It’s a long shared view that employee surveys – of many types – are a great way to gather employee sentiment and feedback on their experiences. Over the years, as the nature of work has shifted, so has our understanding of how to better assess and measure the employee experience at work.

From the early days of focusing on employee happiness and the subsequent shift to measuring employee job satisfaction and commitment, we now focus on the meta concept of employee engagement.

Employee engagement made its first appearance in William Kahn’s 1990 article in the Academy of Management. He described engagement as:

the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances.”

Drawing on even more recent research, our multifaceted approach to employee engagement and understanding its drivers, addresses a variety of dimensions that come together to impact engagement in the dynamic and ever-changing work environment.

We recommend assessing employee engagement along the following dimensions:

  • employees’ willingness to go beyond the status quo (Discretionary Effort)
  • emotional connection (Commitment to the Organization)
  • flight risk (Intent to Stay)
  • dedication to the work itself (Work Involvement)

Is an engagement survey enough?

Even with a more comprehensive outcome measure of employee sentiment, the question still begs, how do we understand the experiences that affect their engagement?  What are the right concepts to assess?

Research has shown time and time again that many of the leading indicators of engagement are company leadership, strategic alignment, collaboration, communication, among many others.

In order for companies to best understand these elements in their context, it’s essential to piece together the mosaic of employee experiences that occur at different stages in a person’s journey within the organization. These include onboarding, candidate experience, return from leave, and plenty of other moments not captured by a traditional annual or bi-annual engagement survey.

As such, to get a complete picture of the experience for your employees, it’s worth starting off with a few points along that journey and installing listening posts alongside your engagement surveys, so you can start to build a picture of which moments really matter and where you can make improvements to have the biggest impact on employee engagement.


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