Measuring Employee Engagement

Deltek , 8 November 2022

Employee engagement surveys are becoming one of the most important leadership tools, having positive impacts on internal communication, problem solving and staff retention.

Project-based businesses are all about the people ‘in’ the business, and understanding whether their employees are fully involved and enthusiastic about their work and the organisation involves many things. But a great place to start is with an engagement survey.

Employee engagement surveys are becoming one of the most important leadership tools. Gone are the days when leaders can treat their survey as if they want to ‘check-in’ with their employees and tick a box, rather than use it to make actual changes.

Why? Because employee engagement surveys are not box checking, they are there to provide an intense insight into what’s helping or hindering our employees’ engagement in order to make bold moves towards improvement. In fact, “Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business,” says Ian Hutchinson (Life & Work Engagement Strategist).

And it’s hard to disagree. Good surveys accurately zone in on the problems the company needs information about. And if a company is timing its employee engagement initiative to ensure high scores, such as after an annual bonus, it defeats the objective. Perhaps the best time to know who you are as a company, how you will grow and what overall employee engagement levels are is now – during and post pandemic.

Here we focus on four reasons project-based businesses should measure engagement for the purpose of improvement: namely, retaining and attracting the right talent; solving problems; ensuring continuous internal dialogue; and sharing insights transparently.

1. Retaining and Attracting the Right Talent

We have to start by asking questions. It’s crucial to gain insights on employees, so that we are able to understand their needs based on these findings and effectively engage and positively affect their long-term contributions.

An article by Consultancy UK some time back reported that, “A survey sent to 44,000 [of PWC’s] employees found that juniors valued two things: flexibility and leadership training. This spurred PwC into action, offering a flexible work program that allowed all employees (not just juniors) the ability to fit work into other commitments. A good work/life balance is valued by juniors, particularly the ability to travel or do further study. PwC’s program had a 90% uptake.”

And feedback like this will only become increasingly important in today’s workplace, with organisations needing to understand employee sentiment around areas such as remote/hybrid work, equity, inclusion and diversity, amongst other issues.

As the war on talent continues, organisations understand the need to focus in on this area. According to our Deltek Clarity study, one in four firms is focusing on attracting new talent.

The truth is, technology is crucial to attracting the best talent and ensuring they want to stay. Despite this, only 18% of firms we surveyed rate themselves as digitally mature today. Firms should be asking questions about how they can streamline work and offer technological solutions that alleviate pain points, increase productivity and, above all, make it easy for employees to engage. The on-boarding experience is crucial to this, clarifying why the business does what it does and providing a unique opportunity to define a sense of purpose and culture with new talent.

The results from engagement surveys should force companies into action, and signs of success often include an increase in employee engagement and a decline in attrition rates. In fact employees often become a powerful recruiting source themselves. Asking questions and taking on valid complaints can lead to important changes. A company that ignores this does so at their own risk.

2. Solving Issues

Conducting a survey implies that you are going to listen and take action. We want to send a clear message to our employees that we care about their opinions and that we are prepared to take action to engage and improve morale. These surveys should help us develop game plans for months to come, act as a point of reflection for senior management and provide tangible objectives for growth and change. Deloitte, for example, states that “organisations with highly engaged employees experienced a three-year revenue growth rate 2.3 times greater than average (20.1% growth vs. 8.9% growth)” and “organisations with engaged workers may have employees who are 57% more effective and 87% less likely to leave.”

Asking our employees questions creates a commitment from the company to listen and be transparent about where it is possible to follow through, solve issues, and improve the experience of working. And the statistics show that it can help to retain a high-performing workforce.

3. Continuous Internal Dialogue

Surveys give employees a chance to have a voice and feel heard. The primary goal of our engagement survey at Deltek, for example, is to secure feedback on processes that are impacting our team’s engagement with the organisation. We value our team’s performance and want them to be inspired and engaged, which means we have to know what is and isn’t working in other areas of their work/life balance.

McKinsey states that “Employees want flexibility, 64% prefer a hybrid model rather than fully onsite (17%) or completely remote (19%). Furthermore, 29% say they will look for a different job if required to return fully onsite.”

The only way to do this successfully is to maintain the internal dialogue and to be effective, this dialogue has to be authentic if employees are to feel valued. Companies are well aware of the difficulties of replacing talent, which is why forging the next normal ‘collectively’ will be paramount.

4. Sharing Insights Transparently

Transparency might seem like an odd priority since a lot of these surveys are meant to be confidential. However, at a time when we need it the most, this transparency can build trust and create a truly inclusive employee engagement action plan that communicates what our intentions are, how we plan to take action, and why some ideas may not be adopted.

At Deltek we often like to share results from our employee survey during regional meetings, and that includes any negative feedback, areas for improvement and a defined action plan. In fact, addressing shortcomings transparently as a business should be prioritised.

Employees need to be an active part of positive change-making. Of course, it isn’t an exact science and in these changing times transparency can feel difficult, especially around topics that haven’t been traditionally discussed. But the rewards extend beyond employee engagement.

Ultimately, project-based firms live and die by their people, and clients pay for talented people far more than other factors. Attracting the best talent and ensuring the best people stay requires us to understand what our employees really want – asking the right questions, listening and incorporating ideas from all colleagues.

The pandemic didn’t deal a knockout blow, and despite the twists and turns, we owe so much of our thanks to our people and their engagement. A meaningful shift towards understanding what our employees want will be necessary in the future and asking the right questions with an intent to take meaningful action is a good place to start.

Originally posted on on 17 August 2022.