How Can HR Use Engagement Surveys to Drive Business Performance?

Several companies invest thousands of dollars in running Employee Engagement surveys. Typically, they use the survey results to benchmark workplace experiences with other organizations,  determine enterprise-level priorities, drive key HR programs, set engagement-related KPIs, involve managers in the action planning process etc. But one of the key elements missing is how do we use these insights from the survey, fortify them and use them to really drive business performance. I often find that we miss connecting those critical dots. If HR has to ‘get a seat at the table’, then all it’s initiatives should link back to business performance, including employee engagement.

I could think of one potential approach, and it may be suitable to larger size organizations with a decent number of “units of analysis” i.e. bank branches, retail stores, production sites etc. If we have sufficient number of units to study, the first step would be to start linking the employee engagement survey data to business metrics. Think sales, profitability, productivity, employee attrition, customer survey scores, safety incidents, customer waiting time etc. Then you would need some analytical wizardry to examine how these metrics link to employee survey data. Do highly engaged bank branches have higher loan growth and higher net interest margin? Or do low engagement manufacturing plants showlow productivity as well? Or worse, the linkage is not meaningful or not strong enough (in which case you really need to go back to the drawing board to design a good survey). Such linkages help to establish the validity of your employee research frameworks and help create buy-in among the senior leadership team.

The next step is really to take it a notch further up. Based on the above linkage analysis, you would have identified your high / average / low performing units. Now, the way HR can really add value and improve business performance is by replicating the high performing units. How do you do that? Well, you try to examine what differentiates these high performing units from others. You could look at a range of variables for employees in these groups – age, tenure, experience, competencies, managerial practices – anything that can hypothetically differentiate performance. And yes, you could also connect it all back to the employee survey and see what issues are these “high engagement – high performance” units particularly satisfied on as compared to other units. Again, we are just looking for factors which can differentiate or even predict engagement and performance

Only when you have insights of this depth, then you could work out a plan for replicating such high-performance. Such insights can provide inputs into recruitment plans, talent management, rewards, training & development, career progression etc.  And all this will potentially have much more credibility since you have validated these against business outcomes.

What do you think? How are you using employee survey data to improve business performance? Drop in a line if you would like to discuss this in details.

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4 thoughts on “How Can HR Use Engagement Surveys to Drive Business Performance?

  1. Abhishek,
    A very thoughtful and insightful post this. This thought will make sure that our EE surveys move from being just a cosmetic feel good exercise, to exercises that will decisively impact business performance.
    It also is important for all of in HR to realize that EE is not just an add on, but a part of the overall ecosystem – EE is not a stand alone function, but ought to be an integrated part of every pillar of HR – be it talent acquisition, retention, performance management, compensation and benefits, L and D etc. EE is a derivative of the way every single HR program in all these facets is built/designed in organisations.
    Holistic EE, if we can use that term, is what is the need of the hour – and that is the only way there can be a semblance of linkage between EE and the performance metrics of the organisation.
    Thanks again for the insight.
    Murali

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