How Can We Measure Employee Engagement?

Kristen McPherson
Written by Kristen McPherson

July 8, 2019

At this point, we all know that increasing employee engagement is an important priority for Health and Human Services organizations that want to provide the best possible services to their clients. Increased engagement is associated with higher levels of productivity, happier employees, better retention, lower turnover, improved quality of care, and more. This puts employee engagement at the top of executive’s priority list year after year and makes it a well-worthwhile initiative to invest in. 

But while employee engagement is great as a concept, taking action to increase it can be much more challenging in reality. In order to make changes, and to make sure our changes are having the desired effect, we need to be able to set benchmarks, measure changes, and adjust accordingly. However, measuring something as abstract as employee engagement continues to be a challenge for organizations of all sizes and across all industries. And a significant part of the challenge is nailing down exactly what employee engagement is, what it means to your organization, and why you want to improve it. Without having a clear idea about what it is and what you expect form changing it, your organization can quickly start floundering when it comes to finding ways to increase employee engagement and justifying any investments in this area.

Numbers and Outcomes

To simplify the idea of employee engagement, some organizations choose to look at the business outcomes. These may include things like number of clients served, donor growth, patient satisfaction rate, employee retention rate, year-over-year growth, and other key performance indicators across various departments. These are often easier to measure and good indicators of the overall health of the organization. However, they are also indirect methods that while often associated with higher levels of employee engagement, do not necessarily mean that engagement and satisfaction levels are ideal.

Asking Your Employees

Another common method of measurement is employee engagement surveys, such as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, pulse surveys, and even one-on-one meetings to discuss engagement. Asking employees directly how they feel about their work and their career can help you gauge current levels of engagement and determine which areas might be best to focus on for further improvements. These surveys often provide important information, but they can leave organizations struggling to gather actionable insights and determine next steps.

Looking at the Whole Picture

The bottom line is there is no one-size-fits-all solution for measuring and improving employee engagement. And that’s because different organizations have different ideas about what it is and why they want to improve it. As a starting point, it’s a good idea for leadership to sit down and define these things, not as universal answers, but as clearly defined goals that make sense for your organization. You might realize that there are specific dimensions of engagement that are most valuable to you or that by zeroing in on your own definition, you’re more able to create an action plan. By determining what you want to change, why you want to change it, and how you can make those changes happen, you’ll set yourself on a clear path towards increasing employee engagement in a meaningful and measurable way.