Gaining Real Results from Your Employee Engagement Data

Everybody is talking about employee engagement. It’s no wonder why: the statistics and research around engagement aren’t very positive. In fact, according to some sources, they’re almost abysmal:

  • Only 34.1% of U.S. workers are engaged (according to Gallup)
  • Two-thirds of Millennials express a desire to leave their organizations by 2020 (according to Deloitte)
  • 54% of “actively disengaged” employees would consider leaving for a job that pays them only 20% more (according to Gallup)

But there’s hope for change. Our client data shows us that only 4% are actively disengaged, the most difficult group to influence. We also see that 14% are in what is called the opportunity group, those employees which can still be moved towards being engaged.

Companies are all-too-aware of the impact engagement issues can have on business results. That’s why many organizations have taken the necessary step of gathering data to understand more about the engagement levels of their employee population. However, once they have the data, most companies struggle with how to take action based on the employee engagement survey results.

Chances are the data shows there is something a company can—or must—do to make work more fulfilling, rewarding, or efficient. But you won’t know what to do until you analyze your data to discover the insights you can use. Given that the data will inform the actions you take, it’s critical that you’re collecting quality data and that you’re using statistical analysis to clue you in about significant relationships.

Analyzing Key Drivers

To examine relationships in the data, People Element examines key drivers to identify and answer questions such as: What drives an employee to leave? Which employees are most satisfied with their work?

“To make good decisions, you need clear and specific data,” said Megan Younkin, Consulting Director at People Element. “Some examples of key drivers of engagement are employees feeling like their opinions are heard and valued, and employees receiving clear performance expectations. If these happen to be key drivers of engagement for your organization and if you can improve the scores on these items, there’s a good chance you will also increase employee engagement in your organization.”

Key driver analysis can also be used to connect engagement to turnover. People Element conducted a study with one healthcare client and was able to tie key engagement drivers to turnover levels. The study revealed that a 1% increase in engagement led to a 2.2% decrease in turnover. This change can significantly impact turnover costs—that translates to about $840,000 saved for a hospital with 1,000 employees.

Avoiding Action Paralysis

Once you have the data and understand the impact, it’s time to choose what you’re going to address. It is important to only choose one or two areas to address at one time. Choosing too many areas can lead to an “action paralysis” in which no one does anything because there’s too much to do. If you select one or two areas to address, it feels do-able.

Once you’ve decided on those action items, it’s important to create an action plan that includes goals which are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, if an organization identifies through survey results that there’s a perception from exiting employees that managers lack empathy, they might choose to focus on helping managers develop or demonstrate that skill. A SMART goal for this might involve the following:

  • Specific: Train managers by enrolling in People Element’s soft-skills training on exhibiting empathy.
  • Measurable: Improvement will be monitored in exit survey data.
  • Achievable: Pilot program for this approach will include managers from two departments.
  • Relevant: Ideally, this approach will increase manager empathy and positively impact turnover.
  • Time-bound: Training will take place in Q3, measurement begins in Q4.

Committing to take action based on what your results indicate is half the battle. The next step is to determine a course of action:

  • Who will take the first step?
  • What resources do they need?
  • What is the timeline?

Setting SMART goals allows you to start creating that action plan, identify who is responsible for what, and then hold people accountable for taking action. By breaking down what may feel like an overwhelming challenge—the concept of increasing employee engagement—into tangible, measurable steps, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to create positive change in your organization.

Employee engagement levels will impact business results—it’s up to your organization to determine and influence whether those will be positive or negative. Gathering data is an important first step, but that step must be followed by analysis, and most importantly, action. Use the insights you gather through a survey to address issues and take action. With surprisingly little effort, there are many things you may be able to do to help make work more enjoyable, satisfying, and effective for your employees.

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