Do you want to measure employee engagement in your organization? For such a simple request, surprisingly, there are a number of possible options.
People use a number of instruments to measure employee engagement because academics and practitioners have varying opinions on what engagement is and how it should be measured. You could classify the instruments for measuring engagement in four categories: 1) instruments that measure the state of engagement, 2) instruments that measure the drivers of engagement, 3) instruments that measure the outcomes of engagement, or 4) a hybrid, mixing two or more of these categories.
For those who choose to measure the state of engagement, it gets complicated. Many academics say employee engagement is a latent construct–one that cannot be observed or measured directly. It’s theoretical, in nature. Instead, you measure the indicators that represent the construct. Instruments that seek to measure engagement often cluster their items under the three groupings: cognitive engagement, emotional engagement, and physical engagement. As you may now begin to grasp the difficulty, think about questions that indicate the presence of cognitive energy, emotional energy and physical energy. Not so simple. Here are a few examples:
Cognitive engagement: I am absorbed in my work.
Emotional engagement: I feel energized in my work.
Physical engagement: I work with intensity in my job.
Even these examples may not be accurately measuring the construct, in your opinion, but these are examples of items currently in use. Instruments measuring the construct of engagement are typically used by academics when conducting research on engagement especially in trying to identify the antecedents and outcomes of engagement.
It’s much easier to measure the drivers of engagement: factors that are antecedents of engagement. The only difficulty is that when reviewing the research to determine what factors have been shown to be antecedents of engagement, the research uses a variety of engagement definitions so again you could be mixing apples and oranges. But even using a variety of engagement instruments, certain factors have been shown to be engagement drivers, even using different definitions: job fit, meaningfulness, safety, and support, are just a few. Some examples of engagement items taken from the Gallup survey that are measuring the drivers of engagement are as follows:
Job Fit: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
Meaningfulness: The purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
Safety: I can trust senior leaders to balance employee interests with company needs.
Support: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
The next option is to measure outcomes of engagement like intention to stay with a company or exhibiting discretionary effort. Extensive research, using a variety of engagement definitions, show these outcomes. Many practitioner surveys include outcome items:
Intention to Stay: I plan to stay in this company for the next 12 months. OR I rarely think about looking for a new job with another organization.
Discretionary Effort: I put forth extra effort in my job to help the company succeed.
And finally, you can do what most companies do when conducting engagement surveys: choose a hybrid approach. Mixing outcomes and drivers with possibly one or two indictor questions thrown in appears to be a frequent choice in engagement surveys today. The indicator and outcomes questions often are used to measure overall engagement, and the driver questions are used to track areas for the organization to focus on and pay attention to in order to increase engagement.
So when measuring engagement in your organization, be clear about what you’re measuring. And be consistent from year to year so you can evaluate change. Always stay true to the purpose of your efforts: to build a more humane workplace that brings out the best in each individual, enables each employee to flourish, and furthers the prosperity of the organization and the world it serves.