The Science of Employee Engagement & Engagement Models
Brittany Aguilar Ph.D. – Senior Consultant at Kantar TNS Employee Insights
[Video Transcript] The Kantar TNS employee engagement survey is a series of six items in an index to holistically measure what connects employees to their job, their teams, and their organization now we re-validated our model recently based on the blend of recent research looking at what’s going on with neuroscience and other exciting areas of employee experience. We also looked at seminal or foundational research to really rely on and draw on the roots of engagement that’s been going on for decades.
Bringing that together we put together a model and really wanted to dig in and validate that for ourselves make sure that was true and beyond any of the research we’d seen out there. So we went out and did our own validation survey at a global level to make sure that our items were sound and valid and we have high levels of reliability. The resulting model is a series of six items really digging into the heart of employee engagement. Each represents a sub dimension of engagement things like trust, connection, and vigor, as well as wellness for employees we’re looking at these pieces because we know they come together to tell us really what it’s like to be that employee and how a healthy experience exists within the organization. What we’re looking at is that attitude and the persistence of that attitude over time so that we can predict behavior. We know this through a series of connections the employee will have.
First up is the cognitive or head connection. It’s the statement of equity saying this is the right decision for me this is where I should be working. Second is the heart or more visceral or emotional connection saying I like working here, I’m energized by this. The third is the hands so that’s the practice piece. When your head and your heart are aligned we can more easily predict the outcome behaviors streaming from those pieces. That’s what you’ll often hear people talk about discretionary efforts the outcome of engagement is putting that little bit in taking more patience with clients, sending out one more email, being a little more creative pushing the boundaries and bringing others along for that experience. That’s what being engaged is all about.
At Kantar TNS we measure our new engagement model through something called pattern of response. You’re probably familiar with reporting at an overall favorability level that’s looking at how favorably someone responded to a prompt: So something like I’m proud to work here. If you respond one through five for example they take that favorability and average it across the rest of the items in that index, so for our example six items, and that gives you one number to which you can say “is this person engaged or not” and just look at a rank score. That doesn’t tell you the whole story. You’re missing pieces there. Some things could be really low and drag down the score and you won’t know what that means. So we do with pattern of response is look at how you respond to each and every one of those items essentially taking it as an opportunity or six opportunities to say “are you engaged are you connected” so we look at how you respond to each of those six items given each opportunity to say “yes I’m connected, yes I like working here, yes this is the right decision for me” is that true for you. What that lets us accomplish is individual level employee engagement reports as well as group level engagement reports that give you the distribution of your team.
Imagine walking into a room with ten of your colleagues four of those are actively disengaged meaning they’re not feeling that connection. They’re less likely to go along with new ideas and initiatives, less likely to be creative, they may sabotage other’s work or they may just be burned-out themselves and less likely to produce quality at work. On the other hand if you walk in and let’s say six or seven of those individuals are highly engaged they’re gonna be there to bring others along..it’s contagious guys! They’re gonna go in and say let’s try something new, let’s put a little bit in, let’s take a few more minutes to be patient with clients, let’s send out one more email. It’s that discretionary effort which is why everyone’s really chasing this engagement.
Building on that core of solid engagement measurement we want to see what’s driving that engagement what in the employees experience is causing them to be more or less engaged. These are probably familiar to us: things like your relationship with your immediate manager, perceptions of senior leadership, teamwork, job alignment and others. We’ve developed five major drivers of engagement that we’ve built into a core measure or a foundational measurement tool called our Engage Plus Model. Within our five engagement driver categories we have items we know equally strongly drive engagement on their own and what we do is look at these items after the results are in, we crunch the data, we look at the numbers and through a series of advanced statistical analyses can tell you what’s most strongly in your group or your organization driving engagement. These are what we call strengths and opportunities. It’s based on proprietary algorithm developed here at TNS that we use to help employees and organizations understand how to most improve or impact their level of engagement. Now this can be done in a few ways: If your organization or team is large enough we run regression analyses. Many other survey providers are not doing this. They’re focusing on analyses such as correlation studies. Those are valuable, and we do that for smaller groups, but where we can we like to bring the most rigor and science that we have available. Now we are excited about our Engage Plus Model! It stands on its own and it’s helpful for most of our clients. However, your organization or your teams may have really unique or custom areas that you want to investigate further. We have clients investigating areas in their organizations such as: safety, other initiatives like change, they may want to be more creative, or look at Union vulnerability index for example.
So we have both on categories and dimensions that we can add to our model. It’s built to be flexible. It’s built to embrace areas that are specific to your organization. What good is knowing foundationally with driving your engagement if your core initiatives or the essence of who your organization isn’t involved. The survey needs to be as much about you as it is about science.