(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at Workify, a tech-enabled service that helps companies establish more real-time feedback loops to uncover hidden engagement issues. Enjoy!)
With all of the talk about employee engagement, organizations still haven’t been able to significantly change the landscape, according to The Gallup Organization. Before we can talk about how to create change, I think the Gallup data raises the question, “Can you recognize when you’re moving the needle?” Seems to me that you won’t be able to figure out how well you’re doing if you don’t know where you started.
So, the first thing organizations need to do is establish a baseline. For example, let’s use the eNPS model we’ve talked about previously. In addition to the overall score, it’s made up of four intrinsic motivators (commitment, connection, contribution, and challenge) and eight extrinsic indicators (leadership, empowerment, management, innovation, reward, collaboration, communication, and purpose).
The first time an organization conducts a survey and receives their eNPS score; they’ve established a baseline that they can use for future comparison. This allows the organization to develop an improvement plan to “move the needle” on their overall eNPS or with specific themes and indicators.
It might be tempting to take action on several survey themes at the same time. But working on 13 indicators could be a challenge, even for an organization that multi-tasks well. To really have an impact, organizations should narrow their focus on one or two indicators. Think of it as a plan to “drill down” or get granular with the issues.
Workify’s benchmark data shows that organizations consistently see that communication and collaboration are the lowest scoring indicators. Both of these indicators are complex. So, to effectively focus, Workify suggests conducting shorter follow-up pulse surveys designed to drill down on the topic.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the organization’s survey scores show that it would be beneficial to work on communication. Employees would get a short survey with 4-5 items (4 Likert and 1 Qualitative) that allow a deeper dive into the company’s communication issues. The idea being that the follow-up survey will crowdsource potential solutions to their communications issues, resulting in a level of detail that allows the company to create an action plan to address the concerns being raised.
Then, after working on the issue for a quarter, another survey will be taken to measure the impact of the action plan. The organization is able to see their progress through the initial baseline, the follow-up survey, and their new baseline survey.
One of the things I was curious about was survey burnout and how long a company should stay focused on a single indicator. I asked Tom Fraine, culture and engagement guru at Workify, to explain the rationale for the quarterly “drill down” plan. “Effective organizational level change takes time, focus, and a deliberate strategy. We rarely recommend focusing on a drill down twice in a row, so that means organizations tend to spend a quarter acting on one or two indicators before their next baseline. They may then use the next set of feedback to make sure their plans are working, and make small changes to them.”
Employee Engagement Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Organizations should remember that the incremental improvements in eNPS indicators eventually add up to changes in overall survey results. But companies need to be patient. Fraine added, “It’s not about trending eNPS overall, but instead, it’s about looking at eNPS segmented by specific data points. By digging deeper and looking at eNPS by department or location, you can create specific improvement plans for targeted groups of employees.”
It’s unrealistic to think after three months that you’ll see a HUGE positive change. Yes, chances are if you listened to the survey results, came up with an action plan that addresses the issues, and followed the plan, that you will see improvement. But I hate to say it, the improvement will probably be small.
And that’s a good thing. Small incremental changes can yield BIG results. It reminds me of the Harvard Business Review article, “The Power of Small Wins”. It’s not about having a huge spike; the goal is to create improvement plans that eventually become part of the way the company does business. So, employee engagement sticks. That’s why employee engagement is a long-term business activity.
CASE STUDY: Silvercar Stays Focused on Culture
This conversation about long-term business activities does lead to developing improvement plans. You guys know I’m a big fan of SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, responsible, and time-bound) methods. Fraine shared with me Workify’s three key pieces to developing an improvement plan. “Most good organizations have a format that works for them around setting objectives (often, but not always, centered around the SMART methodology). We’re fans of anything that is specific, measurable, and time-bound.”
If you want to see an example of how an organization used baselines and improvement plans to grow their engagement and bottom-line, check out the Silvercar case study on the Workify site. Silvercar is a car rental business that offers fully-loaded silver Audi A4s. They are well-known for the high customer satisfaction and loyalty scores.
I could really empathize with the challenge Silvercar was facing. While the organization frequently communicated with employees, it wasn’t in the way employees preferred. The company learned this through surveys and follow-up. Ultimately, Silvercar started having more one-on-one employee meetings and started seeing positive results – both in eNPS and NPS.
This is a great example of focusing on a specific indicator that’s going to take time. Regardless of the company size or industry we’re in, I think we can all agree communication is a complex issue. Even when a specific course of action is identified (like having more one-on-one meetings), organizations will have to be dedicated in their improvement plans.
Set Realistic Expectations for Your Engagement Efforts
Every organizational effort must start somewhere. Baselines are important because they give us that starting point. Equally important though, is the need to set realistic expectations where our action plans are concerned. And communicate those expectations. Remember the Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Be intentional and focus on the goal.
You can read more about the eight common drainers of employee engagement that Workify has identified and how to create improvement plans for each in their Action Planning Playbook, “How to Move the Needle on Common Drainers of Employee Engagement“. It’s well worth your time.23