· Features

Beyond the annual survey: assessing engagement throughout employee lifecycle

The battle to attract and retain the best talent continues to top the business agenda for leading organisations. Having a strong employer brand is a prerequisite just to compete.

Understandably then, many organisations are focusing efforts on strengthening the employer brand. To do this effectively, it is first helpful to understand the perception of your company from those closest to it - your employees. This can be achieved by fostering a culture with more open, regular dialogue with employees. This may be particularly insightful for companies that are affected by the economic headwinds.

In best in class organisations, communication is a two-way process and is typified by continuous dialogue. There is a distinct business need to go beyond simply running an all-employee survey every one or two years and moving to a model where you can measure engagement throughout the employee lifecycle.

Organisations are increasingly choosing to do this by implementing surveys for new starters or leavers or running a series of 'pulse' surveys, aimed at getting more detailed feedback on particular aspects of the employee experience.

One of the companies we work with, mutual insurance firm LV=, a winner of 'Most effective recruitment and retention' at the HR Excellence Awards, provides a great example of a company with an innovative engagement programme.

LV= introduced two surveys for new starters, surveying after one week in the business, to get their first impressions, and then again after 30 to 60 days. Questions posed focus on reasons for joining, the on-boarding process, engagement, training and communication.

It is thought that as many as nine out of 10 employees decide whether to stay with a company within the first six months, which makes this a crucial period for assessing employees' perception of the company and their level of engagement.

It is equally important to capture the views of employees that decide to leave the business. This not only provides clarity into why people are choosing to leave, but also enables the identification of any misalignment or trends across the employee lifecycle.

LV= also runs a survey for leavers, where questions focus on areas including learning and development opportunities, work-life balance and relationship with line manager. By understanding the reasons employees give for leaving, LV= is able to identify what, if any, action could've been taken to prevent them deciding to move on.

'Pulse' surveys are being used more tactically by companies, supplementing an annual all-employee engagement survey. Typically these are carried out among smaller employee groups to avoid any 'survey fatigue'. The format lends itself to getting more in-depth, specific feedback from employees on key organisational issues or hot topics at a given time, supporting the business to become more agile and responsive.

Regardless of the timing and focus of different employee survey elements though, it is important not to lose sight of why you're surveying and what the company stands to gain. Any new survey introduced should have a clear purpose in order be of value to the organisation.

If knowledge really is power, then assessing engagement throughout the employee lifecycle will make all organisations more powerful. By encouraging more regular dialogue with employees, you will have a much clearer picture of how employees feel, what motivates and engages them and what working practices they like and dislike.

This information can lead to a host of business benefits - such as the ability to enhance the employer value proposition and attract and retain the best talent. However, in order to realise any benefit, you will need to be firmly committed to taking action on employee feedback.

If you continually survey employees without acting on results or communicating the action being taken with employees, the integrity of the survey process will be undermined and it'll add little business value.

Companies getting it right will have a more engaged workforce, which is likely to lead to enhanced business performance.

Hannah Stratford, head of business psychology at ETS