5 key questions on organizational measuring and metrics

Employee engagement is only the beginning of what organizations can measure to help develop their business and workforce

5 key questions on organizational measuring and metrics

Many employers like to keep their fingers on the pulse of their workforce, but employee surveys aren’t just about engagement anymore. Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Zak Rochon, managing partner at Metrics@Work in St. Catharines, Ont., about organizational metrics.

Q: What are the main purposes of organizational measurement?

A: “First and foremost, it's feedback. From a strategic point of view, getting feedback in line-of-sight to all the business units in an organization, knowing where the hotspots are in terms of lower levels of engagement or work environment issues. The second reason is to benchmark. This is still strategic, so that senior leaders, boards of directors, etc., can see, what does this group look like compared to other groups? And thirdly, most importantly, is so frontline leaders can receive data around their people practices and do something with it.

“There's always a strategic element of why people want to survey, but then there's the human element around getting quantitative, reliable, valid information for leaders to act on, because the operational piece is already measured by other outcomes — whether it's patient outcomes, counting turnover, or satisfaction.”

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Q: What metrics should an organization keep track of?

A: “There's usually an outcome metric and then there are drivers of those outcomes, the levers that you pull on to influence higher levels of this outcome. A lot of surveys measure an organizational outcome metric — something around ‘Would you recommend this organization to a friend or family as a good place to work?’ — that's an organizational outcome metric. It's not a predictor or driver because you can't act on that, but that's an important thing to measure.

“There’s a couple of others like that, like ‘I intend to remain’ or ‘I'm not looking for another job elsewhere.’ That's one outcome. And then, usually, we measure morale. There are three distinct levels that people are engaged in. That sort of ‘Overall, I get a sense of accomplishment from my work,’ that's a job outcome. ‘Morale is strong in my team,’ that's a team outcome. And then again, ‘I would recommend this organization,’ that's an organizational outcome. Those are three key factors that almost every organizational survey is going to do, that usually ends up being a corporate metric.

“In order to be able to actually plan and follow up on surveys, you need to have a number of drivers. There could be anywhere between 15 to 35 or 40 of these drivers of engagement. They're work elements like communication, how well conflict is resolved, can someone approach their supervisor with a problem. It's all those other things that are in the work environment that we want to make sure are working well. If you get these other things in place, then the outcomes that aren't in a survey, like retention, turnover, customer satisfaction, and patient satisfaction will go up. That's the ROI.”

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Q: What common gaps do you see in what organizations are measuring?

A: “One of the things that we always make sure of is that the levels of leadership are clearly defined in a survey, so that when you get results back you know if its speaking about middle management, executive leadership, or frontline supervisors. If there's confusion for the respondents, then the data is not going to be as reliable. And now some organizations are on hybrid models, so are we talking about the redeployed work experience or the regular permanent work experience?”

Q: What should employers specifically seek employee feedback about?

A: “It all boils down to respect. If there's one predictor, it's being treated respectfully and fairly. But there are a lot of other things that are important to ask. If I'm asking about communication, am I asking about communication in your work environment, your department, or your team, versus the type of communication you need to receive from the organization? There are some things that are important, like communication, good leadership, and being treated respectfully and fairly — but inside those things are different ways to ask.

“Am I getting enough information in a timely enough manner, versus am I getting enough information to do my job effectively? Those are two important things that need to be measured at different levels.”

Q: How should employers approach employee surveys?

A: “Having a CEO or senior team backing the survey is the most important thing to get a good response rate. Another approach would be involving employee representatives in the process of developing the survey and getting it out, maybe through survey ambassadors, a survey committee, or a cross-section of people representing the different types of work in the organization. That helps to bring in feedback and an understanding of what to measure, that's going to be useful to leaders, managers, and staff. And also, that ambassador group might become champions for the survey process and promote it.

“If an organization or an HR department wants to collect employee feedback and they've never done it before, they're going to need about three months’ lead time. I think overall, it could be two or three months before you're going to launch, then you're going to survey for three weeks. By the end, it's going to be another two-to-four weeks before senior leadership is getting a presentation of results, and then communicating to staff after that. So for anyone that's thinking of doing this, it's a two-to-four-to-six-month process, but it shouldn't be a discouragement because it's important work.”

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