July 07, 2022
July 07, 2022
Contributor: Jackie Wiles
Business, geopolitical and economic disruptions affect employee engagement and productivity. Make sure your surveys surface how employees really feel about work.
The COVID-19 pandemic created lasting change in work trends, impacting employee experience, engagement and productivity. Economic headwinds now add new concerns. Not only are employees seeking more personal value and purpose at work, but many also feel increasingly underpaid in the face of inflation.
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If you’re using an employee engagement survey to gauge the impact of all these trends, make sure to focus on key performance drivers and ask questions that will truly surface how employees feel about their jobs and workplace.
“During disruption, it’s especially important to make sure employees don’t become disengaged or frustrated as they adjust, for instance, to a new hybrid work environment or new business priorities,” says Caroline Walsh, Vice President at Gartner. “But there are still clearly identifiable drivers of employee engagement and performance that you need to watch.”
It’s tempting to rely on sentiment-based survey questions like, “Do you receive enough recognition?” or “Does your manager care about you as a person?” Such questions commonly appear on formal annual or biannual employee engagement surveys — and the responses reveal some of what employees feel about their jobs and workplace.
But these questions aren’t very effective at surfacing whether employees remain engaged and productive through a disruption or feel motivated to exert discretionary effort.
Ultimately, the key drivers of employee engagement and performance don’t change, but how they are interpreted does. Make sure, then, to test the following three drivers of employee engagement at all times.
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The extent to which employees trust their organization is a great barometer to measure employee engagement and productivity levels. Employees who feel high levels of organizational trust are shown to have high engagement levels as well. Survey questions should help you understand whether employees believe that your organization values its people and will do all it can to ensure their well-being. These questions will also help you gauge whether your communication strategy effectively articulates your organizational values.
Employees should be able to collaborate with one another effectively, even as they endure high levels of disruption in both their work and home environments. Survey questions can help you understand whether your employees are continuing to actively collaborate with their team members (thus facilitating them doing their best work) and whether they and their team value each other’s support.
It’s especially important to measure capability — which consists of an employee’s comprehension, agility, network, direction and expectations — during periods of significant change. Survey questions should determine whether your employees are aware of, and can tap into, the tools, information and people that can help them navigate changes arising out of disruption.
Ask these nine questions to uncover the kind of meaningful engagement that can improve employee performance during times of disruption:
Do you believe the organization has your best interests in mind when making business decisions?
Are you satisfied with the way we’ve managed both our business and people during this time [specify disruption/situation/time frame as needed]?
Do you believe we’ve maintained adequate communication with all employees?
Have you continued to collaborate with your team during this time?
Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
Does your team help you successfully complete your work?
Do you believe you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know whom to ask for help?
Do you have a good understanding of our informal structures and processes?
It’s especially important to monitor employee engagement during disrupted times.
In employee engagement surveys, avoid sentiment-based questions like, “Do you receive enough recognition?” or “Does your manager care about you as a person?”
Instead, ask questions that will truly surface whether employees feel motivated to put energy and effort into their work.
This article has been updated annually since it was originally published in 2019 to reflect new events, conditions and research.
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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
9 Questions to Measure Employee Engagement During Disruptions
Drive Employee Engagement and Productivity Through a High-Quality Employee User Experience
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.