Move beyond the limitations of engagement surveys.
An annual ritual that will solicit an eye roll from even the most devoted personnel: the employee engagement survey.
When well-intentioned companies want to listen to employees and solve front-line problems, the first place they tend to go is, “Oh, we’ll do a survey!”
Employee engagement surveys are popular because they are quick, cheap, and easy. But as with anything quick, cheap, and easy – there are major drawbacks.
Gain actionable insights with an employee experience assessment.
Rather than casting a wide net with surveys, we take a deep dive into the employee experience so leadership can deliver on the organization's goals.
The more productive alternative:
Employee Experience Assessments.
A leadership team’s goal shouldn’t be to determine whether employees are engaged. It should be to understand the employee experience to identify both positive emotional drivers and barriers to optimal performance and growth.
An employee experience assessment (EEX) is the development of an objective and in-depth understanding of a deceptively simple question, “What is it like to be an employee here?” Unlike hands-off surveys, EEX utilizes a one-on-one interview format with a representative sample set of your workforce to gather truly in-depth, objective, actionable data.
Another critical factor is that EEX is based on the employees’ viewpoint. This change is so unassuming it’s frequently overlooked. When basing one’s understanding of what it’s really like within an organization on leadership’s point of view instead of the employee's, it’s common to miss the forest for the trees.
Benefits of EEX.
Employee experience assessments produce objective data sets representative of your entire organization. The data produced is always geared toward being immediately actionable to address what’s currently holding the organization back.
The ability to flag, evaluate, examine, dig deep, and seek specific solutions for a wide range of issues in a large organization is dependent on face-time with employees. Their anecdotes can often reveal a defective, broken, or unwieldy process, or a problem with leadership’s assumptions about how planned systems truly function in the field.
A clear path forward
EEX produces solid recommendations, action plans, and a built-in org dev project manager. Contrast this to engagement surveys, which typically leave leaders with more questions than answers.
Practitioners of EEX assessments aren’t your average HR representatives. They’re former executives who have been in the shoes of the C-Suite and are after information that can make the business better. They are also highly experienced at establishing rapport and trust with front-line employees. Because the lever of employee experience is intended to improve operations by making their lives easier.
Why engagement surveys fail to deliver
What our clients think
This was the first time that we really have a clear idea across the organization about the hot topic issues we are all having. This was a good experience, and now I’m able to think differently about the way things work for my people. This was a completely different way to think about these things than we usually do in our normal jobs.
WF brings a refreshing and contemporary approach to today’s unprecedented organizational challenges. If you’re serious about growing and retaining your talent, you need WF on your side!
It was eye-opening to learn how so many employees feel and why they have those frustrations. These experiences are much more complex than I imagined, especially when developing a plan for the whole organization. The process used was interesting and completed with efficiency.
They provide an "agenda free" approach to helping you understand how to overcome an internal challenge.
I’ve participated in a lot of different types of HR workshops. This was by far the most valuable and engaging thing I’ve ever been involved in. I have a pile of things I plan to act on immediately.
The assessment was an interesting process. It was the most interesting consulting experience I’ve ever been through. I’ve been through a lot of engagement surveys, and this was the first time I felt completely engaged in what we were doing.
I would recommend WF highly. WF spent the time needed to understand our business so they could ask the right questions.
We found our project to be valuable, and hope to benefit from the insights for years in the future (while never adding that expertise through headcount).
It was so interesting how problems are scattered across the organization but are so similar in different areas. I think it went really well, and they made us think about our organization differently.
What distinguishes our employee engagement assessments?
At Wayforward, EEX is conducted by an experienced executive with a proven track record in finding the root cause of employee engagement friction and implementing positive changes. Our process is self-sufficient within your organization, avoiding any additional burden on your leadership or HR teams.
- The one-on-one interer format helps drive an emotional connection between the company and the employees
- Our EEX assessment process is trust-building rather than trust-eroding
- Participating employees frequently work through their objective analysis of the company during their interview, spurring constructive discussion within the workforce
- The process sparks organic problem-solving behaviors among employees post-interview
- Less management and HR bandwidth are required than with traditional engagement surveys – meaning, no more embarrassing prompts to complete surveys and annoying email reminders.
- Our EEX reports are not only a snapshot in time, but will serve as a strategic guidepost for company decisions for years to come
- Absent major changes in the organization, this type of assessment only needs to be conducted every two or three years, freeing up management bandwidth from annual surveys
How EEX helped our clients overcome their internal challenges.
Annual Revenue: $120M
- Best Places to Work Winner
The company was battling multiple internal challenges. Inconsistent levels of engagement across departments and teams. Poor communication within the organization, despite leadership, HR, and marketing feeling like they were overcommunicating. Difficulty recruiting new employees for growth. Strong complaints about changes as the company grew. And a leadership team that couldn’t tell what was just a “squeaky wheel” and what most employees actually felt.
The inconsistencies in how employees experienced their work in different departments stemmed from their department heads – who were dealing with their own inconsistencies in the form of a lack of clarity in expectations. The poor communication was caused by a lack of understanding of the subtle day-to-day realities of front-line employees and the best ways for them to receive information. And the over-communication was overwhelmed employees with too much information so that they couldn’t absorb it, didn’t know which source to go to for which information, and couldn’t differentiate what was important.
Annual Revenue: $20M
- Best Places to Work Winner
The company was recently acquired by another player in the industry. While they expected some turnover following the transition - turnover continued well beyond normal timeframes to an alarming extent. Both incumbent leadership’s and the new owners’ efforts to understand what was driving this issue were inconclusive.
Conducting an employee experience assessment revealed that while long-term strategic alignment between the internal company leaders and the new ownership were strong, there was significant misalignment around more immediate priorities. This misalignment cascaded confusion down through the ranks of the organization in two forms. Employees experienced frequently differing expectations. And new processes were often injected into the organization by the new owners without input from the internal stakeholders of the process, or much of a relationship. These factors combined to create an environment where employees did not feel confident in their ability to be successful in their role. That erosion of their own professional confidence made the already-strenuous post-acquisition environment too challenging to exist in for most of the employees - driving the turnover. Our task quickly became to solidify executive agreement around short-term priorities, and to steward the adoption of a process-management methodology that would be welcomed by employees, and therefore both effective and sustainable.
Financial services firm
Annual Revenue: $25M
- Best Places to Work Winner
This company was attempting to grow significantly for the first time in its 20-year history. But their last several hires, despite perfect resumes and great personalities, hadn’t worked out well. The company’s owners couldn’t put their finger on what was wrong.
The EEX assessment revealed a particular set of behavioral norms within the firm’s established team. These norms were very similar to a particular segment of their industry, and most of the hires had come from a different type of environment. Adjusting where the firm recruited from in their industry – one with the same behavioral norms, leadership mindset, and performance expectations – resulted in several hires within the next several months who worked out exceptionally well from the very beginning of employment.
Professional services firm
Annual Revenue: $20M
- Best Places to Work Winner
The company was experiencing staggering levels of turnover despite ongoing efforts by management and HR to maintain a fun, supportive work environment. This forced putting growth goals on hold just to maintain the current business. Younger employees didn’t want to return to the office. Ironically, some employees were leaving for higher-paying, fully remote work, and others were leaving to work in person at other regional firms.
The turnover occurred because there wasn’t a clear career path within the firm. Newer associates didn’t know what they were supposed to deliver to move up. The firm also wasn’t educating newer hires (relatively fresh out of university) about the industry. Those departing for fully remote jobs in major metro firms didn’t realize that they were sacrificing upward mobility for a much smaller bump in pay over the long term.
While leaders thought young associates didn’t want to come into the office, it turns out they did want to be there. In fact, many preferred it to be fully remote. But the firm didn’t have the tech to support hybrid meetings easily. Associates had difficulty completing their work from the office, so they defaulted to working from home. Improving the tech integration quickly got many employees re-engaged at the office.
Dispelling misconceptions about employee engagement assessments.
Let’s look at surveys from the employee perspective. Why does the survey – which takes (or should take) only twenty minutes to complete – feel like such an imposition? Why do department heads and supervisors dread their roles in the annual survey? Why do employees often see engagement surveys as a negative instead of a positive?
Because they all know that leadership chose a survey because it was quick, easy, and cheap. Think of the strongest relationships in your life. Are they important because that person takes the easy way out when you need them? Because they spend the least amount of time with you? Because they cheap out on the things that matter? Obviously not.
The strongest relationships are those that don’t phone it in. For an employee to receive an engagement survey, it feels like leadership is phoning it in when it comes to what matters to the employees. That triggers disappointment. And disappointment reduces effort.
When managers know they have to go through the motions to support an initiative that won’t generate value - even when the executives are phoning it in - it feels like their already-limited time is getting wasted. That spurs their disappointment too.
The higher up in an organization you are, the less unvarnished feedback you receive from your front-line employees. This is still the case in small or “flat” companies. Even when the C-Suite is getting the whole truth from people, it doesn’t necessarily represent the entire workforce’s point of view. It’s exceedingly hard for us to place ourselves objectively in the shoes of people with a completely different vantage point on the organization.
The interview process is indeed more time-consuming than surveys. It can take weeks or even months for large organizations. Depending on the level of sophistication and support from engagement survey software, the EEX assessment process is often more expensive.
They are also highly dependent on the individual practitioner conducting the interviews. An inexperienced or insincere interviewer can scuttle the data collection and future engagement efforts.
It’s of great importance that the practitioners be well-versed in mining raw data. In anything but a small business, there is a heavy data analysis piece to ensure that the insights are solid and actionable. Narrative presentation of the data in an engaging but objective fashion is another critical piece to ensure that the leadership team can absorb what is often a significant amount of information on complex, interconnected topics.
If you'd like to learn more about our employee engagement assessment services, schedule a quick, no-nonsense exploratory call with our Chief Advisor to help determine if we're the right fit for your company.