to say that you’re “engaged” 7 out of 10, but you can get an idea of how engaged an employee is by asking questions that are related to engagement.

Measuring employee engagement is tough because it’s hard to define

One important reason why measuring employee engagement is so hard is because there’s no real clear definition of what it is. Some organizations define it as happiness, some define it as satisfaction, while others define it as commitment to goals.

It’s a bit more complex than that.

You can be happy at work, but not get enough feedback from your manager. You can get a ton of great feedback, but have no opportunities for growth. You can have opportunities for growth, but no work-life balance.

It would be amazing if the definition was clear, but it’s not, because engagement is a complex emotion. A lot of different things need to happen in order for an employee to be engaged.

Officevibe’s research found that there are 10 metrics that work together to define employee engagement.

  1. Feedback
  2. Recognition
  3. Happiness
  4. Relationship with peers
  5. Relationship with managers
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Alignment
  8. Satisfaction
  9. Wellness
  10. Ambassadorship

Want to learn more about these 10 metrics? Read our complete guide to employee engagement.

William Kahn, a Professor at Boston University coined the term “employee engagement” in his 1990 paper, “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work.” He defined engagement as:

“the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances.”

In other words, that emotional commitment to the organization is what makes an employee engaged.

Why should you measure engagement?

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox

The first step to improving something is to measure it. The research is very clear about how engaged employees lead to higher profits and increased growth.

For an employee to be engaged, they need to believe that the organization genuinely cares about them. When a leader shows an employee that they care, they’ll respond with increased loyalty and commitment to the team and organization.

By committing to measuring and improving employee engagement, you’re showing employees that you genuinely care about their wellbeing and are making a conscious effort to ensure they’re happy at work.

That alone is often enough to make them more engaged at work, at least in the short term.

Important: If you measure, you need to be ready to act. Many organizations review the results of a survey but don’t act on it. There’s nothing worse than asking your employees for their opinion and not doing anything with their feedback. If you want to conduct an engagement survey, you need to be ready to act.

Ways to measure employee engagement

The most common way to measure engagement is using surveys, but that’s not all you should be using.

Surveys are only one part of the process, and only one way of measuring engagement. Employee engagement is a complex issue that requires effort from everyone in the organization. Surveys (no matter how frequent), simply aren’t enough. A software like Officevibe’s employee engagement platform can help you keep a constant pulse on your team’s engagement.

Here are a few ways you could be measuring employee engagement on a regular basis.

1. Pulse Surveys

Short, frequent surveys are a great way to maintain a consistent pulse on the vibe in your office. There’s no need to make this process complex. You just want to find a regular way to ask anywhere from 5-10 questions about how people are feeling at work and what (if anything) they would change.

If you’re looking for help getting started with pulse surveys, this complete guide to employee surveys should help you out.

Screenshot of the custom poll setup screen in the Officevibe app

2. One-on-one meetings

Another great way to measure engagement is through one-on-one meetings with employees.

Having regularly scheduled, hour-long meetings where you can have an informal chat with each member of your team is a great way to get a real sense of what’s going on with them.

The advantage of this method of collecting feedback is that it’s in person, and because it’s a private, safe conversation, you can get much more detail about each issue that’s brought up. The key for managers is to remove that fear from employees so they feel safe opening up.

If you’re looking for help with your one-on-ones, our sample one-on-one meeting agendas should help you (it includes a free template to use).

3. Stay/Exit interviews

Using structured interviews for employees is a great way to collect feedback and find out what makes them engaged or what holds them back from being engaged.

Exit interviews are fairly common in most organizations, but one great idea that should be done more often are stay interviews, where you ask employees that are clearly happy at work what makes them want to stay. Exit interviews can be great, but the only issue with them is that it might be too late by the time you get to that process. Ideally, you use both inside your organization.

The goal with an exit interview is to find out what you could have done better to improve engagement, and the goal of a stay interview is to find out what you’re already doing well (and what you could improve on). Here are a few examples of questions you could ask in both types of settings.

  • What’s your relationship with your manager like?
  • What do you dislike most about your job?
  • What makes for a great day of work to you?
  • If you could, what’s one thing you would change with your role?
  • What makes you want to stay with this organization?
  • What makes you want to leave this organization?

4. eNPS

Using the employee Net Promoter score (eNPS) is one of the most effective and simple ways to measure engagement. It’s one simple question that truly gauges loyalty.

It’s one thing to be happy at work, but would you be willing to recommend the organization as a good place to work? Would you be willing to recommend the products/services they sell?

net promoter score promoters and detractors

We’ve written about how the employee net promoter score is the one metric you should be obsessing over.

Important: Measuring employee engagement is only the first step. As an organization, you need to be committed to continuously improving engagement. After you measure, it’s time to communicate and work with everyone to improve things.

What do you do after you measure employee engagement?

The best way to think about what to do after you measure employee engagement is to be as transparent as possible. You just finished asking employees for their opinions on how they can change one of the most important aspects of their lives, they’ll want to be kept in the loop. Here is what to do after you measure.

Communicate the results

If you sent out a survey, send employees a thank you message for completing it, communicate what the results are from a high-level, and potentially hold a town hall meeting to tell everyone what the next steps are.

Team leaders should be communicating with their teams about what the results were and everyone should work together to come up with a few items to improve.

Pick a few things to improve

There might be many things that you could possibly improve, but don’t overwhelm yourself or your team with that. Instead, pick one or two things to improve and focus on those. Start small, and brainstorm with your team on things like:

  • How you can improve each item
  • Who will be held accountable
  • How you’ll be able to measure its effectiveness (set a goal)

Follow up and repeat

Continuously follow up with members of your team to see how things are going, and if there’s anything you need to do to readjust and realign on the goal. In the end, you want employees to be happy, so keep checking in with them to see if they are.

Repeat the process over and over. This isn’t a one shot deal, engagement takes time and will always evolve, so it’s important to stay agile.

How do you measure employee engagement?