Employee Engagement: How to Measure Emotional Engagement (The Sense and Non Sense Series)

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Without Employee Experience there is no Customer Experience.

Happy employees are at the baseline of each successful organisation that wants to grow toward more customer- and even human centricity.

Schlessinger and his colleagues already proved this in 1997 with their Service Profit Chain.

So that there is a hype and interest on how to improve employee engagement is not only understandable, but also very necessary.

The biggest issue of this hype right now, is the very creative definitions that are being used by several organisations and research companies.

Why is it a big issue?

Because you will never find the real drivers of Employee Engagement when you don’t measure it correctly.

And without having the real drivers  for your specific organisation, you can never improve engagement with maximum effect and minimal effort.

In this blog you will find the scientific basis and measurement you can use in your own organisation.

So you can find the real drivers that matter to your own employees.

Definition of Employee Engagement

I’ve seen several examples where Engagement is defined as an average of employee satisfaction and one or two eNPS questions.

Or that employee engagement can be solely measured by the eNPS question (i.e. would you recommend company X as a place to work).

But satisfaction and NPS have nothing to do with the actual definition and scientifically proven scale of engagement.

Why bother?

Now you could say: ok, it might not be scientifically sound, but we can be pragmatic about it so why is it so bad?

The issue with using the wrong definition is that you will never find the real drivers of engagement.

Meaning that you run the risk of focusing your energy on the wrong improvements.

You may be in situation where your employee engagement scores are high, but the churn is not going down. That’s a sign of measuring the wrong engagement an/or improving the wrong drivers.

An example

To give an example, in a lot of satisfaction research, the direct manager plays an important role.

But when you measure engagement as it should be, it has a much lower impact.

Then it’s much more about the organisation treating people well that really makes the difference.

This can also explain why so many organisations are stuck between the 7 and 7.5 on their employee satisfaction.

And why they feel such a challenge to reduce turnover of employees.

Another element is that many organisation measure around 40-45 items for Employee Engagement. Trust me, there will not be 45 drivers that have the same importance for your employees.

You need to find those set of drivers, with which you can make the difference to your employees.

Makes sense? Ok, now back to the right measurements.

Engagement to work

Since Engagement is a complex thing, it can not be captured with just 1 question.

Several years ago there has already been developed a very sound, scientifically proven scale to measure Engagement to work.

I would definitely advise you to use that one in your research.

We use this scale in several organisations across different branches and in doing so have again proven it’s value for application in practice.

The shortened scale consists of these items (on a 7-point scale):
• At my work, I feel bursting with energy.
• At my job, I feel strong and vigorous.
• I’m enthusiastic about my job.
• My job inspires me.
• When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work.
• I feel happy when I’m working intensively.
• I’m proud of the work that I do.
• I’m immersed in my work.
• I get carried away when I am working

Commitment to the Organisation

Next to Employee Satisfaction and Engagement to Work, there is a third factor that influences loyalty and retention of your employees.

That third factor is Commitment.

Commitment of employees consist of three types (Allen and Meyer 2001):

  • Continuance commitment (financial consequences of leaving) 
  • Normative commitment (feeling obligated to stay)
  • Affective commitment (feeling a sense of belonging)

In my PhD I found that Affective commitment has a significant impact on turnover (churn).

I’m a believer in the fact that most employees want to feel a sense of belonging to their organisation, to feel at home, match their values.

That’s why, in the organisations I work with, the focus lies on the combination of these three factors:

  • Satisfaction (with working for organisation)
  • Engagement (to work)
  • Affective commitment (to the organisation)  

With Affective Commitment being the final goal to improve in order to create employees that really feel “Alive at work”.

Finding the Real Drivers of Commitment

Apart from defining the Satisfaction, Engagement and Commitment, the essence is to find the drivers that enhance them.

That’s why you need to use smart statistics (which works exactly the same as the drivers of customer experience) that help you find what makes the difference in the eyes of your employees.

I stress “your employees”, because the drivers are not 100% the same across organisations and countries. 

Therefore, be very careful with benchmarks across industries that measure the same items for several organisations.

They are likely not to be your biggest drivers.

So make sure you find those drivers that help you create happy employees that feel a sense of belonging to your organisation.

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