4 Reasons an Employee Engagement Solution Is Key in Periods of Uncertainty

For businesses to remain competitive during times of uncertainty and transformation, understanding employee sentiment is critical. That’s where employee engagement software gives you the edge.

If there’s been one constant over the past few years, it’s rapid change, and there’s no sign of that pace slowing. According to recent research by PwC, over four-fifths (83%) of business leaders are focusing their business strategy on growth—more than any other objective. But periods of major transformation and uncertainty require more than top-down leadership. 

To effectively navigate major economic shifts and changes to company culture, you need to listen to your employees. That’s where an employee engagement solution is crucial.  

The power of employee engagement software is in bridging the gap between people and data, dissolving the disconnect between upper management and the wider workforce. As we enter another period of uncertainty, and with the conversation around quiet quitting continuing, the businesses that succeed will be those who listen to their employees—and act on what they hear. 

What Is Employee Engagement?

To execute a successful employee engagement initiative, it’s important that your people leaders have a strong grasp on why engagement is so critical. That way, your managers can ensure that every employee has the best understanding of employee engagement and its importance. That shared comprehension starts with a simple definition:

Employee experience is best understood as the journey an employee goes on from onboarding to exit, and employee engagement is the outcome. An engaged employee is emotionally invested in their role, their team, and the wider business, and always brings their full self to work. 

The distinction between employee experience and employee engagement is crucial since it emphasizes that the quality of your employee experience—which covers every touchpoint an employee encounters during their tenure at your company—is best measured through engagement metrics. When a worker’s overall experience is positive, they are more likely to be invested in the overall success of the company. 

With that definition in mind, the benefits of having a company full of engaged employees become readily apparent, ranging from a more inclusive company culture to a higher level of employee performance and productivity. Next, let’s explore the role employee engagement software plays in overall employee experience.

What Is an Employee Engagement Solution?

An employee engagement solution is a tool designed to track engagement trends and gather employee sentiment from across an organization. That data is then used to drive business decisions, improve employee satisfaction, and directly address employee concerns. 

Aiming to create a business environment where your employees feel engaged and supported is a good goal, but where do you start? The first step toward meaningful change is taking stock of the situation, and the best way to measure employee engagement is with an employee engagement solution.

The power of employee engagement software is in bridging the gap between people and data.

There are countless examples of employee engagement tools, but there are several functions that recur the most frequently:

  • Employee engagement survey: Whether delivered annually or weekly, the employee engagement survey is the cornerstone of all employee engagement platforms. It provides employees the opportunity to give feedback on a variety of different topics, usually either as a score or via written responses (or both!). 

  • Employee dashboard: An employee dashboard enables employees to see their own engagement metrics over time and the drivers that are influencing it (whether positive or negative). It can also enable conversations between an employee and their manager and suggest relevant training courses or support. 

  • Manager dashboard: Conversely, the manager dashboard gives managers the ability to see the full scope of their team and its engagement scores, typically highlighting areas that may need attention. With Workday Peakon Employee Voice, our platform further provides automatically generated recommended actions for tackling emerging problems. 

The Impact of Engagement Software During Periods of Change

With a firmer understanding of employee engagement and how engagement tools help to measure it, we can answer the bigger question: What does employee engagement have to do with navigating periods of uncertainty? And how does engagement software play a part in that process? The answer lies in how employees react to change. 

According to a McKinsey global survey, senior leaders are nearly 20% more likely than people in other roles to believe that their transformation goals have been adapted for employees across the company, and what that means for most employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. 

The foremost issue facing companies during a large-scale upheaval is the disconnect between senior management and their teams. Without visibility on employee sentiment at each level of the business, managers aren’t able to act in the best interest of their teams—whether that’s during planned or unplanned change.

In the same survey, McKinsey further highlights that when management ensures that frontline employees feel a sense of ownership, transformations see a 70% success rate. When frontline employees take the initiative to drive change, transformations have a 71% success rate. When both principles are used, the success rate rises to 79%. So how does that connect to employee engagement software?

Survey data taken from our latest report “Creating a Highly Engaged Organization” shows that organizations in the top quartile for engagement are proactive in acknowledging employee feedback, with 20% higher response rates to survey comments compared to low-scoring companies. In both instances, providing employees with the space to voice their thoughts improves success rates. The most effective facilitator of that feedback? Employee engagement software.

Choosing the Right Employee Engagement Platform

Having a reliable method of measuring employee engagement and taking action toward improving it is integral for maintaining performance and morale during periods of uncertainty. But what functionality should your company be looking for from an employee engagement platform? And how do you identify the right solution for your business needs? Here are five tips to help you find the best engagement software for your company’s employee engagement program. 

  1. Ensure you have access to real-time data. The major benefit of employee engagement software over more traditional human resources (HR) surveys is that you have access to real-time feedback and metrics. That means if your workplace culture sours or there’s widespread discontent over pay, it’s easy to identify the problem as it occurs. During periods of change, the ability to get a regular read on what your employees are thinking and why is invaluable—make sure your engagement solution is equipped for the job. 
  2. Prioritize tools that utilize machine learning. Another advantage employee engagement solutions have over traditional surveys is the reduction of HR administrative work. Without artificial intelligence to surface relevant, actionable insights as and when your company needs them, sorting through large amounts of people data can be difficult. Make sure you understand how machine learning is integrated, both in terms of how the platform selects survey questions and how it presents employee data.
  3. Compare and contrast methodology. It may not surprise you to learn that there are multiple theories about the best way to measure employee engagement. From the Likert scale to eNPS to text-based responses, there’s not a definitive answer for which approach is best. What’s important is that the data you gather is flexible, enabling managers to see multiple different viewpoints and categorizations, providing a rounded picture of their team. 
  4. Seek out seamless integrations. An employee engagement survey is only as useful as the number of people who complete it, which is why meeting your employees in the natural course of their day is crucial. Providing feedback should be seamless, meaning that solutions should have easy integrations with other HR platforms and communication tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, as well as consumer-grade interfaces. 
  5. Be wary of tools that promise anonymous feedback. By nature of the survey process and the close relationship between many managers and their employees, true anonymity is near impossible. Though an employee may aim to remain anonymous, they may leave identifiable markers in their responses (purposely or accidentally), such as a reference to a specific project they worked on or mentioning an in-person conversation. 

When management ensures that frontline employees feel a sense of ownership, transformations see a 70% success rate.

It’s important to acknowledge the strong relationship a people leader has with their people. If a manager oversees a team of three, it’s likely they could identify who a comment came from. That’s why we foreground confidentiality rather than anonymity with Workday Peakon Employee Voice, removing identifying information and enabling honest conversations between managers and their team.

How Employee Engagement Software Solves 4 Critical Business Challenges

In our global survey report of 1,150 senior executives “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation,” more than half of leaders (52%) said there was a growing divide between where their business was and where it needed to be to compete. As businesses face pressure from competitors as well as major economic uncertainties, employee engagement can’t fall behind. 

In this section we’ll explain four major risks faced by businesses during periods of uncertainty or transformation, before outlining how employee engagement solutions provide a fix in each instance—what we’ve termed “The Engagement Solution.”

1. Employee Disconnect From Company Goals and Culture

The difficulty with periods of change and uncertainty is self-evident—try as you might, you can’t plan for every variable. What businesses can do is learn from prior shifts in the way we work. Having just undergone the most significant change to work life in memory, there are plenty of lessons to learn.

What the pandemic highlighted most acutely was the potential disconnect found between companies and their people. The introduction of home and hybrid working setups has broken down the view that company culture is linked to a physical location. Instead, companies now have to consider how their goals and values are communicated outside of the workplace. Culture shouldn’t be limited to beanbags and social events. 

According to our “Closing the Acceleration Gap” report, one of the top two barriers businesses face during periods of change is culture, with 35% of executives saying organizational culture is the biggest blocker they face. But how can companies promote a strong internal culture that connects to their values and overall strategy?

The Engagement Solution: Create Space for Regular Feedback

The best part of attempting to improve company culture through employee engagement software is that the very act of asking your employees for feedback has a positive impact. According to data from our report “Creating a Highly-Engaged Organization,” 45% of organizations with high engagement scores ask for feedback on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis versus just 26% of low-scoring companies. 

As always, good internal communication is key. Here are three areas where an engagement solution can help create space for frequent employee feedback across the employee lifecycle: 

  • Institute regular employee engagement surveys. Issues shouldn’t only come to light during a performance review or exit interview. The cornerstone of any successful engagement initiative is a pulse survey. By delivering these at a higher frequency, you make sure your data is accurate and relevant at the point of contact. 

  • Touch base with your managers. People leaders are at the heart of a coherent company culture—that’s why an employee survey is just as important for management as it is for the teams they manage. Bring your managers into the fold at every level, listen to what they have to say, and respond with meaningful, measurable actions. 

  • Enable your managers to act. Company values mean nothing if you don’t act on them. With Workday Peakon Employee Voice, managers can take action straight from their dashboard, highlighting areas their team members are having issues with and engaging in confidential conversations. 

2. Lowered Employee Wellbeing and Job Security

People are typically afraid of change, especially if it has the potential to impact their livelihood. Whenever a company is facing a period of uncertainty—whether it’s as a result of an internal company transformation or external economic circumstances—your employees will naturally be apprehensive. 

If unaddressed, those anxieties can quickly lead to lower welfare, deteriorated customer relationships, and increased levels of employee burnout. Looking to the pandemic as an example, our 2021 report “The Great Regeneration: Turning the Tide on Employee Resignations” found that 27% of employees had engagement scores that indicated they were at a high risk of attrition. Facing periods of difficulty with unclear direction from management, employee wellbeing declines.

As businesses face pressure from competitors as well as major economic uncertainties, employee engagement can’t fall behind.

Right now, we’re standing on the precipice of a burnout crisis. Of the 10 industries analyzed in our report “Addressing Employee Burnout Risk in 2022,” seven either maintained or saw increased levels of burnout risk between 2021 and 2022. But how can businesses identify and address employee concerns as and when they arise? And how can managers address questions about the future they might not have concrete answers for?

The Engagement Solution: Use Real-Time Data for Real-Time Responses

Fundamentally, you can’t address a problem you don’t know exists. As the pace of workplace evolution increases globally, your ability to respond to employee concerns also has to increase in pace. That’s where an employee engagement solution is invaluable.

A manager might not be able to predict the future, but they can show their team that they’re proactively making changes for the better. Here are three ways an engagement solutions can help:

  • Focus on real-time data. With employee engagement software, not only do you provide employees with a platform to voice their thoughts, you also get access to live-updating data. In doing so, you dramatically increase the relevancy of your data and significantly decrease HR workload.

  • Take action when it matters. Since an employee engagement solution provides managers with real-time survey data, you can take action at the moment a problem emerges. Our report “Creating a Highly Engaged Organization” found that managers at highly engaged companies are 18% more likely to acknowledge employees having a low score compared to their peers.

  • Search employee comments with machine learning. Employees may not always use the same words to discuss an issue, but consistent sentiments still emerge. Using natural-language-processing technology, Workday Peakon Employee Voice enables managers to search employee comments for semantically grouped insights, ensuring you always know what’s top of mind. 

3. Decreased Levels of Psychological Safety

When things are going well at a company, it’s easy to assume your employees are content with your business practices. But how can you know whether your employees feel safe speaking up until you’re facing more serious issues? If your employees don’t have space to raise the problems they’re having, periods of uncertainty can suddenly lead to high levels of turnover. 

Psychological safety refers to an employee’s ability to share their thoughts without fear. That fear may be rooted in a concern speaking up could impact their chance for progression, or that their ideas may be shot down and mocked. Either way, it’s incredibly important for the ongoing success of a company that employees can contribute constructive feedback without negative consequences

Creating psychological safety across the board requires a change to culture as much as it does to process. That means creating clear spaces for employee feedback, whether in person or digitally. That means understanding the value of confidentiality. 

The Engagement Solution: Enable Confidential Two-Way Conversations

According to data from our report “Creating a Highly Engaged Organization,” managers at companies with higher engagement have 16% higher conversation rates than companies with lower engagement. When employees feel heard, that recognition contributes to feelings of safety and engagement.

Managers at highly engaged companies are 18% more likely to acknowledge employees having a low score compared to their peers.

The role of employee engagement software in enabling these confidential conversations can’t be overstated. Here are three ways an engagement solution helps improve psychological safety:

  • Embrace confidentiality. By using an engagement solution that enables confidential conversations, you allow employees to speak up with conviction. Plus, by surveying employees regularly on a variety of different topics, you encourage them to contribute in areas where they may have otherwise lacked confidence. 

  • Promote a feedback culture. Regularly surveying your employees and informing them of the actions being taken as a result lets your people know that what they say matters. More than that, it shows that speaking up isn’t a problem—it’s welcomed.

  • Enable greater visibility. Confidentiality doesn’t preclude the involvement of senior leadership. In Workday Peakon Employee Voice, people leaders at each level can see relevant conversations from employees in their department. That way, employees know their comments won’t hit a wall due to an uncooperative manager.

4. Lack of Career Growth and Opportunity

Regardless of how well a company manages other concerns during periods of uncertainty, employee career growth and development will nearly always take a hit. Using the pandemic as an example, our report “The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement” found that employee scores around engagement, mental wellbeing, and working environment all increased. The only score to decline across the board? Growth. 

Tackling issues around growth can be difficult at a time when budgets are tight and the future is unclear. But growth doesn’t always have to manifest as a new promotion or a pay raise. Instead, businesses should look to create a culture of continuous learning across their company, encouraging smaller moments of growth and recognition.

The Engagement Solution: Create a Culture of Continuous Learning

Research from Deloitte shows that organizations with a strong learning culture have engagement and retention rates that are 30%-50% higher than their peers. Not only that, but they are also 92% more likely to develop novel products and processes, 56% more likely to be first to market, 52% more productive, and 17% more profitable.

An engagement solution should be at the foundation of any company learning culture and performance management initiative. Here are three ways to embed conversations around growth and development:

  • Meet employees where they work. Learning needs to happen in the flow of work, in much the same way as engagement surveys. Confidential two-way conversations enable managers to share relevant learnings directly when growth scores begin to decline. 
  • Don’t ignore the warning signs. A robust engagement solution provides managers oversight on much more than just engagement scores. On average, the growth score of employees that remain with a business is 13% higher than the average score of departing employees (seen in “Employee Expectations Report 2022”). Make sure managers provide support where it’s needed.
  • Create personalized learning pathways. Resources should be tailored to the individual, providing relevant learning material based on an employee’s tenure, seniority, and area of expertise. Additionally, they should be tailored to an individual’s specific issues—another area where searching for semantically related insights promotes a more nuanced understanding of declining scores.

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