Is Measuring Employee Engagement Worth the Effort?
- Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
- Wednesday, October 5, 2022
There is some debate in Human Resources and leadership circles about employee engagement. What is it? What are the benefits of engaged employees? Can it be measured, and if so, is it worth the effort?
Some people think employee engagement is nothing more than a trendy buzzword that is just a fancy re-wording of the annual employee performance review. That couldn't be further from the truth. For one thing, annual performance reviews are wastes of money, brains and time — both employees and managers loathe them.
A supervisor checking boxes about whether a team member met their objectives for the past year doesn't have anything to do with whether the employee felt engaged or not.
Particularly myopic leaders assume that if you keep showing up to work, you're engaged.
Before we dive into whether measuring employee engagement and happiness is worth the effort, let us first define what it is.
What is Engagement?
To somewhat oversimplify things, answer these questions:
- Are you happy doing what you do?
- Do you produce and meet your objectives?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, it is reasonable to assume you are engaged in your job.
Engagement and employee happiness usually have a few hallmark characteristics. The engaged worker would likely report they experience the following:
- They feel challenged yet capable of meeting that challenge.
- They have the tools and processes they need to meet those challenges.
- What they do matters and has real value; they know how their contribution fits into the overall mission and vision.
- Their work and effort is genuinely appreciated and that appreciation is expressed in an adequate manner and at an appropriate frequency.
- They get the information and feedback they need when they need it to be effective at their job.
In the real world, an engaged employee may report that they wake up eager to start their work day, not dreading it. Once on the job, time will pass quickly by because they find themselves in a state of flow; they are frequently in the zone.
If these are the characteristics of employee engagement, can it be measured? How?
First, any attempt to measure employee engagement must be at a cadence that is appropriate both to the nature of the role and to the individual. Performance metrics and engagement metrics are not the same thing and they can be independent of each other. Performance is an external measure of output while engagement is a subjective measure internal to the individual. Someone can be a good performer (some of the time) but not be very happy in the process, and someone can be happy in their work but not very good at it.
Conversely, if someone is not engaged in their work, they are rarely productive. If they are, it is for a short period of time, it takes a lot of effort, and it cannot be sustained.
Performance metrics and engagement metrics are not the same thing.
A good employee engagement measurement tool will be somewhat standardized, in that the questions won't vary much or at all based on the individual. They might be tailored to the role, however, if that is appropriate.
A great employee engagement measurement tool will be both standardized yet calibrated to the psychometric hardwiring of the individual.
Here's what that means.
Ask someone, "On a scale of 1 to 5, do you feel that your contribution is valued by your team members, with 1 meaning 'not at all' and 5 meaning 'absolutely'?"
The answer is useful when measuring an employee's engagement, for sure. But what if you consider that some people can be totally engaged and happy in their work while not feeling the need to be validated by the opinions of others? In this case, if they answered 2, it wouldn't matter as much if their team members don't overtly express appreciation and value for their efforts. Someone else who cares very much what their peers think would need their answer to carry more weight in their overall engagement score.
How can this be done? First, you must have a firm understanding of how each individual on your team is hardwired. This must follow a standardized psychometric protocol that is both accurate and reliable. Second, every question in your engagement survey must take the individual's psychometric profile into consideration when calculating the weight of their particular answers.
If person X cares little for the value of question A, their answer won't matter much.
If person Y cares a lot for the value of question A, their answer will matter more.
In either case, each employee's engagement score needs to be in a standardized format for all employees within a role and it needs to be consistent from one assessment to the next. As a business or team leader, you need to be able to determine if person X is fully engaged in their role compared to person Y, and you also need to know if either person's engagement is changing over time.
So, you've determined what engagement looks like and have an accurate and reliable tool to measure it. Is it worth it?
The Value of Measuring Engagement
Studies have shown that around 70% of employees are disengaged; meaning, they don't really like their job and therefore aren't very productive. Over 20% of them are actively disengaged, which means they are either looking for work elsewhere or knowingly slack off (the latest variation of this phenomena is called 'quiet quitting.')
Conversely, individuals who have a high level of alignment between their psychometric hardwiring and the needs of their role — i.e., they are highly engaged — often exhibit 200% or higher productivity and experience 50% or lower turnover.
Turnover is very expensive. Every time you have to fill a vacated role, you lose money that can sometimes exceed its annual salary (or worse if you can't hire someone new right away).
Considering these figures, is measuring your team's engagement worth it? The answer is an emphatic yes, in both soft and hard costs. Engaged employees are highly productive and they stick around. Disengaged employees cost you 'soft money' in lost productivity and 'hard money' in real administrative costs when they have to be replaced (plus additional lost money because a vacant role has 0% productivity). The additional workload imposed upon the rest of the team further reduces their productivity and engagement.
The cost-benefit of implementing an accurate and reliable employee engagement assessment tool is profound. Measurement is only part of the equation, however.
If you determine your employees have room for improvement according to your engagement surveys but you do nothing about it, suture self.
Your bottom line will demonstrate the damage that causes soon enough.
If you are interested in implementing an accurate and reliable employee engagement assessment tool within your organization, check out Happiness Index by eRep. Employers get unlimited Happiness Index surveys for all employees that have completed a Core Values Index™ psychometric profile, the world's most accurate and reliable psychometric assessment, and it is super easy to implement.
To boost employee engagement after you've measured it, check out Performance Fuel by eRep.
Core Values Index™ and CVI™ are trademarks of Taylor Protocols, Inc.
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.
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