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How to measure employee experience and satisfaction

Employee surveys are a must-have, but you can find employee experience metrics in all sorts of places -- some right under your nose. Here are the best places to look.

After saying for decades that employees are their most important asset, companies are finally starting to show they mean it and measure employee experience and satisfaction.

Why the shift? Perhaps it's because many of the programs implemented in the past haven't helped with employee engagement, a key metric in any effort to measure employee experience. Or perhaps someone asked why organizations work so hard on customer experience but do so little to improve the experience of their employees.

Regardless of the reason, taking note of the importance of the employee experience and measuring outcomes can go a long way in helping an organization improve employee engagement, attract top talent, reduce turnover, increase profits and more.

The employee experience is a journey. Just as firms continuously try to improve the customer experience, the same is true for the employee experience. There is no end date. A company may have a great employee experience rating today, but if left unchecked, it has the potential to regress quickly.

What should you be measuring?

One of the best ways to ensure something meets expectations is to measure it. Knowing that people expect to see results also means a project can't fall by the wayside when things get busy.

Before you start to measure employee experience, you may want to consider your employee base and how they interact with all parts of your organization. If you have many roles that differ significantly, you may want to develop personas that will help you distinguish the employee experience based on each persona. For example, employees performing assembly line roles may have a very different employee experience and expectations than a director working in your head office.

You may want to use the employee lifecycle to look at the employee experience in more detail. This approach gives you a well-defined framework -- which you can augment with a tool called an employee journey map -- to categorize and analyze feedback. The following steps in the employee lifecycle may yield different but important feedback:

  • recruiting,
  • onboarding,
  • job responsibilities,
  • position changes (promotions, lateral moves),
  • leave (maternity/parental leave, sick leave),
  • learning and development,
  • performance management,
  • compensation planning and
  • termination, including post-employment.

Next, you want to plan how you will group the results so you can pinpoint areas of concern. According to author and futurist Jacob Morgan, there are three areas that greatly impact the employee experience.

  • The work environment, which includes the location of the office, amenities, office layout, an employee's desk or workspace, ergonomics and so on.
  • The company culture or how things are done in the organization. The common types of corporate culture are hierarchical, learning and collaborative.
  • The technology made available to employees. This may be PCs, an HR system and applications employees use to perform their day-to-day responsibilities.

With these three areas in mind, you can capture feedback throughout the employee lifecycle and categorize the responses. It's important to note that while some feedback may be consistent across an employee's lifecycle, there is a strong possibility it will change over time. This may be caused by changes implemented throughout their tenure or because of the different work environments within your organization. For example, you may think your company culture is consistent across the organization, but this is not always the case. Offices in various locations or countries may have a different culture based on management at that site or local laws that impact an employee's working relationship with the organization.

Sources of data to measure employee experience
The data needed to fully capture and evaluate the employee experience must be gathered from several sources, including systems that weren't designed for the purpose.

Ways to measure the employee experience

Measuring the employee experience correctly means gathering feedback on a regular basis -- and from multiple sources -- so you can respond to issues in a timely manner. Here are five ways to gather input.

  1. Send out employee surveys. Long surveys with hundreds of questions or short pulse surveys are a great way to capture employee feedback. Multiple-choice questions make the analysis quicker, but including some open-ended questions allows employees to provide candid anonymous feedback that might highlight trends you are not aware of.
  2. Analyze workspace data. Your organization may offer a multitude of perks, such as a game room, but unless they are used, they may not be contributing to a positive employee experience. For example, if employees must use a pass to access a room, you can measure how often the room is used. It's important to note that low uptake of these items may not mean they are not valued -- employees may simply not know they are available.
  3. Compare your company to others. You can use public information, such as awards and corporate blogs, to compare your organization to competitors and others of similar size and scope. Some survey vendors will compare your results to that of other respondents, providing a benchmark against which to measure your organization.
  4. Examine data from internal business processes. Taking advantage of data captured internally can yield great insight. The following data points are examples of information that can provide some understanding of the employee experience and how employees feel about the company.
    • Employee referrals. Employees will rarely refer friends and family to an organization if they don't like working there. If you see a sudden drop in referrals, it can signal a change in employee sentiment.
    • Turnover. Employee turnover happens in all companies. While some turnover is healthy, if the rate is high or at least higher than at peer organizations, it may point to issues with the employee experience.
    • Attendance records. Absenteeism, widespread use of sick days and late arrivals can indicate unengaged employees.
    • Promotions and lateral moves. Companies that promote from within and offer employees the opportunity for growth will often have a more engaged workforce.
  1. Gather in-person feedback. While it's not a quantitative approach, in-person feedback can be helpful in getting a pulse on how employees feel. To ensure honest feedback, consider using a third party that will not dismiss or be offended by criticism. Feedback should remain confidential and not be used to punish employees or you will find that people are no longer willing to participate.

Determining the overall satisfaction of your employees

You can use both quantitative and qualitative data to gauge employee satisfaction. However, it is important to note that not all employees will have comparable ideas of what constitutes satisfaction. For example, a manager's performance management approach may be valued by some employees and not others. Achieving a 100% employee engagement score -- a metric that correlates closely with employee satisfaction -- may be only an aspirational goal.

Some vendors sell employee engagement surveys that offer the added benefit of comparing your organization's results to others. Such comparisons can be useful in benchmarking your company, since a standalone score is not especially helpful. It's also important to have the context behind the scoring. For example, a score of 70% might indicate a top-performing company, but without the context, the company might appear to be only slightly above average.

Qualitative data can also yield significant insight. For example, open-ended employee engagement survey questions, intranet posts, one-on-one discussions and group meetings can all provide valuable data. Getting employee feedback from all departments, locations and countries is also important. As an organization, you want to capture an overall positive employee satisfaction rating regardless of employees' roles and locations.

Next steps

If your organization has not begun to measure employee experience, you may want to start by emphasizing the importance of the employee experience within your organization. Getting buy-in from the CEO and other C-level leaders will help get the project underway with the necessary funding and support. For the program to be successful, it must be clear to all involved that it is not a one-year project with a distinct start and end date, but rather an ongoing process.

As you begin to identify issues, you'll want to methodically add new programs and perks to improve your employee engagement score. Changes you implement should align with your organization's culture. This will not only reinforce the culture you want, but provide direction on the types of programs to implement.

When considering changes, you might benefit from design thinking, where you take a deep look at an issue and come up with solutions that best address the problems identified by employees. For example, if employees have complaints about the workspace, it may be worth re-examining workplace design before making changes. For other issues, you may have to take a holistic approach to determine the right path forward. In some cases, small changes here and there will not be sufficient to produce the desired results over the long term. In the end, the goal is to address the issues, improve employee experience and engagement, and ensure that any money spent will provide the best return on investment.

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