Employee engagement is notoriously hard to measure. Given that so many different variables affect it – and people themselves are remarkably different – it’s a tricky thing to quantify. The definition of employee engagement is variable too: some people equate it employee happiness, others to being energized, or finding meaning in your work. Whatever your definition, engagement is an emotion – and emotions are difficult to quantify. So, how do you measure it?
The reason we’re all so keen to accurately measure engagement is because we know how important it is; having committed, hard working staff who are emotionally invested is a vital factor for any successful workplace. But being such a nuanced and subjective quality, there is no single way to calculate employee engagement. Instead, it requires a combination of approaches. The best approaches include:
We can measure engagement to a certain degree by having one-on-one meetings with employees. These work well as private, frequent chats, where you can find out how individual employees are getting on. It’s really important that employees feel safe and comfortable during these meetings – able to open up and be honest – so keep these feedback meetings informal.
These meetings are your chance to find out where people are struggling, what they’re enjoying, what they want to change and where they want to be professionally. Using this regular feedback, you can then help employees take effective action – making adjustments and creating opportunities which help them progress.
But don’t just leave direct feedback to one-on-ones. To be useful, it should be encouraged, openly available and regular. Staff focus groups, forums, diversity networks, away days, internal communication channels and cross-company workshops are all great ways to help people share what is and isn’t working.
Employee engagement can also be gleaned from each employee’s performance. A few things to keep in mind are:
- Efficiency – whether tasks are taking longer than normal to complete. Inconsistent performance uncharacteristic errors, a restless work approach and withdrawal are all indicators of a lack of engagement.
- Workload – working well beyond their capacity, with few breaks. High-pressure environments, unamangable workloads and a lack of control over work breeds disengagement.
- Overtime – working far longer hours or staying serially late at work. Perhaps they’re trying to counterbalance a drop in their efficiency, perhaps they don’t want to deal with whatever’s waiting at home. Either way, overtime is a sign of struggle and inbalance in our work/life relationship.
These indicators can be easily followed with the use of apps like Timely, which automatically track employee hours and feed team performance data into one centralized dashboard. You can quickly pinpoint patterns of disengagement – as well as those headed for the other end of the scale. Bear in mind that being too engaged can also be problematic; leading to mental exhaustion, taking on too much work, feeling overwhelmed and eventually burnout.
This method requires some emotional intelligence but can work really well if you know employees on an individual level. During team meetings or staff events, keep an eye on how employees interact, to gauge their mental “presence” at work. Of course, all employees are different, and some people are just shy, but if previously outgoing employees suddenly withdraw, it can be a telltale sign they’re unhappy about something.
A few places to start: in meetings, are they sharing their ideas and sounding enthused – or are they uncharacteristically quiet or unsure? Are they participating in social threads on Slack? Do they join in with jokes or actively contribute ideas? Do they talk about their work with pride?
Many companies now use tailored surveys and tools to measure engagement. Pulse surveys – which are shorta and frequent – are good at getting an idea of ongoing engagement levels in your office. Surveys vary but should always include the three questions the Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI) is based on: How satisfied are you with your current workplace? How well does your current work meet your expectations? How close is your current workplace to the ideal one?
You can also use purpose-built engagement tools. Popular ones include Reflektive, where managers conduct performance reviews and employees provide feedback, and Engagedly, which utilizes one-on-one feedback, social praise, and recognition to boost engagement. Others, like Hppy, are super simple, but help management understand what impacts employee moods and morale; managers can ask whatever question they want, but users can only reply with emojis – happy, sad, or OK.
Even if you use all these approaches, it’s still not easy to get a complete picture of someone’s true engagement. When people offer insights in a one-to-one, it might not reflect how they actually feel. A person might not want to share everything they’re feeling, particularly with their superiors, but good management is able to recognize those barriers and find other ways to help.
It’s vitally important to remember that mental health problems aren’t always obvious. People often conceal disorders like depression, and anxiety and stress aren’t necessarily immediately recognizable – especially when you don’t know an employee on a personal level. Learn how to better support employee mental health with this comprehensive guide.
When it comes to measuring employee engagement, the main thing to consider is that engagement will never be static. Just like a person’s mood, it ebbs and flows, and measuring it requires ongoing effort. A one-off index won’t help you monitor engagement in the long-term... and it won’t help you improve it, either. You will never arrive at a complete picture of any employee’s happiness – instead, you need to keep adding to it through ongoing, unpressured contact.