The concept of job satisfaction was popularised in the seventies and was the first real way for businesses to directly influence performance. In the past three decades, HR professionals have started to realise that satisfaction isn’t enough for people to unlock their potential value to an organisation.

As a result, businesses have started to work on improving employee engagement because of the increasing understanding that deeper employee engagement leads to higher productivity and improves the overall lifetime value of their people.

Employee engagement has since become the industry benchmark for how committed people are to their jobs.

Measuring employee engagement comes down to four key variables:

  1. Pride

    In the company.

  2. Intention

    To stay with the company.

  3. Likelihood to recommend

    The company to friends or family (known as the employee net promoter score or eNPS).

  4. Motivation

    To go above and beyond for the company.

While this may sound simple, the truth is that each of these variables is affected by a plethora of other influences. Every organisation is responsible for creating an environment conducive to engagement.

Some of the factors that influence engagement, known as engagement drivers, can include:

  • Autonomy and empowerment:

    Whether people can act on their own authority and innovate

  • Career progression:

    Opportunities to grow

  • Collaboration:

    Working with other teams and colleagues without barriers

  • Communication:

    Feeling listened to by the organisation as well as getting enough information from the company

  • Leadership:

    Trust in senior leaders

  • Pay and benefits:

    Fair compensation isn’t limited to salary alone and can vary according to individual circumstances

  • Quality of products or services:

    Whether people believe in what they’re providing

  • Recognition:

    People naturally crave appreciation

  • Resources:

    People need the right tools to do their job, as well as enough team members to let them achieve a work–life balance

  • Strategy alignment:

    Whether employees understand and buy into the company’s direction

  • Supportive management:

    How good managers are at supporting their teams to be successful

  • Training and development:

    Whether people feel they have the training they need to do their job.

Not all drivers are necessarily relevant to all organisations’ needs. It’s important to understand which ones are relevant to the company and focus on these. The best and most direct way to understand which drivers are important is to ask employees via an engagement survey.

For the survey to be effective, it needs to be relatively easy to complete. Around 10–15 minutes is ideal in most cases, although a longer or shorter survey may be more useful depending on what the organisation needs to explore. If the survey expands to 70 questions or more, it’s likely to be too burdensome for employees to complete and the resulting data will be too complex to be useful.

To cull questions in a survey and bring it down to the ideal 40–45 questions, it’s useful to ask four key questions:

  1. Is the business prepared to act on the question?
  2. Is the question repeating something that’s already been asked?
  3. Does the question reveal something useful as opposed to something interesting?
  4. Is the question relevant to all parts of the business?

By designing and administering a targeted, well-thought-out engagement survey, businesses can get a clear understanding of where engagement sits currently and what areas to focus on to improve engagement.

By acting on the issues brought up in the survey, companies can demonstrate that they have listened to employees, value their opinion, and are willing to make changes. These factors alone can improve productivity.

Combined with the action taken on key issues, this process can dramatically improve loyalty and performance outcomes.

Employee engagement is a competitive advantage for organisations and while addressing employee concerns is a top priority, measuring engagement should also be seen as an opportunity to identify ways to further improve your employees’ overall experience regardless of the eNPS score.