A New World of Tools for Measuring Employee Engagement

By Josh Bersin Jun 2, 2016
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While more than two-thirds of all organizations conduct annual employee engagement surveys, according to Deloitte data, it has now become clear that we need a new approach. 

These surveys are expensive to run, the data collected rapidly goes out of date, the results are hard to understand and managers rarely know how to take action on the findings. And to make it even worse, we often run into companies with “high engagement scores” and “low performance teams,” indicating that the traditional engagement models don’t even measure what matters to employees today.

But this world is changing.

Our new research, Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2016, indicates that almost 20 percent of companies are now experimenting with pulse surveys and open feedback tools, and our conversations show this market is going through a radical change.

The new solutions often come in the form of mobile apps and social tools that let employees see each other’s opinions, vote and comment on each other’s ideas, and freely share their own ideas.

I see this new world as the emergence of an “employee listening platform,” which includes information from surveys, comments, exit interviews and even ongoing performance discussions. We in HR have to realize that our job of understanding employees is just as complex and multifaceted as the job of marketing to understand customers. And the value of the information we obtain is high: We can learn how to run our businesses better, as well as how to better coach and develop leaders, and we can get direct insights into the benefits and employee rewards systems people care about.

The marketplace for these tools is on fire. Our most recent research identified more than 80 different vendors, ranging from always-on pulse surveys to feedback-based performance management systems to social recognition platforms. In fact, I’d venture to say that almost every HR software vendor (including ADP, Oracle, SAP and Workday) is likely to add such technology to its platform within the next few years.

What does this mean to you, the HR professional? 

  • First, your engagement team has to broaden its thinking. Team members should explore this new market, select a new set of tools and start reaching out to employees on a much more regular basis.
  • Second, it’s time to provide feedback directly to line managers. It’s no longer enough to run the survey in HR, spend months analyzing data and then show the results to your executives. Employee feedback has to flow to managers directly, and your job is to make sure the process works and that the data collected is fair and accurate. 
  • Third, you now have to increase your investment in analytics and measurement skills. With all the employee data you’re going to receive (from surveys to comments to suggestions), you need someone who likes to analyze data, look at the relationship between employee feedback and other data, and monitor feedback for performance improvement, legal and other business issues.

I think this new world of “employee listening” may be one of the most important and exciting things happening in HR today. Put this on your to-do list and you’ll be amazed at how you can learn things about your organization that you never knew before.

Josh Bersin is founder and principal of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, a leading research and advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, talent, learning, and the intersection between work and life. He is a published author on the Forbes website; is a LinkedIn Influencer; has been quoted by Bloomberg, NPR and The Wall Street Journal; and speaks at industry conferences and to corporate HR departments around the world. Contact him on Twitter @josh_bersin and read his blog http://www.bersin.com/Blog/.

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