5 ways to measure and improve employee engagement.
Regardless of your industry or where your company is on your digital transformation journey, your organization needs high employee engagement to deliver the results your customers desire and deserve.
In this post, I’m going to focus in a bit on one of my favorite techniques as a hiring manager for measuring and managing employee engagement. I believe there are five things everyone assesses, every day, about their job—whether thoughtfully or subconsciously—to decide if they are happy, content, and engaged at work:
1. Compensation (salary, benefits, intangibles like appreciation or recognition)
At the end of the day, there are few people on Planet Earth that wake up saying “I don’t even care if they pay me anymore—I just gotta go to work!” Rather, I’ve found that people have a strong internal sense of what they’re worth—and they almost intuitively know if they’re making more or less than what they should be.
There’s a crucial tipping point where someone believes that they’re making enough to satisfy their internal sense of worth—and at that point, compensation no longer takes up a big chunk of mental bandwidth during the day.
We’ve all been at jobs where we didn’t feel like we were making enough to make ends meet, or like we were compensated fairly. That’s a huge distraction.
My job as the hiring manager is to recognize whether this is an issue for employees or candidates, and figure out if I’ll be able to provide a compensation that will satisfy a person’s assessment of self worth.
With this distraction gone, my direct reports can focus instead on doing an awesome job, improving their performance, and positively impacting our company culture.
With life comes change, however, and compensation needs change. I don’t want my people to dread having to talk to me about asking for a raise.
Pulsing them about their compensation lets me stay ahead of that curve.
If they’re starting to feel under-compensated or if their life situation has changed to where they’re starting to struggle—that can be really embarrassing or difficult to tease out.
Asking often, and building trust and credibility so that they’ll open up, can provide invaluable insights into how I can serve them better, or help me recognize the risk of them leaving before it’s too late—and potentially avoid losing valuable talent.
2. What you do minute-to-minute, day-to-day
If you’re in a role where you’re bored in the moment, and that’s the usual, then you’re not long for the job.
Work is work, and that means there’s parts we don’t like. But that’s not what the majority of your daily experience at work should feel like.
I want to find people who understand the job I need done, have a personality that causes them to fit well with that job, get in the zone with that job, and be passionate in that job.
So, I ask my team members about how that’s going. I get a sense of what they enjoy about the work. Hate about the work. Feel “meh” about the work.
I can get lots of valuable insights about where they’re headed career-wise from these conversations, as well as see demotivators or friction points coming down the path, and take steps to mitigate or prevent them in advance.
I also get a chance to provide some coaching and explore room for improvement—as well as lavish compliments and appreciation where they’re due.
I think people like to see their boss pay attention to the little details. By having these talks, I get a chance to “go to the work,” something I’ve previously written about here.
3. Who you work for and with (colleagues, boss, department, company, industry)
This is a huge factor (probably 50-60%) of what will make or break a job for someone. People can love what they do, but if they hate who they do it with, they will move on.
I like to go through each area, starting with me. I want an employee’s honest feedback about how I’m doing serving them, and how I can improve.
With time, and by intentionally building credibility and trust, they won’t hold back to tell me what I’m getting right (so I can keep doing that) and what I’m getting wrong.
I need that.
There’s only so much I can control, and my people are the best source of ammo to manage up as I share what’s impacting our team’s performance, and asking for support up the chain of command.
So I move up the line and get their feedback about my boss, our department, our company, the industry. Each of these areas opens up a window for insight.
This also provides me the opportunity to help my leadership emphasize messaging or more clearly communicate organizational objectives—and provide feedback to leadership about what’s resonating and what’s not.
4. How do you see your career in five years because of this job?
Here’s where things get interesting. Talent retention means taking the longer view—and it’s shocking how few people say their boss has intentional conversations with them focused on their career future.
I want to be clear with a talented team member that I want them to stay as long as it’s a great and mutual fit! I value them on the team, need their contributions on the team, and want to see them grow.
But I don’t want to hold anyone hostage. I don’t want to take employees for granted.
Talking about five years from now makes it clear that:
- There is a five years from now
- Those five years could be here or somewhere else,
- What an employee does right now, and what we do together, will impact their career five years from now.
Asking this question provides a fantastic opportunity to provide career advice, identify opportunities for professional development, and discover their ambitions and goals for growth.
5. How do you see the rest of your life right now because of this job?
You can’t expect someone to leave the rest of their life at the door.
People work to live the rest of their life, and not the other way around (at least, not in a healthy paradigm). Work is a crucial part of life, but it is only a part of life.
Understanding and showing care for a person’s life outside of or impacted by work is important to building credibility, trust, and investment in a person’s life.
When people know you care about what’s going on with what they care about, it’s another credibility boost because we’re both acknowledging what’s most important to the employee—the rest of their life, and how this job affects that.
Taking it into the real world.
I can’t take credit for all of these ideas. There are some former bosses or leaders I’ve observed and learned from, and these insights have been helpful tools for me.
I’ve learned not just to be more thoughtful in my own career, but I also use these principles as the starting point of any serious hiring conversation, and continue to have conversations with the people on my team.
In fact, I like to bring up this list of five about once a quarter with each person during one-on-one check-ins, and make sure I’m in touch with their own assessments.
Here’s how I use it:
Build trust in the conversation.
Conversations like these are best in a one-on-one setting. That’s where you’re going to get the most transparency.
I usually start by providing a quick preview of “the five things.” This sets the tone and gets us into the right mindset.
Then, I actually start from number five (how work affects the rest of your life), and work my way back to number one (compensation). This is important for a number of reasons.
First, following this path helps establish care and credibility. I’m starting with what’s most important to the employee, or to any human—the rest of their life, right now, and how this job affects or enables the rest of that life.
Second, this path provides a logical progression to reality:
How we evaluate the rest of our life right now, because of our job (hint: number five), will affect how we’ll desire to see ourselves in the future five years from now (hint: number four).
Additionally, we often decide where we want ourselves to be by observing others. We often discover who we find ourselves attracted to (or repelled by) through our daily interactions with coworkers, leadership, and organizations (hint: #3).
It’s often said that who you are is the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, and so who you work with and for will dramatically affect what you do minute-to-minute, day-to-day (hint: #2).
And that’s important because what you do every day produces the results that can be measured by you, and those around you, to affect an assessment of what value you bring, which is clearly measured by your compensation (hint: #1).
Remember—compensation is not just your pay, but the way people recognize you for what you bring to the table, the results you produce, and the organizational outcomes you influence. At some point (and this has been proven even in studies of hyper-wealthy individuals), money and other forms of compensation are just a measure of value and putting points on the board.
Create a way to measure your findings.
I establish a grade scale of 1 (i.e., “I couldn’t fathom this being any worse”) to 5 (i.e.,”It’s hard to see how it could get any more fantastic”) and ask the employee to assign a number grade to each section that we talk about.
Me: “Your compensation: that means, your pay, your benefits, the compliments you get from others, the recognition publicly you get for your work, your reputation bumps in a community of your peers, etc…”
Her: “Umm… 4 and a half?”
Me: “Tell me more!”
And a meaningful conversation ensues…
I keep mental track of each grade and the reasons why, and then I average them out, paying particular attention to the highest and lowest grade.
In general, I have found that if the average score is:
4-5: This is an engaged employee who will probably stay on my team, unless a tremendous new opportunity they can’t pass up presents itself.
3: This is someone who is probably only partially engaged, and probably at least passively looking out for other jobs, and would be open to a job change in the next 18 months or less if things don’t improve.
1-2: this is someone who probably isn’t engaged, is actively looking for a new job, and is likely to leave inside of the next six months or less (by their choice or mine as the hiring manager). I want to identify and focus on what needs to change, or if it’s possible at all to change those grades… and fast!
At the end of the day, business success is really about employee engagement.
That’s not just fancy corporate speak—it’s a reality of whether or not you’ll have high performing team members and a positive culture that thrives and builds a team reputation that people want to join.
As a hiring manager, it’s my job as a servant-leader to tune in and stay focused on where each of my people are in their personal career journey, and discover ways to harness their personal assessment and motivations for performance and results.
Focusing on “the five things” has been a wonderful tool that helps me stay connected with my team, and helps me discover the best ways I can support their success, and ultimately our organization’s success.
If you have a tool like this that you use to serve your team or foster strong employee engagement, I’d love to hear it!