The concept of measuring the relationship between employees’ attitudes to work and overall business success is not new. A quick search of the web will show that there are examples of industrial leaders measuring (albeit crudely) the impact of employee satisfaction on productivity as early as the 1800s.

Even then, it seems, there was some understanding that an engaged workforce is at the heart of a successful business and a satisfied customer base.

Of course, business has evolved considerably since those times – but some areas have evolved more quickly than others. Digital technologies have led to faster, more efficient processes for communication, product development, and sales cycles, for example, but the rapid pace of change here has not been matched when it comes to employee engagement.

For many years, companies have continued to measure employee engagement through ‘standard’ surveys on an annual or biannual basis. The content of these surveys may vary from company to company, but the process tends to be remarkably similar, following the pattern of ‘checking in’ with employees every now and again to see how things are.

Since today’s employees must work within ever-changing environments, are continually confronted with new technologies, and are seen as contributors to overall business success, the workplace has become more dynamic than ever. So, why haven’t employee engagement processes evolved to reflect this by engaging with staff more frequently and at a more strategic level?
According to a report by Forrester Research, Inc. entitled Maximize Employee Value By Aligning With Customer Imperatives, May 20141, “The process of measuring and managing employee performance is often underutilized and too infrequent to deliver real business value. Many companies still use an annual performance appraisal process that is aligned with HR skills frameworks rather than productivity measures and business outcomes.”

The fact is, employee engagement processes – and the tools to implement them – have evolved. Forward-thinking organisations have already moved from the constraints of traditional HR surveys and are taking advantage of a wealth of methods and technologies to monitor, measure and, most importantly, react to changes in employee engagement.

These methods fall completely in step with the new pace of business, providing real-time insight rather than results a week or month after they’ve been collected. Pulse surveys, analytics tools that correlate employee engagement and customer satisfaction, and long-term Voice of the Employee programmes are just some of the ways in which businesses, large and small, are taking steps to get to the heart of employee engagement.

It can seem an overwhelming task to make the leap from reactive, tactical surveys to proactive strategic engagement, not least because of the time and effort involved in correlating employee attitudes with every aspect of a business.

However, the results of those high performance companies that have moved to strategic employee engagement speak for themselves. While the initial creation and mapping of an engagement programme does require effort and investment, the opportunities this investment brings are too great to ignore. You can drive smarter investments, boost customer loyalty, and increase revenue by understanding what makes employees tick—and by harnessing their insights about customers.

It is, of course, easy to talk about working more strategically. It is one thing to create an employee engagement plan, but entirely another to successfully implement it. The word ‘strategic’ can send shivers down the spine of many pragmatic employees and can easily be construed as a management exercise.

To be successful, a strategic employee engagement plan must have its roots in the ‘real life’ of your organisation, meaning:

  • It must be relevant to the day-to-day working lives of your employees. By adapting the programme to reflect the nuances of different departments, as well as catering to individual roles and responsibilities, you can create buy-in at every level of your organisation.
  • It must work day in, day out, all year round. A yearly survey only measures a single snapshot of time, and what employee would be happy to be ‘cared for’ or ‘listened to’ on just one day of the year? Long-term, interactive programmes that give employees a voice at any time demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to its staff, and generate more honest and accurate feedback.
  • It must be continually evolving. A strategic programme is just like your business – a dynamic entity that must adapt to changes across your organisation and your industry. Criteria must be reviewed regularly to ensure they are still relevant and are focused on achieving your specific business goals.
  • It must be actionable. The feedback you gain from your programme must provide value to your business, so the criteria you measure must make sense in relation to your business goals, and the insight you gain must be delivered to those who can take necessary action.

Moving from tactical to strategic engagement is a cultural change for most organisations. If they are able to take this leap, however, the rewards can be measured at many levels. Forrester’s report2 shows that “A fully engaged employee[…] is one that is likely to stay at their employer for the foreseeable future, recommend the company’s products and services to a friend or family member, and recommend a job at their company to a friend or family member. Engaged employees appear to be highly customer-oriented.”

As more and more organisations start to realise the benefits of strategic employee engagement for the whole business, the further we will move from the out-of-date methodologies that remain in use – while fondly remembering the pioneers of employee engagement nearly 200 years ago.

Tore HaggrenTore Haggren holds the position of Senior Vice President, Voice of the Employee at Confirmit.

He initially joined Confirmit in 1998, two years after the company was founded in Norway. During his tenure, he established offices in London, New York and San Francisco with a focus on Market Research and Voice of the Customer. In 2006, Haggren shifted his focus to successfully building Confirmit’s presence in the Voice of the Employee (VoE) market. Today, many of the leading employee engagement consulting companies have standardized their production-delivery system on the Confirmit solution, making it a fundamental part of how their businesses operate. He is committed to helping companies take a strategic approach to understanding the employee lifecycle and harnessing the Voice of the Employee to drive business change.

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