Employee Engagement: Can Data Save Your Organization?

This blog post was co-written by: Lars Schmidt of Amplify TalentAs the economy continued to tank in 2011 and 2012, employee engagement dropped with it. Down economies often impact organizational loyalty in a negative way and Mercer’s 2012 report confirms that. According to the report, 24% of organizations are reporting lowered engagement up from 13% just two years ago. And while organizations continue to invest in employee engagement, or some form of loyalty strengthening activities, popular HR analysts and bloggers are challenging the notion of engagement score value.

Companies do care about employee feedback: 96% of Fortune 100 companies and 65% of mid-sized companies use some sort of employee survey. But is fighting for increased engagement scores a good use of executive time and attention? And are increased scores really that valuable to your business?It’s data that’s valuable. But it has to be the right data. Data that provides insight. Data that’s proactive. Imagine if you had a sense of when your best talent was restless and contemplating leaving – Turnover, particular involving key talent, costs employers billions of dollars every year. There are a variety of ways to consider and calculate the costs – recruiting fees, training/onboarding, lost productivity, hidden costs, burnout – it’s a cyclical problem that many organizations face.

The HR profession’s answer to this challenge hasn’t changed much over the years. We create annual employee surveys and performance reviews to measure individual performance and collective themes and trends across our workforce. These procedures are often ridiculed by staff as a ‘check the box’ exercise, and in many organizations are meaningless unless truly championed by leadership and bought into by the organization.

There are exceptions of course. Organizations that are truly performance-driven are often successful because they have leaders and line managers that are constantly checking in on their teams, identifying and addressing challenges and celebrating wins as they happen, using incentives, and openly and honestly confronting challenges head-on.

So why is it that the HR community has seemed to settle on an annual or bi-annual assessment? A great deal can change in a year. The world of work has evolved. The goal for many employees is no longer 20 years of service and a nice watch, particularly for Gen Y talent. Employees want to be challenged and make an impact. They want to be recognized – and they’re less likely to hold onto a job where they don’t feel satisfied, and job dissatisfaction costs companies talent.In today’s workforce where job mobility is becoming the norm, it’s even more important for organizations and leaders to regularly assess the mood and culture of their organization, and take steps to address issues before those issues send talent out the door. The problem is, reactivity is a hallmark of old-school HR organizations. They use exit interview to assess talent misses and performance reviews to address issues that have already been festering for 12 months. And by the time the leadership team has enough meetings and gets enough buy-in to act, the issues could be years old.

That’s why we were interested in taking a look at a new tool focused on real-time, proactive data: Tiny Pulse, the latest creation of serial entrepreneur –David Niu.

The premise is pretty straight-forward. You create an account and answer some baseline questions related to how you feel about and inside your workplace. Then you invite your employees to join. They create a profile and begin receiving weekly ‘pulse check’ surveys where they answer the same question and have an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback. Then employees begin receiving weekly TINYpulses with just one culture or performance related question each time. TINYpulse's questions vary from "On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?" to "What drives you crazy here and decreases your productivity?" Employees can also provide 'virtual suggestions' in their weekly surveys, essentially creating a virtual suggestion box for employee feedback

The administrator views all of the anonymous feedback, as well as week-over-week trends in answers in a reporting dashboard. This repetition of questions, along with the stock monthly question ‘How happy are you?’ allows the admin to identify trends and potential trouble spots early. Like many engagement surveys, you can also benchmark your performance against other companies using the same questions. You can also publicly recognize colleagues through the “cheers” function.There are some limitations--at this time you’re not able to create your own questions, which may be a limiting factor if you’re looking to gather feedback trends in specific areas or known trouble spots for your organization. But Tiny Pulse is an intriguing platform that represents new approach to the outdated annual employee survey.

Regardless of the tools used, the question hinges back to the importance of data. Proactive feedback represents a fundamental shift in assessing employee morale and feedback early and often.

Think about it like this: the FAA grounded the Boeing Dreamliners after several major incidents from Boston to Japan. A reactive review is taking place before they’ll be allowed to fly again. Imagine if regular data was collected on performance at every step along the way from design to development to launch. Could the incidents have been prevented? Maybe.

The idea is we’re a reactive society. We say we care about feedback and engagement but we rarely take action unless it’s reaction. With proactive feedback, you can identify triggers to potential issues before they happen. And address them in advance. Think that would engage your workforce? You bet.

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