Improving engagement

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Written by Gerry Griffin on 1 September 2014 in Features
Features

Gerry Griffin shows how new technologies are improving engagement in the care sector

In 2008, the UK government sponsored the MacLeod report, which examined the importance of employee engagement and concluded that all businesses with more than 50 employees should invest in some form of employee engagement programme to increase productivity1. With thousands of businesses that have more than 50 employees, and increasing numbers of companies looking to re-invest profits into improving engagement (and thus productivity), businesses are looking for the right tools to do this more efficiently. This isn’t just a trend in the UK; more than 59 per cent of US companies administer employee engagement surveys with this number only increasing with time2.

The organisational world is constantly evolving – no longer is the work environment confined to a conventional, four-walled office and ethernet connection. Now offices can be mobile and distributed. Teams work remotely, bring your own device (BYOD) programmes are becoming more commonplace and time zones don’t constrict business. What isn’t changing is the need for engagement. No matter where your employees are and how they’re getting their work done, they need to feel engaged with the business.

Successful employee engagement is core to the deal between the employee and employer, and the subsequent success of an organisation. But, in today’s constantly evolving work environment and technological advances, HR departments need to look at new, more innovative ways of bringing their processes in to the 21st century; processes which uses the Employment Value Proposition (EVP) analysis.

What is the ‘deal’ with EVP?

The EVP, also known as the ‘deal’, co-developed by Dr Martin Reddington and Professor Helen Francis, is a diagnostic tool that measures and shines a light on workforce performance. It does so by viewing the organisation as a dynamic and interdependent social and economic exchange between employer and employee – where both parties make contributions in ways that reflect the quality of the relationship. This exchange of contributions, or ‘deal’, represents a performance recipe which goes beyond the simple notion of an employee engagement score by looking at the processes that create performance. Whether or not you acknowledge it, a ‘deal’ is always taking place in your organisation – either consciously or subconsciously employers and employees are constantly weighing what they are getting against what they are putting in. The issue is that if you don’t measure it you can’t manage it and this is something you want to keep a managed process. This is where EVP as an analysis tool becomes useful.

Employer contributions include:

  • Perceived organisational support – genuine concern for employee wellbeing; recognition of achievements; encouraging employee voice
  • Psychological contract – reliable delivery of promises and obligations; job security; fair pay and reward.

Employee contributions include:

  • Job Engagement – pride in the job, going the extra mile
  • Capability – confidence to perform in the role
  • Organisational Engagement – advocacy and loyalty.

Language processing techniques are another aspect of the EVP model. This tool highlights the importance of solutions and performance focused conversational practices in producing actionable outcomes to benefit the organisation and the individual/team (in other words, making sure the ‘deal’ is balanced). These practices can be categorised into two main types:

1 Solutions focused conversations – strengthening resilience, employee wellbeing and performance

2 Performance focused conversations – achieving fair and transparent performance targets.

Crucially, a major differentiation of the EVP from other survey analysis methods is that it does not simply provide a score, it provides insight. Meaningful insight means that managers have a better understanding of results and can take the necessary action quicker and with more confidence that it will have an impact.

What is En-Gauge?

En-Gauge is an html-based tool that can be accessed via all types of devices including smartphones and tablets – essentially it is technology that propels the employee engagement/surveying process into the future. Working off a direct html link or via a bespoke app, users input their unique username and password and are able to access questions and submit their answers at their own convenience. The process is simple and flexible, which boosts participation. Question format varies between quantitative and qualitative as this keeps the user engaged in the survey by giving them more of a voice with which to converse with their company. En-Gauge is a cloud based system that allows management to access results and monitor participation through a live dashboard accessible on defined PCs or laptops. After completion of a survey cycle the managers receive a full comprehensive feedback report with expert EVP analysis. Free form text inputs are automatically analysed using natural language selection processes.

How this supported Bright Horizons

Introduction

As we’ve previously mentioned, just as the workforce itself is becoming more mobile, so are the tools that HR professionals need to look at for reaching these employees. Being able to complete an employee survey at your own convenience, wherever you are is an incredible draw for employers and employees alike. Bright Horizons was particularly interested in this approach to receiving employee feedback. The organisation is the world’s leading provider of childcare with over 700 nurseries globally. In the UK and Ireland the company operates more than 200 nurseries serving local communities and workplaces through private and employer-sponsored childcare. The company is a leader in providing solutions which enable employees to return to work after maternity and paternity leave and supporting employers as they look to alleviate the challenges faced by today’s workforce. Working in partnership with over 90 clients in the UK and Ireland, Bright Horizons offers a wide range of care solutions from childcare to elder and adult care as they become increasing needed by the ‘sandwich generation’3.

Skill Pill M-Learning was approached by the company to assist them with an employee engagement project to try and determine their employees’ levels of engagement and motivation about their jobs. As result of the EVP diagnostic survey that was distributed in November/December 2013, a report was produced and presented to the company in January 2014. This report helped the organisation understand the performance recipes that underpin workplace performance and discover which ingredients or key drivers make the biggest difference in employee engagement.

Process and methodology

The surveys were distributed and then collected completely digitally (via the En-Gauge technology). An advantage of the system is that employees can complete surveys in a time-efficient manner and tallying results is considerably faster. Once the results start coming in, they are automatically added to a real-time dashboard, which displays the levels of sentiments expressed by the survey participants.

Fifty-seven questions, broken down in to four sections, were put to 6,000 of the UK employees. The response format was ‘free text’ with some questions which relied on the Likert Scale. On average, each free text question received over 3,200 responses. Once the responses were received and compiled they were analysed using the EVP model. Free text responses were grouped by category and sentiment, based on natural language processing techniques.

Results and conclusion

The results were presented to Bright Horizons in a series of bar graphs and sentiment analysis for each section of the survey – ‘Best Thing’, ‘Line Manager’ and ‘Biggest Challenge’. In addition to the quantitative results, qualitative responses were organised by category and sentiment, including the full comment. As a part of the EVP, a statistical technique known as the Key Driver Analysis (KDA) was used to pinpoint the attributes of the employment deal that have the greatest impact on employee contribution. The outcomes of the KDA were then used to guide action planning processes for the organisation with the idea that taking effective action in the areas identified would contribute positively toward enhanced employee contributions and organisation engagement.

As seen from the free text response and overall results: trust, reciprocity and the overall quality of social exchange relationships are becoming increasingly important features of the employment deal. This evidence was given to Bright Horizons in order to give them the opportunity to initiate conversations for change on how to improve the perceived balance of the ‘deal’ and the quality of conversational practice across the organisation, in the knowledge that this would support sustainable employee contributions.

Bright Horizons was extremely satisfied with the process and the results. The project has provided management with the information and insights for follow up actions and conversations. Sharon Williams, director of Employee Engagement, said: “This tool enabled us to really understand what the key drivers were for high levels of engagement and performance here at Bright Horizons. We were also delighted that as a result of using this tool we were able to develop our Employee Value Proposition which is based on the three key areas which were identified by our employees around what is important to them – having a voice – inspiring potential – being valued.”

The success of this project is just one example of how taking a new innovative approach to the typically mundane employee survey can increase employee participation and engagement.

Overall conclusion

In summary, the quality of your results depends on the quality of your survey and its analysis. The combination of the technology and the thorough examination of content that EVP is capable of delivering, results in the most comprehensive set of results an organisation can hope for from their surveys. As Williams put it: “We [Bright Horizons] wanted to look in more detail at the quality of the employment relationship – not just an engagement score. The use of advanced techniques to analyse free text responses provided us with richer insights into how workforce performance can be improved.” In addition to this, being able to access surveys via the convenience of your mobile phone is key to the success of future employee surveys in any business. It saves time and money; not to mention, it is predicted that by the end of 2014, 90 per cent of companies will encourage Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives in the workplace4. Mobile surveys would be an ideal way to increase participation, through ‘gamification’ and convenience, and ensures more accurate and valuable results. This is clearly one approach that HR and L&D departments can embrace; the use of progressive processes that appeal to their technologically savvy, expanding audience.

A fully-referenced version of this article is available on request.

About the author

Gerry Griffin is the founder and director of Skill Pill M-Learning. Find out more at skillpill.com or email info@skillpill.com

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