To get the most out of employee engagement surveys, organizations must focus on key performance drivers, not just feel-good barometers.
This article has been updated from a post originally published on May 4, 2016 by CEB, now Gartner.
“Do you receive enough recognition?” “Does your manager care about you as a person?” “Do you have a best friend at work?” These are common questions on surveys that organizations use to gauge employee engagement. And such surveys are widely used. In fact, 92% of organizations use them to understand how employees view their role and the company.
Insights gleaned from these surveys are especially critical as trends in business and technology continue to change the way employees work — where, when, why and with whom. And 80% of senior leaders believe good employee engagement is a critical part of achieving business objectives.
Companies should focus their employee engagement surveys on specific drivers of performance
“Businesses want to keep employees feeling positive about their company, especially as conditions change, which is also why they often provide them with flashy offices and perks,” says Iliyana Hadjistoyanova, senior research analyst at Gartner.
The problem is that managers across the enterprise and at all levels — from senior executives to regional product managers — have grown so accustomed to the status quo that they don’t question whether or not the survey data provides insight into business outcomes. The key is to ask employees the right questions.
Focus on performance drivers
Although sentiment-based questions (attitude and commitment) are useful in measuring employee engagement, questions that help organizations improve employee performance are much more powerful. “Companies should focus their employee engagement surveys on specific drivers of performance,” says Hadjistoyanova.
These three employee performance drivers are key, and can be tested with employee engagement surveys:
- Understanding of and connection to company goals. To succeed in their jobs, employees need to understand how they fit into the organization. It is crucial that survey results show whether employees understand their firm’s goals and the link between their own work and the organization’s strategic objectives. Questions should also reveal whether employees try to get their job done “despite the strategy,” or in a way that intentionally contributes to strategic goals.
- Commitment to coworkers. High-performing employees learn from and teach each other. The changing and ever-more-global work environment means all employees must be as comfortable working with someone on another continent as they are with the person in the cube or office next to them. Survey questions should help you understand whether employees are part of multidisciplinary, collaborative teams that help them complete their best work — and whether they and the teams they work with have the complementary competencies, values and working style needed for strong team and individual performance.
- The right capabilities. Capability — which consists of an employee’s comprehension, agility, network, direction and expectations — is especially important to measure during periods of significant change. Survey questions should check whether employees are aware of and confident enough to make use of the tools, information and people that can help them navigate change.
Top 9 survey questions
Ask these questions to uncover the kind of meaningful engagement that can improve employee performance:
- Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?
- Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?
- Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?
- Are you proud to be a member of your team?
- Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
- Does your team help you to complete your work?
- Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
- Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?
- When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?
Members of the Communications Leadership Council can read more about aligning employees with company strategy.