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What are the most effective ways of measuring employee engagement in the current climate?

Tuesday August 18, 2020

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted employees’ engagement levels, but brought challenges in how employers can measure them.
  • Employers may find that more regular pulse surveys will give them an accurate outlook of how engaged their workforces are.
  • Engagement apps and online tools are another method of measuring the engagement levels of a remote workforce.

Employee engagement has been disrupted due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. While some employees are working from home, others are in the workplace, and some are on furlough, keeping employees engaged and motivated presents employers with a huge challenge, and they may need to find new ways of measuring engagement levels. 

Accurate engagement assessment 

Organisations are coping with the pandemic in various ways and there are many tactics that an employer can introduce to have an accurate understanding of how its workforce is feeling. 

Employers can make use of key opportunities to track how their employees are feeling and to best understand their engagement, says Clarissa Valiquette, managing director at PSB Insights. “Businesses can use landmarks such as returning to the office to ask employees how they are feeling, and how engaged they are feeling in their role.” she explains. 

“When employees begin to be eased out of the current climate, it’s important to acknowledge that their levels of engagement may not be as high as they use to be due to the nature of change, but finding this out can be invaluable information to understand how this can be improved.” 

Despite the work landscape experiencing unprecedented change, engagement-measuring methods, such as annual or pulse surveys, can still be just as effective in measuring employee engagement. 

Many employees may be dealing with feelings of isolation due to working remotely or being placed on furlough, so employers could potentially see an increase in survey participation due to employees wanting that interaction and for their voices to be heard. Instead of offering a survey once a year, employers can gauge a more accurate picture of engagement levels by introducing these more frequently. 

In addition to pulse surveys, regular check-ins can offer an insight into how engaged employees are. Karen Bolan, head of engagement at AHC, says: “Check-ins can be helpful, especially for employees who have been directly affected by the pandemic either through being placed on furlough or receiving pay cuts. It can be mentally challenging for those to experience significant change and can create a feeling of inadequacy. These are feelings that are going to happen across many businesses.” 

Get the balance right

Employers need to ensure they are asking the right questions when measuring engagement, and are careful not to overstep any work/personal boundaries. Ashley Doody, chief product officer at Personal Group, says: “Employers need to ask the right questions to get a grasp of how engaged employees are. It is a difficult time for everyone, so striking the balance between being caring and intrusive is important.” 

Asking how employees are feeling about the pandemic, enquiring how their lives are outside of work, and encouraging them to have their say about how the business is coping with the pandemic, is crucial to understanding engagement, says Doddy. 

Engagement measures 

In addition to regular pulse surveys and check ins, there are other options for employers to track engagement. Sammy Rubin, chief executive at Yulife, says: “Some of the ways businesses have chosen to measure engagement have been through introducing regular surveys, but these can be limited due to fixed questions and relying on people giving accurate answers, especially now [while] working remotely, employers are struggling with finding the right data.

“Employers can use new engagement apps or [online] tools to reveal how they are feeling in their own way and own time. Introducing a gamified reward experience, based on a time that suits them, can help organisations to receive a high level of accurate responses.” 

With many employees and employers struggling with such a huge culture change, authentic informal conversations can be crucial to grasping how engaged employees are, as well as introducing new engagement measurements, says Bolan. 

“At our business, we’ve had senior business leaders, who are never in contact normally, reach out to members of the team, to make them feel that the business cares about everything,” she says. “We should be doing more communication now rather than less, as that informal conversation in the kitchen may not be there for some.

“Businesses need to become far more astute with how their employees are feeling because it’s a lot more difficult to detect body language.” 

Employers could introduce ‘sanity checks’ to understand how employees are getting on outside of work, adds Bolan. Through these sessions, employers can then track how engaged employees are, and offer specific benefits to increase these levels. 

“Through these calls, [which] can be initiated twice a week, it will be clear to recognise when employees would feel overwhelmed by work if the right questions are asked,” she says. “Line managers that offer [calls] like this would have the opportunity to receive an authentic response, as [they] can see the person that [they’re] talking to and read the signals. However, this will never be the same as physically meeting up with someone in person to have a check-in.” 

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people work forever, and to transition into a more flexible working environment, there need to be innovations made to the way employees track engagement, says Lauren Berkemeyer, vice president of marketing at Yulife.

“If employers choose to offer employees a new employee engagement app, they can see what features are being used the most to best understand how they are feeling,” she explains. “For example, we’ve seen a significant take up in employees going for walks and engaging in their healthy activities. If employers see a decrease in this, it may suggest that employees don’t have enough time to engage with their non-work activities due to feeling overwhelmed by work.”

As organisations continue to work remotely and more flexibly than before, different methods of measuring how engaged employees are feeling, such as apps or informal conversations, could be the best way to assess engagement levels in the new digital world. 

Article published in Employee Benefits on the 18th Aug 2020

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