Employer enthusiasm for surveys is easy to understand, as a highly motivated workforce is seen as a secret ingredient for business success (theoretically at least).
Employee engagement has been shown to have a statistically significant relationship with:
- Worker retention;
- Safety; and
- Customer satisfaction.
However, surveys, generally, show that businesses mostly fail to motivate the majority of their workers. For example, a Gallup survey in 2018 found that, on average, only 15% of workers around the world felt fully engaged with their jobs, although the US was doing better than most with a 34% level of engagement, compared to 10% in western Europe. This would suggest that many employees feel they are stuck in dead-end, or non-motivating, jobs.
It can be argued that having workers who care about what they do rather than going through the motions is even more important in a modern, service-based economy than in a manufacturing-driven one like, for example, the UK.
Businesses now, generally, automate repetitive tasks and, as such, service workers need to be flexible and creative, particularly when responding to customers’ desires. Both theory and anecdote suggest that the more content and committed workers are, the better they will perform.
Important factors in contemporary employee engagement include:
- Whether employees understand what is expected of them;
- That feel they are surrounded by supportive colleagues; and
- Believe they will be recognised when they perform well.
As well as gauging overall morale, many businesses use surveys to test the impact of group initiatives or to see if individual divisions show signs of staff disenchantment.
However, having a survey is no good if the business does not scrutinise the results and then do something about it. For example, results from a survey could show that workers find newly appointed managers are poor. A consequence could be to revamp/improve training for managers and then see how the survey results change.
Businesses that put in the effort with employee engagement, i.e. keeping them happy, may not need to conduct surveys as they will likely get good/positive results. In contrast, less attentive businesses may need to conduct surveys to tell them where and how they are ‘going wrong’.
As some like to say “If you don’t measure it, you can’t fix it.”