Employee engagement can have a tangible impact on your bottom line - from recruitment costs to the experience delivered to your customers, it’s a critical part of any organisation. But how do you measure how engaged your workforce is and how do you use this information to improve the employee experience?

VP of People at Liferay, Matt Poladian, discusses how his team measures engagement at Liferay and tactics employers can implement to encourage a positive employee experience in the workplace.

What is Employee Engagement?

There’s often a sliding scale of how to measure employee engagement philosophically, but it can often be defined by how much additional discretionary effort an employee is willing to make.

But how is this something you define?

Matt uses the example, “I remember this day I went into the men's room at work and I noticed that the paper towel dispenser had broken and there were paper towels all over the floor. As I was entering, I saw this guy leaving the restroom and I think he broke the dispenser and didn't clean up the paper towels. He looked frustrated and annoyed.” 

“As I entered, I thought to myself, ‘I will go and clean that up on the way out.’ Meanwhile, in the time that I was washing my hands, I noticed that someone who was already in the men's room beat me to it and had already started cleaning them up.”

“The guy who cleans up the paper towels is engaged. He cares about the company. He doesn't want to just leave that job for a custodial and he's willing to apply that additional discretionary effort, something that's not his job. He wants the company to look good.” 

“The guy who probably broke the dispenser is disengaged. He doesn't care, he doesn't have that built-in affinity for the company, the brand, the people that would motivate him to apply that additional discretionary effort.”

Two Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

Net Promoter Score

A Net Promoter Score or NPS is often used as a measurement of the percentage of customers rating their likelihood of recommending a company, product or service. But NPS can also be used to measure employee engagement and it’s a tactic used often at Liferay. By asking employees how likely they are to recommend your company as a place to work on a regular basis, you can gauge whether their working experience is a positive or negative one. 

Real Time Measurement

The issues with NPS and other data gleaned from an employee survey is that employees don’t just have thoughts about the company annually, they have daily thoughts. To check this, when logging into the company system, employees may be fed engagement-based questions each day or week to get a quick pulse on how employees are feeling and where they’re at on a particular project. We should be equipped to ask and understand the experience of an employee in real time.

Looking for Themes in Experiences

Measuring real time also helps to highlight when employees are struggling. When negative responses come in, it’s important to look for trends rather than one off experiences. Matt touches on the example, “If four people from a certain department tell me that they're really struggling with their leader, there's something there, versus one person who says they’re having a bad day because of a technology glitch that's probably just happening on their system.”

It also helps to make sure that the company is seeing and tracking these events over time. There can be a recency effect - if you ask a question and get the same answer three times, there’s most likely an issue there. It’s a very basic form of applied statistics.

Has Remote Work Affected the Way We Measure Employee Engagement?

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we work, and one of the most impactful findings of 2020 and remote work has been that employees across the globe are struggling to unplug — but how is that something you can encourage as an employer?

Matt says different managers at Liferay have different approaches, however there are a range of approaches you can use to optimise productivity without it leading to burnout.

  1. Implement no Friday meetings so employees are able to get through their inboxes and other pressing tasks that need to be completed to eliminate the feeling that they will have to use their weekends for work.
  2. Restrict overnight emails, or even if you do find employees working overnight, enforce a delay send for the next morning.
  3. If employees are stuck in meetings that run late into the night, employers can encourage a later start or for employees to spend time with their families or take the morning to exercise. 

“At the end of the day, we want to be sure our NPS remains strong, regardless of where an employee is working. That means investing heavily in the employee experience, measuring as often as possible, and addressing themes as quickly as they arise.

HR's Role in Improving Employee Engagement

Once a trend is identified, it’s important to do some problem-solving to reframe or address concerns. This is where HR steps in to help - although the solution is not likely with HR, it involves a range of actions that must be taken from both sides.

Matt says, “For example, a lot of people may complain about their manager. If this is the case, the issue needs to be addressed. However, I'm not going to just go and talk to your manager and then everything's okay overnight. This is an ongoing conversation. We need to open up these kinds of discussions.”

Feedback During Onboarding and Offboarding is Crucial

It’s also good to measure engagement during certain milestone moments in the employee journey, such as the first 90 days on the job. If someone has a bad first 90 days, that may turn into quite the negative employee experience which can spiral out of control quickly. Matt touches on the 90 day survey sent out to see how employees feel about their ongoing experience. If poor feedback is received, it goes a long way jumping on a call with the employee and finding out what went wrong, and then troubleshooting solutions to improve the overall experience. 

For more tips on how to onboard employees, Matt recommends The First 90 Days, a novel by Michael Watkins. Covering aspects of the first 90 days with a new employer, Watkins touches on the fact that you really can overdo it, where someone feels like they're drinking from a proverbial fire hose and it's too much. It’s important to make people feel welcome, like they had a personal experience when they started that first day.

The first day is just as important as the last day. Matt also says, “Likewise if I hear that, whether it's an employee who is voluntarily leaving or involuntarily leaving, there's a complaint about the way that someone was treated during their departure, I'll usually get on the phone with them to personally apologise. I think that speaks heavily to what kind of company we are and showing value in that employee’s experience for the years after they worked here. We want to have good relationships with all employees beyond their tenure.”

Optimise the Employee Experience

Measuring employee engagement is multi-faceted. Implementing a modern intranet can help optimise employee experiences and business operations. See how other global leaders have been able to do so by taking a look into their modern intranet solutions.

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