Tracking employee sentiment using KPIs

Ian Barrow urges organisations to track and measure how workers are feeling on a regular basis – or risk adding to already growing attrition rates

Understanding employee sentiment – how an organisation’s employees are feeling about their work and their organisation – has never been more important. After all, if employees aren’t feeling valued or understood by their employer, they simply won’t stick around. 

With so many organisations still struggling to fill vacancies, having an ongoing exodus of dissatisfied employees will create an unmanageable hole in the workforce. Finding a means to quickly and easily track and measure how employees are feeling is therefore vital – and that’s where engagement key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. 

Recent research reveals 60% of organisations have engagement KPIs in place, but that only 26% of these use a combination of HR and business measures. Implementing and then keeping track of KPIs, while keeping a close eye on how trend lines are moving, is critical to measuring the pulse of organisational sentiment. However, if the measures are too narrow, they won’t be providing a 360-degree view of how employees are truly feeling. 

No two organisations are the same, and the measures that might provide a rounded view of organisational sentiment in one company might prove lacking in another

As well as overall engagement levels – measured by 74% of organisations that have KPIs in place – leaders need to focus on specific business and HR measures. Those include sickness and absence rates (measured by 50% of organisations), voluntary turnover (41%), customer satisfaction (41%) and business performance (41%). By looking at a range of indicators, organisations are creating a more holistic organisational sentiment scorecard. There are also organisations that focus on measuring elements like productivity, internal communications effectiveness, safety, and internal customer service delivery.

However, it’s important to find the right KPIs for your business and employees. No two organisations are the same, and the measures that might provide a rounded view of organisational sentiment in one company might prove lacking in another. Charities, for example, may decide to measure total volunteer numbers, volunteer attrition rates and monthly donations, in addition to employee engagement levels. 

KPIs specific to the employee experience shouldn’t be ignored, either. In fact, planning engagement KPIs around the employee experience creates a robust framework to ensure you have a comprehensive picture of engagement and culture across all stages of the employee lifecycle. To understand where you can monitor what’s happening and nurture change, consider your employee journey and their experience from recruitment right through to exit. 

You may wish to measure KPIs around the number of candidate dropouts during the recruitment process, and employee attrition during the first six months on the job. And what about employees who leave voluntarily within six months of returning from maternity or paternity leave? This could pinpoint dissatisfaction with working arrangements for new parents.

Then there are the everyday KPIs that can be easily overlooked – but that can reveal a lot about employee sentiment. The number of staff recognition moments per month, for example – are leaders and peers recognising each other less often? Why? 

What about the number of employees who go on workplace training programmes, and those who start but don’t finish their courses? If the latter is increasing, this could be a sign of poor training, disenchantment with career opportunities, or staff being overworked. 

Whatever engagement KPIs you choose, try to keep them broad enough to provide a reliable barometer, yet simple enough that measuring them is fast and straightforward. After all, the aim is to obtain regular temperature checks, and to dive deeper into areas that need further investigation. 

It’s also important to view engagement through an employee experience lens, and to measure this through KPIs so nothing is missed. With individual experiences of employees adding up to create an overall feeling about an organisation – which then impacts on performance, development and employee retention – leaders simply can’t afford to ignore the sentiment of their people.

Ian Barrow, Senior Employee Experience Consultant at WorkBuzz


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