5 key indicators

HR should consider more than just annual survey results when it comes to employee engagement
By Nina Freier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/11/2015

Are your employees truly engaged? How do you really know? In a typical organization, HR conducts an employee engagement survey to determine what drives employees to do their best at work and contribute to the success of the organization. But this survey gives only a partial view of the full picture.   

To get a more in-depth, holistic view of employee engagement, organizations need to look at the following five sources to gain a complete picture. 

Employee engagement surveys

This practice is a well-recognized method for assessing the level 

of employee engagement. However, to be effective, the survey should follow these best practices: 

• It needs to be conducted on a regular basis.

• The engagement questions need to remain consistent year-over-year for the purposes of benchmarking and comparison.

• The process must be truly confidential.

• There needs to be a mechanism to share the results and use the feedback in order to implement positive changes.

Failure to keep the process confidential and make changes based on feedback will see participation rates drop and employees jaded about the process.  

Employee referral rates

Look at employee referral rates for open positions and determine if they at least meet market standards. Referral rates for typical organizations are between 24 to 33 per cent, according to the 2013 Oracle white paper The Shortest Path to Better Hires: Best Practices for Employee Referral Programs. If you have a highly engaged organization, it should be significantly higher. 

There is some accountability on the employee’s part for the success and happiness of the referrals who get hired. Engaged employees who enjoy their work are more likely to recommend their organization to family and friends. 

If employees are not engaged, they are not going to recommend family and friends to come and work for the organization. Looking at referral rates will give an indication of the level of engagement. 

Exit interviews

If an organization is not conducting exit interviews, it is something to seriously consider. Exiting employees can provide valuable information and insight into the inner workings of an organization that it may not otherwise receive. 

Exit interviews can provide key information on the work environment, HR programs and policies, leadership styles and employee morale. All of this information feeds into employee engagement and provides the organization with valuable information and the opportunity to make changes based on what was learned through the exit interviews. 

Social media

What is your employer and CEO approval rating on crowdsourcing sites such as Glassdoor.com or CareerBliss.com? Employers should be looking at this information because both current and former employees are going to these sites to post about their employment experience. 

More and more jobseekers are researching companies on these sites to determine whether they want to work for a particular organization. About 50 per cent of individuals used Glassdoor during their job search, according to a 2014 study of 4,633 respondents by SoftwareAdvice.com. 

A regular review of these types of sites will provide insight on how current and former employees feel about a workplace and their level of engagement. This information can be used in conjunction with other feedback to review programs and policies for any modifications.

Absenteeism, disability claims

One area many organizations are unlikely to consider as an engagement indicator is absenteeism or disability claim rates. However, these provide deeper insight into hidden issues that impact employee engagement.

A high rate of absenteeism costs an organization when it comes to productivity, but it also puts an increased burden and more stress on those who are at work. Absenteeism was 37 per cent higher in organizations that ranked in the bottom 25 per cent for employee engagement, according to a 2009 study in the United States by Gallup and the University of Iowa titled Q12 Meta-Analysis: The Relationship between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes.

Also, employers should look through their disability claims — why are employees on short-term disability? Is it stress? Is it a critical illness? If employees are highly stressed, they are not focused and engaged while at work. 

There may be programs or supports that can be provided through an integrated employee family assistance program (EFAP) that prevents them from going out on a leave. The 2014 Morneau Shepell study The Return on Investment for Employee and Family Programs found 46 per cent of EFAP users indicated they would have been absent from work had the EFAP services not been available. 

Providing support and work-life balance programs to employees will increase their engagement within the organization as the employer demonstrates care for their total well-being.  

Looking at all five of these indicators will provide a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of employee engagement versus just looking at the results of an engagement survey. Statistics clearly support the value of investing time and energy to ensure you have a highly engaged workforce as they are more productive and committed to the success of the organization. 

Nina Freier is a  Toronto-based senior strategic human resources leader with over 18 years of experience, including as director of talent acquisition at ADP. 

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