Keys to Harness the Power of "Engagement"

With the recent boom in human capital management, the importance of employee engagement has been recognized, and now, it has become indispensable to discuss organizational and personnel matters without considering employee engagement.

Employee engagement is defined as "the willingness of employees to have enthusiasm for their organization and their work, and to contribute voluntarily." It is different from employee satisfaction and serves as an indicator of employees' proactive and positive contributions that lead to improved company performance.

The indicators of employee engagement have been increasingly disclosed in integrated reports and other documents, and they have become highly regarded indicators within the context of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).

Engagement surveys serve as effective tools for diagnosing the state of engagement as part of organizational and employee well-being. Depending on how they are utilized, they can become powerful assets for HR departments and line managers.

In this article, we will introduce the current state of engagement surveys and provide key points for maximizing their utilization in human capital management.

1. Few companies effectively utilize engagement surveys

In reality, many companies focus only on aggregating and reporting the results of engagement surveys. To put it in a familiar context, imagine a health check-up.

Engagement surveys serve a similar role to the "medical questionnaire" you would fill out when checking in at a hospital. However, if the process stops at simply aggregating and reporting the questionnaire responses, it is no different from the state of only collecting and reporting the medical questionnaires.

In other words, the crucial steps of identifying the causes (i.e. diagnosis/precise examination), addressing and resolving issues (i.e., internal medicine/surgery), and follow-up (i.e. observation/counseling) are not being taken.

In such a state, the health of an organization and its personnel cannot be maintained.

2. Challenges of Engagement Surveys

Even in cases where advanced companies take a comprehensive approach to engagement surveys, starting from identifying the causes, addressing and resolving issues, and following up, human resources professionals still encounter the following issues:

(Question Design)

  • The vendor's survey questions are often abstract, subjective, and difficult to understand.
  • There are many questions that lack the necessary relevance.

(Cost Burden)

  • Using surveys from foreign vendors can be costly, with some cases reaching several tens of millions of yen per survey for large companies.

(Sluggish Speed)

  • The process from the response to reporting can take two to three months, making it challenging to take timely actions.

(Insufficient Frequency)

  • Surveys are often conducted only once every two years.

(Lack of Insights)

  • While scores are reported to the management team, little action is taken beyond that.
  • The root causes are not effectively identified, and as a result, effective measures are not implemented.

(Frontline's Involvement)

  • The human resources department and management team may have a grasp of the survey data, but it may not be effectively communicated to the frontline employees.

(Evaluation of Effectiveness)

  • The focus on improving scores becomes the main goal since it is set as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
  • It becomes unclear whether it truly benefits the company and the organization.

3. Key Points to Harness the Power of Engagement Surveys

How can we effectively connect engagement surveys as a starting point for identifying causes, addressing and resolving issues, and providing preventive advice?

The following points are crucial, and when providing support, our company considers them from the design phase to issue resolution:

(1) Design "Appropriate Questions"

  • Ensure that the questions are designed in a way that respondents can understand. Avoid using generic vendor questions and instead, use company-specific language.
  • "Survey fatigue" can negatively affect response quality. Keep the number of questions focused and limited, preferably around 20 to 30 questions.
  • Evaluate both the soft and hard aspects of the work environment, including supervisors, HR systems, working conditions, and culture, in addition to employee motivation.

(2) Balance Survey Speed, Frequency, and Cost

  • Engagement is time-sensitive. Aim to have results available within two weeks from the response deadline.
  • Engagement is constantly changing. Conduct surveys at least twice a year, and ideally, four times a year, to ensure sufficient data points.
  • Choosing a vendor that offers a cost-effective solution is essential to maintain survey continuity.

(3) Thoroughly Identify Causes, Avoid Half-hearted Efforts

  • Focus on analyzing and interpreting the results, incorporating hypotheses if necessary. Use benchmark data from other companies as a reference.
  • Conduct additional interviews or surveys promptly and proactively when necessary to identify the root causes.

(4) Actively Involve the Frontline in Issue Resolution

  • Establish specific tasks and create an action plan with a clear timeline for addressing and resolving issues.
  • Share and communicate the results not only with the management team but also with frontline leaders.
  • Involve frontline leaders by assigning them tasks and responsibilities.
  • The HR department should support frontline leaders to ensure consistency across different teams.

We hope that this article can lead to utilizing engagement surveys to further enhance their strategic human capital management.

If you have any questions or are interested in our services, please feel free to reach out to us.

See Pulse Engagement Assessment