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Employee engagement - you might know it as the hottest buzzword in HR and leadership circles for a while now.

You know it needs to be high for your company to prosper, and you know it’s probably not high enough right now.

But what does employee engagement really mean, why is it vital to know how your company is doing, what is an employee engagement survey, how to conduct employee engagement surveys, and why are employee engagement surveys important?

Don’t worry - this post will cover all of that and more.

Let’s dive in!

What is employee engagement?

How do you think most of the workers at your company feel each morning when they get out of bed and prepare to come to work?

Do they usually feel excited to get to their desks and start working on their tasks, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment?

Or do they typically dread another day spent slogging through their work and arrive at the office already demotivated and demoralized?

Asking this question is about more than just checking in on your employees’ feelings. When your employees are highly engaged, they’re like the first group - excited to come to work, committed to your organization's goals and values, and put in their best efforts for your team every day.

But disengaged employees - that second group - lacks an emotional commitment to the job and the company as a whole. They’re just going through the motions.

Why is employee engagement important?

These two types of employees have a huge impact on your business's bottom line.

Research by Gallup has found that companies in the top quartile for employee engagement outperformed the bottom-quartile units by 10% in customer satisfaction, 17% in productivity rates, 20% in sales, and 21% in profitability. 

The highly engaged groups also had a stronger safety record and less turnover than their disengaged peers.

But how do you know which group most of your employees fall into on most days? Guessing isn’t effective - you might think you’ve made your company or department a great place to work, but only your employees know for sure.

So you know what you need to do - ask them! That’s exactly what the employee engagement survey helps you do.

What is an employee engagement survey?

An employee engagement survey is a simple idea - a series of questions that you send out to your employees to gauge each team's engagement level, department, and the company as a whole.

But while their purpose is clear, measuring employee engagement through surveys is a little trickier than it first appears. There are many different ways to conduct an employee engagement survey.

Many organizations, especially big corporations, use the popular Gallup Q12 format that asks 12 key questions about the employee experience.

Other organizations build and conduct a large, thorough survey every year as a responsibility of the Human Resource department. And still, others rely on shorter but more frequent pulse surveys, including the increasingly popular employee net promoter score, to measure engagement throughout the year.

These methods are different, but they share the same goal - to measure employee engagement levels at your business. Pick the one that aligns most closely with your goals and budget, and you won’t go wrong.

An employee engagement survey often gets confused with employee satisfaction surveys, but they’re slightly different in intent and design.

Employees can be satisfied but disengaged - maybe they like their salary and their office location. Still, the work they do every day is rote and micromanaged, so they’re not actually engaged emotionally.

Those employees still cause negative results for your business because they don’t need to go above and beyond to excel. '

The importance of employee engagement surveys

Employee engagement surveys provide a space where employees can communicate any concerns or issues they have. It isn’t always possible to interact with their employers individually, especially in larger workspaces.

In these cases, it’s easy for any concerns to go unnoticed as there is no space in which clear communication can occur. Surveys are a great way to identify and solve any employees' issues.

By putting in the effort and using your employees' feedback, you can improve things in the workspace to make them feel happier. This will make your employees feel heard, appreciated, and included - which are key factors in job satisfaction.

According to Bain & Company, employees who feel heard and more engaged are 44% more productive than employees who are not. This goes to show how important it is to take employee engagement seriously! 

Employee engagement surveys are a quick yet effective method of improving employee satisfaction. By conducting them and making improvements based on them, you can boost your business's productivity and success.

Survey as a data collection method

The primary purpose of employee engagement surveys is to obtain information about the people’s opinions, motives, and assessments, on the group's state and individual consciousness.

The data gathered by survey methods express the subjective views of respondents. They need to be compared with information of an objective nature, which must be developed in other ways.

The development of a research program should precede the survey, a clear definition of goals, objectives, concepts (categories of analysis), hypotheses, object, and subject, as well as research tools.

Each survey involves an ordered set of questions (a questionnaire) that serves to achieve the research goal, solve its problems, prove or disprove a hypothesis.

The wording of the items must be carefully considered in many ways, but, above all, as a way of fixing categories of analysis.

Key indicators of employee engagement

Now that we have understood what an employee engagement survey is, let’s look at the most important indicators of employee engagement? They might surprise you a little!

1. Trust in the chain of command

Suppose your employees don’t feel that they can trust the information they get from their direct manager, department head, or the top levels of your company.

In that case, they will start to feel like they’re not being treated as professional adults who are handled with honesty.

Getting too much spin and double-talk from the higher levels can be condescending or frustrating and decrease the organization's emotional commitment.

That’s why employees at high-trust companies report 76% more engagement than those at low-trust ones.

2. Frequent, fair recognition

Do your employees know when they’ve done a great job on a task - whether it’s a large project or a small piece of work? Are you promoting these behaviors across the org to let employees know what success looks like and that hard work is recognized and rewarded?

If you’re not, you’re missing out on a big driver of engagement. And if your recognition strategy is based on a concept like “Employee of the Month,” where everyone is recognized in the same way, no one will truly feel recognized.

Keeping rewards personal and performance-based is a best practice endorsed by SHRM.

3. Asking for feedback

Simply asking employees for their opinion in a thoughtful, purposeful way can slightly increase engagement on its own.

Your employees like to be asked what they think about life at your company - it shows you value their opinions and feedback.

Facebook found that asking about employee engagement raised interest in tools to become more engaged at work by 12%. 

Of course, to get the engagement boost from asking for feedback, you need to put the changes employees suggest into action often enough to show you’re truly listening to what they say. This is where a post-survey action plan comes in handy.

Excellent examples of employee engagement survey strategies

With all the potential indicators of engagement, the nuances of measuring engagement levels at all, and the wide variety of ways to perform engagement surveys, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point.

But don’t worry!

There are many ways to set up the engagement survey strategy that’s right for you. Here are three different ways you could potentially design your engagement survey strategy.

1. Big and traditional

Measuring employee engagement is possibly already part of the HR action plan for large corporations with thousands of employees. It’s quite possible to add in the

Gallup Q12 survey budget or build your own based on your own HR team's expertise.

Remember to keep the survey short so employees will answer it and develop a post-survey action and communications plan to keep the momentum going.

Throw in a pulse survey plan, like the one offered by Empuls, for any important areas where you want to keep an eye on progress as you go - this could be for one or two vital drivers of engagement you’re working to improve.

2. Medium-sized and new

If your company is mid-sized and comparatively new to employee engagement surveys, you’re probably looking for some clear guidance on conducting employee engagement surveys in your organization.

Look no further than the Empuls guides on the 20 employee engagement survey questions that you can't forget to ask in your survey, the right way to pick an employee engagement survey vendor, and what to do with your employee engagement survey results once they’re in.

Develop your custom action plan based on the current priorities of your business - you might not have the bandwidth to address every single engagement issue right now, so where do you want to focus right now?

Set up your annual survey plan or pulse survey around those top priorities, and start asking your employees what they think on those topics.

3. Small and nimble

If you’re part of a small business or a start-up, the budget and time to create surveys are probably pretty lean.

Check out the guides in the mid-sized section, and get smart about finding technology with a scalable cost that can help you run surveys on autopilot and direct you on what to do with the results.

An option like Empuls, with pulse survey capability and key KPI indicators, could be a perfect fit as your business grows.

The eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) system might also be perfect for you - a well-studied, highly-regarded way to gauge employee engagement without designing or sending a long survey.

Employee engagement survey platform

An employee engagement survey platform like Empuls can help organizations accurately capture the voice of employees. An employee engagement survey platform makes collecting, measuring, and acting on employee inputs easy.

With powerful analytics designed to drive actions, you can turn your employee feedback into genuine improvements. With precise, real-time data and inputs, you know exactly what drivers to focus on to drive the biggest impact on engagement.

Key takeaways

There’s so much to know about employee engagement surveys - why they are important, how to do them properly, and what they truly mean for your business.

We hope this guide has given you a starting point to measure your employee engagement levels.

And the first step towards raising your engagement rate is knowing where your company stands right now - that’s why you need to start creating your employee engagement survey today if you haven’t already.

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Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen O'Donnell LinkedIn

Kathleen is a freelance writer and employee communications and culture expert, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications.