Employee engagement is the new currency in HR

Employee surveys and people analytics provide the meaningful feedback organisations need to improve staff engagement

From the United States to the UK, Germany to Japan, many economies are now buoyed by record-high numbers of people in work. With those unemployed bobbing at around 4 per cent of the UK population, you have to go as far back as 1975 to witness this. The US is posting similar rates, so are some other G20 economies. Talent is a scarce commodity with businesses competing for workers.

“Staff retention has never been more crucial and employee engagement is essential for retention of top talent, as well as the success of a whole organisation,” says Sarah Johnson, vice president of enterprise surveys and analytics at Perceptyx. “Companies must do more than measure engagement; they need to create an engaging work environment. It is a new business imperative for all levels of management.”

With record low unemployment, workers have more choice in where they work. They don’t have to tolerate poor working conditions. They want more meaningful jobs and increasingly require a flexible, employee-centric work environment.

This is something companies are starting to develop, learn about and calibrate. Employee wellbeing is on the minds of many managers. Yet there’s no doubt that building a highly engaged workforce is tough. Feedback is essential and knowing what and how your staff really think is important.

“At this point in the global economic cycle, listening to employees is critical. But it can’t stop at just listening. Companies need to take action based on employee feedback,” says Dr Johnson, whose company provides the employee survey and people analytics platform to the likes of Microsoft, Standard Chartered Bank, 21st Century Fox, Hitachi Global, Nike, and P&G.

“Organisations have struggled to quantify the real value of human resources until fairly recently. Now we have better analytics that show how employees’ work experiences impact the bottom line. We can make good data-based decisions about people. We no longer have to go with our gut. Analytics tools are now in the hands of many HR users, allowing us to provide real insight for business decision-makers.”

Companies must do more than measure engagement; they need to create an engaging work environment. It’s a new business imperative for  all levels of management

Long gone are the days of cumbersome paper surveys. Companies can now get real-time results from user-friendly polls conducted on any device, at any time. Interactive and customised, employees can be deeply engaged with the survey process. It also provides companies with much more useful and meaningful results. Advances in survey technology have enabled corporations to spark change.

“Right now, we are talking about the democratisation of insights. You used to need seasoned professionals and academics to interpret the data. Today, any human resources professional can analyse and understand the relationship between survey results, human resource management system data and business metrics with the right tools,” says Dr Johnson, adding that her company has surveyed millions of employees in more than 80 languages and 90 countries worldwide.

“Even employees are being sent survey data reports, bypassing managers. All this enhances the opportunity for organisations to evolve. Everyone can take action with the data.”

Facilitating organisational change through the strategic use of employee surveys is no easy task, especially across widely distributed companies that have unique cultures and branding, as well as complex hierarchies in multiple countries. It’s why Perceptyx has invested heavily in both technology and consulting, in a bid to facilitate real transformations within corporations.

“You cannot solve human resource and engagement issues with off-the-shelf solutions. One size never fits all. It’s about collaborating with companies and aligning surveys with strategic objectives. We work with clients to design their surveys end to end. We also append other types of data, including business performance metrics, and sales and customer satisfaction scores, and analyse qualitative information via sentiment analysis and word clouds,” says Dr Johnson, whose firm has now opened offices in London and Amsterdam following San Diego and Lincoln, Nebraska in the US.

“People ask me what is the best time to do an engagement survey. I say it’s when things need to change and when leaders need honest feedback. Staff often shy away from telling the CEO and managers the ugly truth. That’s when there is value in working with a third party to give an independent assessment on the current situation.”

One company Perceptyx worked with had an issue with employee stress and wanted to find the root cause. Through careful survey analysis, it was determined that senior leadership was a large part of the problem. Bosses would create inadequate work streams or command staff to work on projects without notice.

“Engagement scores mean nothing in isolation. The value of the survey is to think about HR and the organisation holistically, as well as what workplace elements are engaging or disengaging for employees,” says Dr Johnson. “Understanding the ‘why’ of engagement is essential. Why is a corporation the way it is and what can we do to change the working environment?

“The ability to identify and contrast the perspectives of engaged and disengaged groups sets Perceptyx apart. We always look at the engagement equation. We are also able to scale up surveys from 200 to more than 400,000 employees in any number of locations. For the last 15 years, we’ve helped hundreds of the world’s largest and most complex organisations to listen to their workers.” Perceptyx is the people analytics and global survey provider to more than 20 per cent of Fortune 100 companies.

There are new frontiers for the employee survey process. Companies such as Perceptyx now leverage machine-learning and artificial neural networks to highlight issues within companies. These new tools enable HR managers to mine large, complex datasets quickly and identify risks at any level within a corporation. Employee surveys have certainly come a long way.

For more information please visit www.perceptyx.com