Want Engaged Staff? Here’s How…

Friday, September 21, 2018

How do you discover the root cause of a disengaged workforce and quickly improve it?


You hire the best staff. After weeks of checking CVs and scouring LinkedIn, your HR team arrange a series of interviews and from here you make job offers to the very best people from the hundreds of applications you have received, knowing the right staff will take your business to the next level.

First impressions? You are not disappointed – the new staff are enthusiastic, deliver results and are looking to innovate; great news for your business.

But six months on you look round the room and see unhappy faces, heads are hung and productivity is falling.

When you question staff around their mood, they claim to be fine, but it’s obvious they are uneasy expressing their concerns. Keeping staff engaged is challenging with limited time to spend with each member of staff and without staff feedback, you are unlikely to know the changes your company culture needs, or you’d have made them already.

Sound familiar?

Without a platform to confidently raise issues, staff are missing out on the smaller adjustments that could make their work experience great. Minor changes to working hours, more regular one to one meetings, and time spent on training can turn a despondent worker into the most vibrant member of their team; but you need to find a way to understand their needs first.

Information is power – but many businesses are powerless

There are two ways most businesses try to get a view of their staff: Annual performance reviews and formulaic third-party surveys.

The problem with annual performance reviews

Annual and six-monthly performance reviews are dated platforms for staff feedback. The focus in these meetings is generally ‘have you met all your targets’ and with staff justifying any missed goals while under pressure, the atmosphere does not lend well to an honest dialogue.

This is the biggest employee engagement challenge for your business: Getting honest feedback, from employees who fear the repercussions of speaking up.

The challenge of third-party surveys

This is the reason for the second method – the annual feedback survey. As dull as the title suggests, these third party surveys are generally ‘one size fits all’ questionnaires which ask standard questions that could apply to any business and do not excite your staff or speak to them individually.

Add to this the lack of trust in how ‘anonymous’ the surveys are and you are just giving your staff an extra task to complete, rather than a platform to shout from.

With unhappy, unengaged staff; time is not on your side. While you are waiting for the results of an annual survey, or while staff wait for appraisal season, employees are leaving, often without companies knowing what caused the departures.

How to build surveys to give employees a platform to shout from

There is a better way to approach surveys – after all, they are still important. The negativity around annual surveys doesn’t mean you need to avoid them, it just means the survey format isn’t quite right.

Surveys work best when they are customized to suit your staff, and offer greater value when linked with your company HR package. The data from your surveys can be used as comparative data to give insights into your staff, from retention to forward planning. You can then always know what’s going on in your business through automatic reporting, which means you can make informed decisions about your business.

Creating a data picture of your business using in-house software is cost effective and the results are easy to digest. Right at your fingertips are all the stats, graphs and detailed information any modern business needs to stay competitive.

Having everything in-house means you are an HR company, Analytics Company and staff-training provider all rolled into one. You don’t just have data in an instant; the combination of daily statistics and survey results create an accurate view of your business year on year.

How to craft company culture and create continuity

There are good survey companies out there, but gathering your own information internally puts the focus on data quality, not the method of collection.

As good as surveys are, they should be just one component of a wider data strategy, which is crucial for forward planning. Surveys help to identify staff dissatisfaction and allow businesses to make changes which equals better retention. Happy staff who stay put are vital to your company culture, and if staff turnover is high, you can’t plan for the future. By having information on your staff, you are given an almost psychic ability to plan for change, and ensure business continuity.

This data collected by your surveys is a reliable way of tying information to your records, so the data is high quality and has a practical application. By watching how changes you make based on the findings of your surveys improve your workplace, it is possible to create the company culture you want by asking increasingly more informed questions, which reflect the mood of your workforce at a given time.

Survey builders: what are the facts?

Surveying staff is the clear choice for understanding your workforce, and a survey builder is the best way to achieve that. Here’s a recap of the key benefits:

  • Offers a flexible approach to employee engagement and gathering information.
  • Purchasing a survey builder gives the benefits of a third-party survey, but with more flexibility.
  • More likely to build satisfaction as managers get feedback throughout the year.
  • Customizable surveys will suit the specific needs of departments or demographics, including country specific data if you have offshore workers.
  • Answers relate to the feelings and experiences of employees, rather than the unimaginative yes/no or satisfied/dissatisfied answers, so often found in standardized surveys.
  • Surveys can be created as specific ‘types’. Like a basic satisfaction survey, a survey around company culture or one on company benefits; giving an accurate overview of what your staff want from their jobs.
  • Time-specific surveys can be aimed at new hires, or staff departing the company, to show if and how expectations have been met. Ideally your business will conduct more interviews for new hires than departing staff, so by conducting regular ‘pulse’ surveys, staff satisfaction can be ensured.
  • Using surveys to engage staff displays your willingness to listen to them and improve culture, based on the reality of staff needs.

Historically, staff engagement has been low year after year and staff have completed surveys as they have to, without seeing the real benefit.

This looks set to change though, as with custom surveys which add data to an integrated system, trends can be identified throughout the year and if you still want to run an annual survey, it will be easier to decide what to ask, maximizing the benefits.

Creating your data in-house means being compliant with data protection laws too and better understanding what data you have as it is not as likely to be passed between companies.

Author: Asimina Stamatiou is a Senior Business Analyst and Employee Engagement Expert at MHR, who is passionate about shaping the future of work by ensuring employee engagement is at its core. A key member of the Product Team, Asimina is responsible for researching, recommending and specifying the development of new and existing employee engagement solutions as part of MHR’s market leading iTrent solution.


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