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Why the “Worst” Time is Often the Best Time to Measure Employee Engagement


Often, when talking to chief people officers and executives, our team has conversations that go a little something like this:

Emplify: Have you thought about what it will take to measure employee engagement?

Executive: Oh, I can’t even begin to think about engagement right now. I have so many fires to put out first. But eventually, when things are running a little more smoothly, we’ll start to look into it.

These conversations never cease to intrigue us.

It’s when an organization is in the midst of fighting ferocious flames that the company needs employee engagement the most. In fact, had measuring engagement already been a top priority, those fires may never have kindled in the first place.

This is why we encourage virtually every company, no matter the situation, to begin measuring employee engagement right now — before it’s too late. Whether you’re bringing in new leaders, merging teams, or simply being chased by more fires than you can count, engagement data can help you get right to the root of any problems.

Why success now hinges on engagement

We all know what happens when a company goes into culture shock. Morale goes down. Turnover goes up. Leadership is at a loss when determining exactly what’s going wrong — and what to do about it.

Often, it’s not until a business begins to bleed its most valuable employees that executives decide it’s time to dig in and discover the root cause once and for all.

By then, it’s too late to go back and fix the biggest problem. Once the symptoms have blown up into something as significant as a mass exodus, engagement issues have been building up for months or years.

But measure engagement early and often, and many of the most egregious issues can be quickly corrected or even avoided altogether.

What happens when you begin to measure engagement

To see what I mean, consider the case of T-H Marine. Not long ago, the company suddenly started getting resignations from long-term employees. Tensions were mounting, departments were becoming siloed, and employees were struggling with misunderstandings and a lack of teamwork.

Leadership was working hard to put out fires and figure out what was going wrong — but were mostly flying blind. At one point, executives decided to give employee engagement measurement a try. Once they did, it quickly became evident that staff simply needed more support. Many struggles could be traced back to the fact that employees often lacked the resources they needed to be productive.

Changes were put in place immediately. Within a matter of months, trust was up and the company had increased production capacity to an astounding $3.8 million.

Fire extinguished.

We’ve seen similar stories play out in all kinds of industries and companies. Each time, we hear the same thing: Until the organization started measuring engagement, they couldn’t figure out what was causing problems or determine how to fix issues.

Based on our experiences with tens of thousands of employees, we’ve identified three telltale signs that a company may be overdue to measure engagement.

1. You’re struggling through an acquisition or merger.

Any time two or more companies come together, the risk for culture clash is high. Even the employee who’s always been highly engaged can start to experience problems when suddenly thrust into an environment where different dynamics and values are at play.

Whether leadership is aware of it or not, trigger events like these can cause valuable employees to have irrational fears of losing jobs, or to be overburdened by new levels of increased work.

You might know how important these people are. But circumstances can cause them to doubt their standing within the organization as it changes. Unless you’re constantly gathering feedback throughout each stage of the transition, you’ll never know where things really stand.

2. Turnover is on the rise.

Retention can become an issue any time expectations aren’t being met. Sometimes, it’s a response to poor management. Other times, it’s because employees’ skills aren’t being fully utilized. Or, as we’ve mentioned before, competitors could be enticing away top talent by offering more flexibility than you are.

Suffice it to say that a sudden spike in resignations could be due to any number of causes. But until you have solid feedback, the real reason is anybody’s guess.

This is another area where measuring employee engagement becomes critical. It’s the one way to ensure you’re getting to the real root of a problem and keeping the door from revolving.

3. Performance is lackluster.

It’s surprising, but true: Even the most sought-after “top-performing” workplaces struggle with engagement. That’s because no amount of perks and prestige can make up for a lack of meaning at work.

Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are far more likely to be motivated, engaged, and productive. Yet many struggle to achieve this. Based on the findings in our latest engagement trends report, this appears to be an issue at numerous organizations — including ones that seem successful on the surface.

If you’re starting to notice slip-ups by high-performing employees, that’s a sure sign it’s time to measure engagement and discover what’s causing these minor issues before they have a chance to blossom into much bigger problems.

In conclusion:
You may have noticed that none of the scenarios mentioned above involve pay or perks. That’s because today’s employees are driven by so much more than paychecks. Measuring engagement is the one way to find out what people truly need to succeed — and what your company can do to get ahead and stay on solid ground.

Ready to start measuring employee engagement, but aren’t sure where to start? Download our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement Measurement.

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