To better understand what employee engagement is, we first need to make a clear distinction on what it is not – employee satisfaction.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment someone has to their organization and its goals. Highly engaged workers care deeply about their job, their peers, and the long-term growth of the company. These employees show up in more ways than covering a shift and often go above and beyond their list of responsibilities on behalf of the business because they want to, not because they feel they are required to.
On the other hand, satisfied employees may show up for their regular 9-5 without issue, excessive use of sick time, or may not have a single disciplinary action on their record. However, these same “satisfied” workers are less likely to go the extra mile, work only for the paycheck, and will just as easily answer a recruiter’s call promising a 10%-15% bump in pay. Now don’t get us wrong, “satisfied” employees are still great people to have on any team, but they are not as committed to the long-term growth businesses look for and will ultimately hinder retention goals. Great employee engagement means that workers are personally invested in their company’s success. They are advocates to the brand, they often tell their friends and family about the great work that is being done, and they care about the lives of their colleagues and are more likely to keep up with them socially. This translates into more moments when they are still doing their best work even when no onesies watching because they take pride in what they do.
So let’s be clear, employee engagement does not equal satisfaction. It is a way to both qualitatively and quantitatively describe the nature of the relationship between company and worker and develop mutual long-term value.
Building a retention strategy that works starts with creating a culture of engaged employees who are driven to perform and excited to be a part of something larger than themselves. Now that’s no simple task, and it demands a leadership team who is committed to communicating clearly, recognizing star performers, and supporting every employee with the resources needed to thrive. To deliver this all successfully, feedback and data must be at the center of the engagement strategy and site managers must make frequent changes to emulate what is working and refine what isn’t.
But why does this all matter? Gallup’s report, Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction and Organizational Culture, claims that teams with highly engaged employees have a 59% lower turnover rate than those with less engaged staff, and with each failed retention event costing organizations tens of thousands – that certainly matters. Improved employee experience initiatives benefit other aspects of the organization as well, like how engaged teams are 17% more productive, lead to a 6% higher profit margin, or drive 10% higher customer reviews.
Furthermore, the Harvard Business Review took a deep dive into Glassdoor metrics, looking at 293 enterprise companies spanning 13 unique industries and found that every 1-star employee rating on Glassdoor translated to 7.8% to 18.9% improvement in long-term market valuation depending on the industry. This indicates that there is a direct correlation between supporting an engaged workforce and the relationship with customer experience down the line.
Former CEO of Xerox, Anne M. Mulcahy, highlights this best:
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
By measuring engagement levels, leaders are able to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and obstacles facing their teams before they become problems. Site managers can build trust by connecting struggling units with the resources they need to succeed. More importantly, sharing the data with executive leaders, site-managers, and frontline employees goes a long way toward understanding trends and building a better culture.
Equipping leaders with powerful, trusted data from frequent company-wide or role-specific surveys gives them the know-how to improve retention and engagement on a case-by-case basis. There is no one size fits all approach, and no one manager has the single golden answer to solve every nationwide, regional, or niche problem. Regular employee surveys provide more touch points so data analysts can understand how workers are feeling through comment analysis, identify trends, and share the successes of top-performing teams with those who need that support.
Great leaders utilize different survey types such as annual engagement surveys, regular pulses, and eNPS to better combat survey fatigue. Each of these approaches helps identify both real-time and broad opportunities that may require immediate action or a months-long campaign. They help managers pinpoint, prioritize, and take action on the lowest hanging fruit with the highest impact to drive change quickly.
It’s not enough just to collect the data and sit on it. Successful engagement programs know how to close the loop with employees, letting them know that their voice was heard and is making a difference. Bi-directional feedback lets workers know that their leadership teams have not only taken the time to read and understand the pain points they are experiencing but are willing to open up a dialogue. We understand that this takes time, and research, but it goes a long way toward understanding the site or role-specific issues that risk halts in production. Deep analysis of employee comments unearths hidden initiatives and problem areas that may otherwise have been overlooked. Issues such as favoritism, a disengaged manager, or missing equipment may not be openly communicated in social circles at work for fear of retribution. However, those hot-button issues frequently bubble up when digging deep into survey comments, putting leaders in a great spot to react and implement a direct solution.
At WorkStep, we pride ourselves on building tools to hire and retain frontline employees. That’s because engaged employees are much more likely to stay with their respective company longer and build a career rather than perform a job. They are less likely to be persuaded by recruiters offering more money or better benefits, since they would be risking the loss of a community and culture who supports them. Monitoring employee retention helps site-leaders identify the key factors that lead to a turnover event. Identifying issues with the onboarding process, a lackluster trainer, or limited support early on and correcting them ultimately saves jobs, frustrations, and money for everyone involved. It also helps leaders narrow down on their ideal employee profile to better inform, support, and lead new hires from the interview room to a fruitful career.
If an annual engagement survey is akin to a yearly health check-up at the doctors, a pulse survey is similar to going to the gym and eating well. Pulse surveys provide a short, focused format that is laser-focused on a few specific questions. They give a quick overview of an employee’s wellbeing and since they are so concise, they tend to receive more responses by those out in the field, warehouse floors, or between truck stops.
Great pulse surveys are specific, short, and direct. They zero in on general satisfaction, opportunity, and alignment questions which help leaders understand if their employees feel like they are enabled to do their best work, can grow within the organization, or if they believe their feedback is taken into account while making major decisions.
Direct one-on-one meetings provide the space for employees to give more detailed, meaningful feedback to their leaders. This, of course, relies a bit more on each relationship’s rapport and the perception on what these meetings will cover. Successful leaders who practice 1:1 meetings are clear with their employees about the agenda and desired outcomes of the conversations beforehand. After all, nobody wants to spend the day concerned about having to go to their manager’s office later in the day for a “quick chat.” Treat this time as a bonus break for employees, sit down with them and get them off their feet. Build rapport by spending a few minutes asking them about their day, kids, or how the dog is doing before jumping into a string of work-related questions.
When a site is experiencing high rates of absenteeism, the reasons can often be found in the results for recent surveys. Look for correlations in falling Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), negative pulses, or a declining company-wide general satisfaction rating on an annual survey. According to Gallup, highly engaged employees have an absenteeism rate 41% less than the average. Keep in mind that an employee taking some time a few days a month is not an immediate red flag.
As an example; if an unreasonable amount of people call out on the 3rd shift every Thursday, a time when a new manager is in charge, then rampant absenteeism may be due to how they run the shift. Leadership can easily identify this issue, either train or replace that leader, and see immediate improvements in absenteeism as a result.
Business leaders can use productivity to measure engagement by looking at how effectively worker inputs lead to desired outputs. A standard measure of productivity is output per worker-hour, meaning the ratio between how many hours someone worked and the total output for the organization. To find productivity, we first divide total revenue for a specific year by the number of total employees before comparing the results across sites to identify patterns and areas of improvement. Let’s take an example from a 2022 Harvard Business Review report looking at customer-facing retail workers. The study found that engaged hourly workers generated more sales than those on the baseline. This scaled from a standard rate of $57 in revenue per person-hour worked all the way up to $87 in revenue per person-hour worked.
While we did discuss how employee satisfaction differs from engagement, it is still an important metric to measure. Frequent surveys go a long way toward identifying populations within an organization that are disgruntled, upset about poor compensation or benefits, or express concerns about a negative work culture. Satisfaction can be seen as a prerequisite for engagement, where a worker’s needs must be met first before investing additional time and energy.
Monitor and improve employee satisfaction by amping up recognition programs, creating a culture of transparent feedback, or providing ample training and career development opportunities. Managers should encourage their workers to foster healthy workplace relationships to better build a sense of community and belonging.
Exit interviews are an absolute goldmine when fielding employee feedback. Whether a worker left on good terms or bad, they tend to give incredibly honest answers and surface issues that may never have been discussed. Mostly, this is since there is no longer any fear of retribution and unsatisfied employees leaving a company see an exit survey as the last opportunity to tell management exactly what went right or wrong from their perspective.
These surveys present management with some hard truths by calling out the negative behavior of remaining employees or leaders and may highlight frequent shortcuts or violations committed to save time or increase productivity. Exit surveys assess the overall employee experience within an organization and identify opportunities to improve retention and engagement for those who remain.
Focus groups are a useful way to gather the perspectives of participants from a range of demographics, role types, and functions and get those employees vital facetime with peers they otherwise may not have engaged with. Be intentional, select workers from specific departments, sites, or across the organization as a whole to get an unbiased, holistic view of the issues at hand. Come prepared with a set of pre-planned questions and commit one or two leaders to moderate the meeting, asking the team about memorable wins, challenges in their day-to-day, or suggested improvements.
Successful leaders create a public call out for participants using our Inform feature to send messages to the groups in their organization they want to draw from.
Managers who communicate and act on the metrics they receive from engagement initiatives such as employee surveys do so by deeply analyzing the data, comparing it to industry benchmarks, formulating an action plan, and ultimately closing the loop with their workers on next steps. It is vital to understand that the employee’s involvement does not end after they hit “submit” on the survey itself, but continued solutions-oriented discussions should continue.
Start by sending anyone who submitted feedback a thank you message for completing it, offer a dashboard or internal newsletter communicating a summary of results, and publically share which initiatives leadership is focused on that arose from this exercise. Over the next weeks or months, continuously touch base with team members to get critical feedback on how things are going, what’s changed, and if any additional adjustments are needed to meet the mutual goals set for everyone.
There are many benefits to prioritizing employee retention, not the least of which is the ability to give distributed frontline workers a voice in industries that often overlook their needs. WorkStep helps organizations reduce turnover by up to 36% by helping leaders listen to feedback and take the right actions. Our industry-leading partners use features like Inform to close the loop with 1:many segmented populations in their organization at the right moment, for exactly the employees that need it most.
Utilize frequent check-ins for new hires after 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and every 180 days thereafter to keep a pulse on each individual worker’s experience as they onboard and ramp up in the organization. The first 90 days are a critical point for any employee in any industry. It is a time when they are getting acclimated to the business environment, meeting co-workers, making friends, experiencing gaps in training, or figuring out which manager might give them a hard time. It is vital to keep a steady touchpoint with them through that experience to identify any issues and provide an immediate solution. Jamie Anderson, Director of Talent Pipeline Program at NFI has this to say:
“Using WorkStep has helped give us the data we need to understand exactly what’s affecting employee turnover. Using this data, we can react immediately. Thanks to WorkStep, we’ve dramatically improved retention and increased new hire satisfaction and preparedness.”
WorkStep provides Insights and Opportunities to explore the engagement themes that are most correlated with driving employee turnover, so leaders can identify the segments of their workforce that need the most attention. Our Feedback system allows managers to monitor all survey comments coming in for each question type and reply to them directly while still maintaining anonymity for the employee. Meanwhile, WorkStep’s Dashboard gives business leaders a top-down view of comments & alerts, suggested actions, favorability scores, location breakdowns, and much more.
Intuitive reporting, AI predictive recommendations, and reliable data you can trust. WorkStep is the solution to help you engage your employees and measure your success.
Tom Goyette, Product Marketing Manager | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Goyette is a Product Marketing Manager at WorkStep. With experience in start-up and enterprise level SaaS and eCommerce organizations, Tom excels at managing and creating content, marketing, and analytics. Tom believes people are at the center of every great organization and is eager to share stories that highlights the value of the employee voice.