Employee engagement is intimately tied to workplace performance and employee retention: morale improves and productivity increases while attrition rates drop. Knowing why employee engagement is important is only half the battle, however. You also need to know how to engage employees when times get tough.
Learning how to engage employees can be elusive, as every workforce and corporate culture has different values and challenges. So what do you do when you have an employee morale problem?
Katie Webber, Head of Talent Management at Snagajob, hosted a Reflektive webinar discussing how HR and business leaders can use data and vulnerability to reconnect with their teams. Her experience reveals how important a survey measuring employee engagement can be when morale needs a boost.
Snagajob Hits a Snag
Snagajob is the largest and fastest-growing platform for hourly work — with more than 60 million active job seekers and job opportunities at 300,000 employer locations in the U.S. and Canada. The company, which Webber describes as “LinkedIn for the hourly worker,” has three locations and 300 employees (also known as “Snaggers”). Prior to 2018, the company ranked on Fortune Magazine’s “Great Place to Work” — eight years running.
2018, however, saw some serious disruptions to Snagajob’s industry, including competition from larger companies such as Google. In response, the company scaled back to stay agile and focused on a set of core products. Snagajob was forced to go through two sets of layoffs and close one office as a result. Adding to the complexity was the exit of its CEO shortly thereafter. No matter how you looked at it, 2018 was a tough year, and both employees and executives knew it.
Employee morale dropped significantly, as did retention rates. Employees either left independently to pursue other options or were poached by recruiters who noticed Snagajob’s suddenly low engagement rates. As Webber put it, Snagajob was bleeding needed talent.
Creating a Survey for Employee Engagement
Snagajob’s HR team needed to provide a solution to its morale and retention problems, and to do that, it needed data. The team agreed to use a survey to collect data but disagreed on which area to focus on. Some advocated for a management effectiveness survey, while others thought tools and access to data or learning and development took precedence. Any data that supported focusing their work on one area was missing, so the team boldly decided to do a deep dive into employee engagement and to collect data at scale.
Webber’s team chose to beta test Reflektive’s Engagement solution and deploy an employee engagement survey. Snagajob had already partnered with Reflektive for performance management and 1:1 conversations, so employees were familiar with and trusted Reflektive as an impartial third-party who would respect employee anonymity.
The survey was a true deep dive, asking 65 questions divided into 15 categories — including inclusion, two-way communication, psychological safety, and executive trust. Each question was answered using a five point “strongly agree to strongly disagree” format.
The team used emails, executive announcements, and manager dissemination to promote the survey. Reflektive emailed each employee with a survey link, letting Snaggers know the survey would take about twenty minutes to complete. Reflektive also sent periodic nudges to employees to remind them about the survey, with each nudge email containing the link.
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Analyzing Employee Engagement Results
The survey saw remarkable employee participation: 85% of Snaggers responded, generating almost 20,000 lines of data. The HR team used Reflektive’s People Intelligence tools to analyze the data, which identified two main problem areas: communication and executive leadership.
Communication and executive leadership are the two most problematic areas when employee morale is considered, and changing either requires real work. Webber’s team had a choice to make: focus on smaller, more practical solutions or take on the root of the problem. They chose the latter.
After digging deeper into employee engagement with focus groups, the team approached executives with its data. Data was presented as a story, with the team walking executives through the steps they took to gather and analyze survey results. Essentially, they gently guided the executive team to the correct conclusion — that their actions (or lack thereof) were affecting employee morale.
The next step was to present findings to the staff at an all-hands meeting. The team chose transparency over spin, offering a clear view of the issues and the current direction of the company. The mood was somber, but employees accepted the results. A willingness to be vulnerable was highlighted by a member of the executive team, who told employees she was humbled to realize she was part of the problem.
Webber and her team used data to boost employee engagement. A newfound emphasis on transparency and vulnerability improved both trust and moral. Turnover rates dropped, and employees are once again recommending Snagajob as a great place to work. Webber plans to continue with yearly employee engagement surveys, followed by action plans and periodic polls to determine whether action plans are working.
Webber’s story is available as a Reflektive webinar, which you can view for more detail on demand. You may also want to check out The State of Employee Engagement, a comprehensive overview of the employee engagement in 2019.
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