How to Measure Employee Engagement: Methods and Metrics for Collecting Meaningful Insights
Employee engagement is the lifeblood of successful organizations. It's the spark that ignites productivity, fosters innovation, and drives growth.
"Satisfied employees means satisfied customers, which leads to profitability," explains Ann Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox.
But as important as it is, employee engagement has been waning—the percentage of engaged US workers recently declined for the first time in a decade, according to Gallup.
So, what can you do to boost employee engagement at your organization?
The first step is to measure and monitor employee engagement as effectively as possible to identify where action is needed and what action to take.
Learn about the best ways to measure employee engagement —the methods, metrics, and best practices to give you the feedback and insights you need.
🧮 7 Employee engagement measurement methods
Your employee engagement strategy depends on measurement methods that can bring it to life. The following 7 methods are widely used to support engagement action plans at many organizations.
Pulse surveys are short, frequent surveys designed to capture a quick snapshot of your people's feelings, attitudes, and experiences. They usually contain 5–10 questions and take less than 5 minutes to complete. They are simple and can be designed, implemented, and analyzed easily.
Pulse surveys help track people's sentiments and gauge their reactions to significant events, such as mergers or major product launches.
They may address:
- your people's feelings about the event, e.g., on a scale of 1–10;
- their understanding of the event and its rationale;
- their perceptions about the event's impact on their work.
Annual employee engagement surveys (or biennial surveys) are more comprehensive than pulse surveys. They are designed to gather information about employee experiences, e.g., your people's job satisfaction, alignment with company values, and whether they feel motivated and recognized for their work.
Engagement surveys contain more questions than a pulse survey—usually over 20—and are time-consuming to prepare and administer.
They gather deep insights, however, and help guide and monitor strategic decisions about people management.
You can use engagement surveys to assess your people's overall satisfaction at work and whether there are areas for improvement, with questions like:
- How satisfied are you with your job?
- Do you feel your work aligns with the company's missions and values?
- Do you think you have growth opportunities?
➡️ Looking for insights into your people's workplace experiences? Check out these 50 employee engagement survey questions.
One-on-one interviews are personal, in-depth conversations between employees and their managers. They're an opportunity to discuss experiences, concerns, and honest feedback in a confidential setting.
They often feature open-ended questions and are especially valuable when employees and their managers have high trust.
A scenario where one-on-one interviews are helpful is when a person takes on a new role.
A conversation between them and their manager could discuss how they're adjusting to the new responsibilities, any challenges they're facing, and what support they need. A direct and open conversation like this can help managers understand employee engagement levels and take action if necessary.
➡️ Get the most out of your employee conversations with these one-on-one meeting templates.
A stay interview is a proactive discussion to understand why an employee continues to work for your organization. The goal is to identify what keeps them engaged and satisfied at work. The feedback can provide valuable insights into employee loyalty and how to maintain or improve retention.
Stay interviews should be open, frank, and focused on your people's experiences. They should also seek to understand what might make your people want to leave, which could help you avoid future issues.
You could use stay interviews with long-tenured employees to understand what motivates them to stay.
They may, for instance, appreciate the professional development offered by your organization or the company culture.
Insights such as these can reveal your organization's strengths (or weaknesses) so that they can be reinforced (or addressed) to improve engagement.
➡️ Master the stay interview with these 15 stay interview questions (and ones to avoid).
An exit interview takes place when one of your people leaves your company. The aim is to understand their reasons for leaving and get feedback on their workplace experience.
Unlike stay interviews, which are proactive, exit interviews are reactive. Yet, they're valuable for identifying issues and improving engagement for current and future employees.
A person may leave your organization due to a lack of opportunities for advancement or a poor work-life balance.
An exit interview can help to uncover these areas so that they can be addressed.
Employee focus groups are small groups of employees that gather to discuss specific topics in-depth. They are usually run by a moderator and provide insightful information that goes well beyond what surveys can capture. They're useful for exploring complex issues.
You can use a focus group to explore why a particular department of your organization has lower engagement scores than other departments.
Discussing the unique challenges faced by those in the department and hearing their perspectives on what might be going wrong can produce valuable insights that are difficult to glean from survey data alone.
Observation involves managers or HR personnel observing employee behavior, interactions, and attitudes to gauge engagement. They include formal and informal methods and provide real-time insights into employee engagement.
For example, a manager at your organization may observe that their people frequently stay late to complete work. This could indicate an unreasonably high workload or inefficient procedures. Situations like these are likely to impact engagement if not addressed.
🔢 What are the best metrics for measuring employee engagement?
While there are many drivers of employee engagement—organizational, individual, and leadership—they all rely on employee engagement metrics for assessing employee engagement levels.
Here are some of the best.
Job satisfaction reflects employee experience and measures how content employees are with their jobs. It's a valuable metric for measuring engagement since satisfied employees are more likely to be engaged.
You can assess job satisfaction through surveys that ask your people how satisfied they are with aspects of their job, including:
- their role;
- work-life balance;
- work environment;
- relationships with their colleagues;
- growth opportunities;
- alignment with company strategy and values;
You can use a job satisfaction survey to identify areas for improvement, as low satisfaction scores may indicate underlying issues warranting attention.
Employee net promoter score (eNPS)
The employee net promoter score, or eNPS, measures how likely employees are to recommend their workplace to others. It's a well-known metric calculated through surveys that ask: "On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to recommend this organization as a place to work?".
Based on their responses, employees are classified as:
- Promoters (9–10), indicating good satisfaction and engagement.
- Passives (7–8) show a neutral stance, i.e., neither happy nor unhappy with the organization.
- Detractors (0–6), indicating dissatisfaction and disengagement.
The eNPS is calculated as:
eNPS = % Promoters – % Detractors
For example, if your organization has 60% promoters and 15% detractors, the eNPS score will be 45 (i.e., 60–15).
An eNPS score between 10 and 30 is good, and above 30 is excellent.
Absenteeism rates measure the frequency and duration of employee absences from work.
High rates can indicate low engagement levels, as disengaged employees are more likely to miss work. It could also suggest other factors influencing engagement, such as inadequate working conditions, poor leadership, or a lack of work-life balance.
The absenteeism rate is calculated as:
Absenteeism rate = total number of absent days / total number of workdays
By calculating absenteeism rates across your organization, you can identify departments or roles with exceptionally high rates. This could highlight areas of low engagement for further investigation and possible action.
Voluntary turnover rate
Voluntary employee turnover measures the number of employees who leave a company for their own reasons, i.e., voluntarily. High turnover rates may indicate low engagement since less engaged employees are less likely to want to stay.
The voluntary turnover rate is calculated as:
Voluntary turnover rate [for a given period] = number of employees who left voluntarily / average number of employees
Voluntary turnover rates indicate trends over time—a noticeable increase may signal a drop in engagement and alert you to possible action.
Internal promotion rate
Internal promotion rates measure the number of employees promoted from within an organization.
High internal promotion rates indicate high levels of engagement as it suggests that your people are committed to your organization and see opportunities for growth and development.
You could track your internal promotions to assess whether your company has sufficient opportunities for career advancement. If you also track internal promotions at peer organizations (e.g., senior promotions may be publicized and easy to monitor), you can gauge how well your company retains internal talent relative to peers.
Employee engagement scales
Employee engagement scales are standardized tools for measuring engagement. Two widely used scales are:
- Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES)—measures factors like vigor, dedication, and absorption at work.
- Gallup Q12—uses 12 questions to evaluate role clarity, recognition, teamwork, development opportunities, and alignment with organizational goals.
Being standardized, these tools are comprehensive and facilitate comparisons over time, between departments, and with other organizations.
You could use the Gallup Q12 to assess engagement across various teams at your organization and use the results to develop targeted strategies for boosting engagement in the teams that need it most.
Productivity metrics are objective measures of employee output. They vary with employee roles and include metrics like sales figures, project completion rates, and customer satisfaction ratings. Higher metrics, i.e., higher productivity, usually indicate high engagement levels.
To assess the engagement of your sales team, for example, you could track their sales figures to identify levels and trends—if sales are high, it could indicate high engagement, or if sales are dropping, it may suggest declining engagement levels.
The seven engagement metrics are summarized below:
🏆 7 Best practices for measuring employee engagement
Time and again, examples of outstanding employee engagement from companies like Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, Intuit, and Starbucks show us that when you get employee engagement right, the dividends are significant.
But the first step is to measure your people's engagement as effectively as possible.
Here are 7 best practice tips for doing so.
Consistency in measuring employee engagement means conducting regular assessments, e.g., annual or more frequent surveys. This allows you to track and identify trends while demonstrating that your people's feedback is valued.
Conducting annual surveys allows you to compare engagement levels year over year and across different departments or geographies. By consistently collecting data in this way, you'll be in a better position to make data-driven decisions about engagement patterns at your organization.
Keeping your surveys and feedback anonymous will encourage honesty and openness from your people. This means you'll get more reliable data on their feelings, attitudes, and experiences about engagement. Your conclusions will be more accurate, and any engagement initiatives you roll out will likely be more effective.
Follow up and take action
🚨 While measuring and tracking engagement is good, it doesn't have much effect unless you take action on the feedback you gather.
The key is to use your engagement monitoring results to improve where warranted.
Not only will this promote engagement where it's needed, but it also demonstrates that you take your people's engagement seriously, which in itself may boost engagement.
Examples of action that you can take include recognition programs, more training opportunities, better communication, and an improved work-life balance.
Foster transparency with your communication
Be transparent about your findings on engagement by communicating them clearly with your people. This shows that your people's feedback is essential and fosters a sense of trust and involvement in any actions that result from the findings. It's a way to demonstrate your commitment to your people's engagement.
There are many ways in which you can communicate your findings on engagement;
- You could set up a company-wide meeting or send out a newsletter.
- You could also outline the actions and steps you plan to take to improve engagement, which will increase the chances of your people's buy-in.
Identify what's important for your people
Understanding what matters most for your people will give you better engagement feedback and more effective engagement outcomes. It will help you prioritize your efforts and allocate resources toward the most valued initiatives.
Areas to consider include teamwork, trust in leadership, career development, confidence in the company's future, individual needs, and recognition.
Use multiple data collection methods
We've looked at various data collection methods in this article—use them!
Using a range of methods gives you a more comprehensive picture of engagement. As we've seen, different methods have different strengths and weaknesses, so by understanding which methods suit the circumstances at your organization, you can get a more nuanced understanding of engagement.
Using various methods, e.g., surveys, interviews, and observation, you can capture quantitative and qualitative feedback on engagement and form a more balanced view.
➡️ Discover the best tools for measuring employee engagement so you'll know what to use and when.
Establish engagement goals
Setting clear engagement goals helps to focus efforts on improving engagement and provides an unambiguous benchmark for success.
The goals could be linked to key performance indicators (KPIs) or other drivers of engagement.
Setting engagement KPIs that align with company objectives also ensures that engagement will promote company priorities.
To illustrate, consider a retail company that wants to improve its eNPS by 10 points over the next year.
By identifying areas of engagement that matter most for its people, such as recognition and opportunities for growth, clear goals can be set around these areas. This will promote the company as a great workplace—a key driver of higher eNPS scores.
➡️ Boost business outcomes by leveraging your engagement data with a targeted and effective employee engagement plan.
🕵️♀️ 9 Benefits of measuring employee engagement (and improving it)
As the statistics on employee engagement show, it's worth prioritizing engagement at your organization.
Here are 9 reasons why measuring employee engagement is beneficial.
- Build trust—Measuring your people's engagement shows their opinions and experiences matter. This builds trust and fosters a more open work environment.
- Reveal strengths and weaknesses—Measuring engagement uncovers your organization's strengths and weaknesses and provides valuable insights. An employee survey may reveal, for instance, that some of your people are happy with team collaboration but feel there's a lack of career opportunities—by uncovering this, you can act to maintain the team dynamic (strength) while addressing career advancement (weakness).
- Identify trends—Regular employee engagement measurements help identify trends, giving you early warnings of potential issues. For instance, a downward trend in engagement scores could prompt an investigation before the underlying issues become too entrenched.
- Improve productivity—Engaged employees are more productive: as high as 14% more, according to Gallup. Measuring engagement facilitates this by identifying obstacles to productivity. Suppose engagement surveys reveal insufficient resources for efficiently getting things done. In that case, you can address this and directly boost productivity.
- Improve workplace culture—Measuring engagement provides insights into the health of your workplace culture. For example, suppose engagement surveys show consistent weaknesses in diversity, inclusion, and collaboration. In that case, you can take action (e.g., DEI training or team-building activities) to improve workplace culture.
- Reduce turnover—Engaged employees are less likely to leave, reducing the average costs of hiring and training new people. Measuring engagement identifies factors that contribute to turnover, e.g., insufficient recognition so that you can rectify them and keep turnover low.
- Reduce absenteeism—Engaged employees are less likely to take unscheduled absences. Measuring engagement helps by revealing trends in employee stress or falling satisfaction levels so that you can take action to create a healthier and more supportive work environment. For example, 61% of employees that were offered a wellness program made healthier lifestyle choices, according to research by Aflac, reducing their likelihood of unscheduled absences.
- Improve customer satisfaction—Engaged employees are more likely to provide excellent customer service, so measuring engagement can identify areas that affect customer interactions. Low engagement scores in relation to communication or empowerment, for instance, may impact the quality of customer interactions.
- Increase profitability—Highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable (Gallup). By measuring and managing engagement, the resulting lower turnover and absenteeism, higher customer satisfaction, and improved productivity contribute to increased profitability.
➡️ Measure and improve employee engagement with Zavvy
Zavvy has the tools and techniques to measure and drive your people's engagement. Because let’s face it, measuring with no follow up is a complete waste of time and resources.
- Employee engagement software that delivers strategic people insights with precision.
- Employee development software that helps your people take charge of their careers by connecting their skills, training, and development plans.
- A cutting-edge learning experience platform to deliver world-class training.
- One-on-one meeting software to help give structure and alignment to one-on-ones.
- Connection programs that drive meaningful connections wherever you're people are located.
With Zavvy, you can leverage engagement best practices to boost your people's satisfaction and productivity effectively and efficiently.
📅 Book a free 30-minute demo to see how to bring out the best in your people and boost their engagement.
How to measure employee engagement without surveys?
Other than surveys, you can measure employee engagement using interviews—one-on-one, stay, and exit interviews—focus groups and observation.
How often to measure employee engagement?
Consistency is vital when measuring employee engagement, so annual engagement surveys combined with other interactions (e.g., frequent Pulse surveys) are recommended.
What are the best metrics for measuring employee engagement?
The best metrics for measuring employee engagement include:
- job satisfaction rates;
- employee net promoter scores (eNPS);
- absenteeism rates;
- voluntary turnover rates;
- internal promotion rates;
- employee engagement scales (e.g., UWES and Gallup Q12);
- productivity metrics (e.g., sales figures, project completions, and customer satisfaction ratings).