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Employee Engagement is like Motherhood and Apple Pie

How to maximize participation to see how engaged employees really are

There are a few potential origins of the idiom, “motherhood and apple pie”.

One common usage roots back to WWII when soldiers leaving for war were asked by journalists why they were going to war and they responded with “for mom and apple pie”. Later, when asked what they missed most about being away from home, there was a similar response of “mom and apple pie”.

No one belittles motherhood and who doesn’t like apple pie?

The idiom refers to then, basic principles or vales for which everyone agrees. Since everyone agrees that employee engagement is a good thing, it could be said it is like motherhood and apple pie.

Research indicates that engaged employees (not just satisfied employees) are 87% less likely to leave an organization and they perform 20% higher. But why then do some companies not measure engagement?

And if a company measures engagement, but isn’t getting a very high response rate, then it is impossible to get a clear picture of how engaged the employees really are. A low participation rate in employee engagement surveys likely indicates that there is a larger issue in the organization.

Here are three best practices to maximize participation when performing employee or “Voice of the Associate” surveys:

1. Communication

Before the survey is sent out, ensure there is executive level (CEO is best) communication. Include the purpose and goal of the survey, let them know it is anonymous and individual responses are completely confidential, and request 100% participation (i.e. we would like to hear from each and every one of you, our goal is 100% participation).

Show they will have the ability to impact the future of the organization, help make it a great place to work, a great place for career development, and a great partner to your clients. And let them know the overall results of the survey will be shared with everyone in the company afterwards. Use every communication channel (i.e. portal, where they access paystubs, departmental meetings, manager one on ones, and peer-to-peer etc) to encourage participation.

2. Do it online and make it anonymous

You can still use unique links to be able to track participation and results by department, line of business etc. Using a third party can help to ensure the confidential nature of the survey (where no result is shared with a group of less than 5 individuals – i.e. if there are only 2 individuals in the Silent Generation, no results are tabulated for that group).

3. Keep the survey period and the survey itself short

A week to a week and a half is best; no longer than 2 weeks. You want to create a sense of urgency and make it easy to respond. The survey itself is best as simple multiple choice with no more than 20 questions. We do not include any open-questions in our employee survey (as it can void the anonymity of the response). It should take less than 10 minutes to complete (this is different than customer NPS where it should take less than 2 minutes, even with an open-ended question).

High degrees of job satisfaction can hide low levels of engagement. They are very different measurements. Satisfaction can be the level of contentment with the job, but the “notion of (active) employee engagement requires individuals to be positively absorbed by their work and fully committed to advancing the organization’s interests.”

Nancy Lockwood wrote in Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: Measuring Employee Engagement, “Measuring employee engagement is a smart business strategy to improve productivity and attain business objectives. It allows the organization to track progress, or slippage, and determine what gaps exist in terms of organizational engagement, attendance and retention, motivation and aspirations.”

In the state of Virginia, a day is celebrated each year as Motherhood and Apple Pie day. It is a time to “reflect upon the need to continue efforts to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate to preserve our heritage and to ensure the health and well-being of future generations”.

If you want to ensure the well-being of your employees and future culture, plan an engagement survey. Butler Street’s Voice of the Associate survey measures engagement across four areas: Basics, Belonging, Backing, and Becoming. Contact us today find out more and to schedule yours!

De Neve, Jan-Emmanual and Ward, George. “Does Work Make You Happy? Evidence from the World Happiness Report. Harvard Business Review Mar. 2017

Lockwood, Nancy R. "Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR's Strategic Role." HRMagazine Mar. 2007: 1-11.

Code of Virginia: Title 2.2, Section 2.2 3303

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