How wonderfully simple HR teams’ jobs would be if employee engagement was measured by a single metric. Engagement surveys would take minutes, the reporting would be done the next day and company leaders would easily be able to digest the results.

Unfortunately, as any HR professional will know, it’s just not that simple.

Looking at our latest data for State of Play, our bi-annual report into employee engagement for 6,000 workers around the world, it’s clear that there’s no one ‘perfect’ measure of engagement.

In our study we ask a number of different questions to understand the employee experience, including:

  • How satisfied are you in your current role?
  • How likely are you to recommend working at your current employer to family and friends
  • When you wake up in the morning, how often do you look forward to going to work?
  • How likely are you to continue working at your current company for at least the next 2 years?

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On the face of it, each one can give you an idea of how happy your workforce is. If a large proportion of people are looking to leave, that’s surely a sign they’re unhappy. Or if more employees look forward to going to work in the morning, then surely you’re doing something right?

Each metric on its own can be a leading indicator, but certainly not a measure of engagement. We just need to look at some of our latest data to see how employers need to consider a range of metrics when looking to assess and benchmark the overall employee experience.

When we look at our data by sector for example, Travel and Leisure is way out in front on the first question – 72% of workers in this sector say they’re currently satisfied in their role (that’s 10 points above the global average).

But go to the next question and Travel and Leisure sits mid-table with 20% of employees saying they ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ will leave their jobs in the next two years somewhat surprising for a sector that has sky-high satisfaction scores.

Similarly, when we look at public sector workers, they’re the least motivated to go to work in the morning, yet when it comes to retention, the sector performs strongly with just 15% saying they intend to leave — well below the average of 20%.

Looking only at the attrition metric, you’d think public sector workers are happy, but when other metrics come into play, it’s clear it’s not that straightforward. In fact, the public sector tends to have a low attrition rate even when other measures like satisfaction fall, because those roles tend to have unique benefits which tend to keep people in their jobs longer than in other sectors.

How is employee engagement really calculated?

For a truly accurate measure of engagement, you need to combine 3 main areas:

  • Organizational commitment
  • Job involvement
  • Satisfaction

Each one measures a different aspect of engagement and when brought together they provide a more complete picture of how engaged employees are at work.

A robust employee engagement software and model need to include items that measure each one of the above and when looking to benchmark engagement, you need to view them as one, rather than looking to optimize just a single measure.

Alongside those measures, an employee engagement survey also needs to include ‘driver’ questions — for example, ‘How consistently does your manager acknowledge you for good work?’ or ‘How much do you trust the people on your team?’. These questions go hand in hand with your measurement items so when it comes to the analysis, you can drill down to find the key drivers and see where you need to make improvements in order to improve the employee experience.

Download our employee engagement survey template


See the full employee engagement report

View the results