5 Tips to Create a Clearer Picture

In the spring of 2012 at LinkedIn headquarters, then VP of Talent, Steve Cadigan, poured over the results of their employee engagement survey and was puzzled by what he saw. Steve recalled, “in just over three years, we had increased LinkedIn’s employee population from 400 to 4000. With that much organizational change, it didn’t make sense, but our employee engagement survey numbers remained the same.”

Today, Steve is a Talent Hacker and Advisor at Cadigan Ventures, a Board Member at Glance Technologies, Giroux Glass Inc., and Certn. He remembers their determination to create an accurate picture of LinkedIn’s employee engagement. “We decided to partner with John Schoolery of DataCycles who told us to ask open-ended questions. We then used text analysis to reveal great insights.” The people team found that the best and most actionable data came from the following question:  “Are you as productive as you could be? Why or why not?” LinkedIn’s 4,000 employees were then able to express what mattered to them freely in their own words, and LinkedIn had a tool that could listen at a deeper level and create impactful change.

Almost eight years later, many companies are still relying exclusively on the multiple-choice annual or semi-annual employee engagement survey.  And yet, in spite of significant investment in employee engagement by organizations, many suffer lackluster results. This doesn’t mean you should toss out your annual or semi-annual employee engagement survey as it can still be a valid piece of engagement information. However, in this rapidly changing, competitive global market where skilled talent is scarce, and engagement levels highly correspond to employee turnover, it is critical to capture as accurate and as detailed a picture of your company’s employee engagement as possible.

To help you create a clearer picture of your employee’s level of engagement, here are 5 tips:


#1. Befriend New Data Gathering Techniques

With the explosion of technology in data gathering and analysis, there are many choices in the market to help you understand the engagement of your teams – and get results faster. These include:

  • Pulse Surveys- These surveys are similar to the traditional annual employee survey in that they usually track the same questions over time. Pulse surveys are different in that they are shorter and can be done daily, monthly, and on an ad hoc basis. Popular ones include 6Q, 15Five, Get Feedback, and TINYPulse
  • Sentiment Analysis- Sentiment Analysis determines whether a piece of writing is positive, negative, or neutral, and combines NLP (Natural Language Processing) and machine learning to assign weighted scores. While technology that harnesses sentiment analysis can focus externally on social media networks such as Glassdoor, internally-focused technology is also evolving. It includes contenders such as Perception, Glint, and Waggl.
  • Organizational Network Analysis (ONA)- ONAs collect data on how people interact by quantifying and displaying the number and strength of connections among people and groups. Adoption is increasing as Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey found that 48 percent of their respondents were experimenting with ONA tools. Established ONA vendors include Trustsphere, KeenCorp, and Microsoft Delve.
  • Work Management Solutions- These technologies collect data on employees as they are in the process of doing work. The resulting data gives the organization actual engagement rather than self-reported engagement data. Solutions include Sapience Analytics and Visier.
    • Here are three indicator examples of low engagement that Work Management Solutions can identify:
      1. The percentage of time a manager spends with his or her direct reports if too high or too low
      2. When an employee consistently does not have at least two hours between meetings to do meaningful work
      3. The number of hours per week spent in meetings with more than 20 attendees


#2. Monitor Your Employee Referral Numbers

While most companies relegate employee referral numbers to the Talent Acquisition department, other companies are utilizing their employee referral activity as contributing data to overall employee engagement and cultural health. 

Employees who have a vested interest in the growth and success of the company will usually provide more and higher-quality referrals. However, tracking referrals can be challenging unless you have the right technology. 

Weevr.io is a Talent Referral Technology that captures referrals not just from your employees but from people outside the company as well. Referrers benefit from rewards all along the hiring funnel, and the people team benefits by capturing employee data on who is referring, and most likely, is engaged.


#3. Foster and Capture Manager-to-Direct Report Connection

“Employee surveys can work,” says Lorie Corcuera, CoFounder and Chief Culture Officer of Spark Creations, “but they are just one data point. Managers need to learn how to connect with people.” 

While surveys endure criticism for their impersonal delivery, the relationship to one’s manager is as critical as ever. Employees, especially Millennials, are looking for connections, and according to Gallup, they “don’t want bosses – they want coaches. Millennials expect their managers to coach their performance and to value them as people and employees. That requires real relationships, not command-and-control management.”

Employee insights do not have to disappear into the memory of a manager’s mind. Tools such as Lattice or Reflektive can help your managers gather sentiments from their one-on-one’s and ongoing conversations.


#4. Keep an Eye On Your Employee Well-being

“It isn’t enough to just measure employee engagement,” says Steve Cadigan, “You have to measure well-being – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.” Gallup backs this up, and HR Magazine maintains that “A mounting body of evidence strongly suggests well-being is an essential aspect of engagement, and that companies may be missing a trick if they don’t tackle the two in tandem.” 

Before investing in new technology or building out a comprehensive program, your benefits consultant may be able to see correlations to well-being and engagement levels right away. “A warning sign for workplace engagement, wellness, and culture,” says Nicole Boduel at Hub International,“ is when we see these three areas increase together over a prolonged period of time:

  1. Disability claims citing workplace stress
  2. Employee, Family Assistance Programs [EFAPs] that cite workplace stress as their reason for usage, and
  3. Increased prescription drug usage for depression and anxiety.”


When you are ready to devote resources to well-being technology and initiatives, a robust suite of well-being programs focused on physical, mental, financial, and spiritual health can provide you with data and insights. Solutions such as Castlight Health, Limeade, VirginPulse, offer platforms that allow employers to deliver and monitor well-being solutions –  all through an integrated app.

The plethora of methods to measure employee engagement along with contributing factors such as employee well-being can make any people team leader’s head spin – especially in an environment with fast-moving markets. However, employee engagement is simply a deep listening exercise that, when done well, can capture the whispers of employees and the promises of increased profitability, customer outcomes, retention, and productivity.