Engagement Surveys -- Measuring Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Survey Basics

An engagement survey is an objective measure of the degree to which an employee has an
understanding, involvement, commitment to the organization’s strategy and operations.
While some companies take employee engagement for granted, studies have shown that
(for a variety of reasons) task-focused workers may not fully appreciate the purpose of their
role and how their work affects other employees and the organization as a whole.
Engagement surveys commonly find gaps in an employee’s understanding of the job satisfaction,
organizational goals, business procedures, and intended relationships with other staff and

Benefits of Engaged Employees

A company that excels at employee engagement is more productive because a good measure of the daily management effort is self-directed by the employees. In many cases, engaged employees don’t need to be told what to do every day, and can even anticipate work requirements based on their experience and grasp of what needs to be done to meet organizational objectives. This frees executives and managers from some of the more mundane management chores, enabling them to focus on vision, alignment and execution.

Planning a Staff Engagement Survey

The prospect of participating in a company-wide employee engagement survey can be suspect for some employees, so it’s important to explain to all prospective survey takers that the questionnaire will be; confidential and used to improve the work environment – not to assess their competence or performance – and in no way will affect employees’ assignments, compensation or position in the company. In most employee engagement surveys, each employee remains anonymous to encourage candid responses. Once this level of trust is established, employees will be confident in answering forthrightly and the results will be more meaningful. It is also important to give participating employees an explanation of what the survey results revealed and what kinds of things the company might do (e.g., work process changes, training or communications initiatives, etc.) based on the results.

Employee Engagement Questions

Engagement surveys vary in style, length and the specific questions asked, depending on the industry, size and nature of the organization, and complexity of organizational relationships. But here are a few representative employee engagement survey items that would be appropriate for most corporations, non-profits or government agencies. Employees being surveyed are asked to rate the following statements on a scale of 0 to 5 (0=Strongly Disagree, 1=Disagree, 3=Slightly disagree, 4 =Slightly Agree, 5=Agree, 6=Strongly Agree). I have the information, tools and materials necessary to do my job.

  • The company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My supervisor cares about me as a person.
  • Every day I have an opportunity to do what I do best.
  • I understand what is expected of me.
  • Within the past three months, someone has talked with me about my progress and performance.
  • I know what the company expects from me.
  • Within the past week, I have been recognized or commended for doing good work.
  • My opinion counts and I am encouraged to give it.
  • My co-workers are committed to doing high quality work.

Not An Employee Satisfaction Survey

Although employee engagement and employee satisfaction are related, they are not the same thing and the corresponding surveys are somewhat different. An employee satisfaction survey seeks to gauge the employee’s level of contentment with compensation, benefits, job tasks, supervision, and quality of work life with questions about organizational culture and resources. The Employee Engagement Survey is much more narrowly focused on the employee’s comprehension of the workings of the business, and the extent to which the employee has embraced the company’s mission, plans and operations. The engagement survey is truly measuring employee commitment by framing questions to include personal awareness and commitment in addition to organizational culture and resources.

Conducting the Engagement Survey

As with any survey, it’s important that all employees taking the engagement survey do so at approximately the same time in a controlled environment, to avoid discussion of the questions among employees. Ironically, discussion of the survey material would a good thing in another setting; but in this instance it could affect the validity of the engagement survey results. Survey takers should be instructed to respond with their first impression, and not ‘over-think’ the question.

Interpreting Employee Survey Results

Employee engagement survey results can be analyzed and presented in many forms, and one of the most popular formats is that of the Engagement Radar (see figure above). Each component aspect of Employee Engagement is averaged over the population being surveyed, and the results presented in a polar plot resembling a spider web. An aspect in which employees are highly engaged would be plotted further from the center; an aspect for which workers were not as engaged would be plotted closer toward the center. The factors plotted closest to the center of the figure indicate opportunities for engaging employees more effectively.

Employee Engagement Survey Follow-Up

Any survey raises expectations among those being surveyed about improvements that may be made based on the results. After the engagement survey results have been analyzed and conclusions reached, these results and conclusions should be communicated to the employees who responded to the engagement survey. Employee debriefings should include a summary of general and specific scores and identify areas for improvement. Employees should be engaged to participate in developing action plans targeted at making improvements based upon results.

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