Employee Engagement in a New World: What to Measure, and How


Employee engagement has changed in a world where employees don’t share the same workspace as leadership. How do you measure employee engagement in the new world of work?

The COVID-19 crisis has reignited conversations on employee careOpens a new window and engagement.

Engagement has always been the outcome of a series of efforts an organization makes in various areas that impact an employee’s life and that simplify it. While the definition of employee engagement may not have changed entirely, its drivers seem to have changed.

Interestingly, Gallup foundOpens a new window as recently as May 2020 that 38% of employees were engaged – the highest ever since Gallup began tracking engagement levels – citing employers’ response to COVID-19 as a possible explanation. However, 49% of employees are not engaged. While the data sample is small – with only 4,724 employees being surveyed – it still shows the potential that can emerge from measuring employee engagement in a sustainable way for the future of work.

What Are the New Metrics of Employee Engagement?

A lot about employee engagement has not changed. But COVID-19 has transformed the nature of the organization and placed a central focus on putting people first. Good measures of employee engagement now will be:

1. Employee well-being

This encompasses physical, mental, and financial well-being. Employees have had to go through a lot of turmoil because of COVID-19, and this has impacted all areas of their life. Measuring the state of holistic employee well-being can emerge as a strong indicator of the organization’s engagement levels.

2. Employee productivity

Productivity and engagement have always been linked, but in a world where organizations cannot control the environment in which their employees operate, it is important to measure how productive employees can be. In such cases, organizations’ efforts to equip employees with everything they need to do their jobs remotely may result in higher productivity and as a result engagement.

3. Voluntary turnover

Voluntary turnover in the current environment may seem unlikely, but it is still possible. Chris MullenOpens a new window , director of HCM strategic advisory services, KronosOpens a new window , the workforce management cloud solution provider, says that “If there is a high rate of voluntary turnover, that’s another indicator that the culture you’ve mapped out on paper isn’t actually being executed.” He encourages HR leaders to identify the high performers in the organization and measure the voluntary turnover of this population. “If we’re doing our jobs right, it will be minimal,” he adds.

4. Revenue

Mullen recommends looking at total revenue, revenue per employee, or the ratio of revenue to the labor budget. “At the end of the day, we want to provide a great employee experience because we want to do right by our teams. However, we also want to provide a great employee experience because a highly engaged workforce is going to provide better service, create better products, sell more widgets, drive innovation, and help push the organization ahead of its competition. Track this, measure this, and keep it top of mind with C-suite leadership,” he says.

5. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) and belonging

During financial crises, it is predicted that the most pressing initiatives are prioritized and those considered to be low priority, such as D&I, are put on the backburner. But there’s no better time than now to measure inclusion, equity, and belonging in the workplace as indicators of worker engagement. When workers are isolated and with the unrest prevalent in the country, measuring employee feelings about D&I can help you identify and modify your D&I strategy, if required. Belonging, too, has emerged as the top trend in the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital TrendsOpens a new window report, and organizations would be wise to keep this metric in mind when implementing any engagement initiatives.

6. Employee net promoter score (eNPS)

Employee net promoter scoreOpens a new window is believed to be an outdated metric of engagement by some, but currently, it is a great way to quickly measure the engagement levels of your employees. It can also easily allow you to benchmark yourself against other organizations and help you identify where you stand. If followed up with pulse surveys, an eNPS score can deliver sound insight into the levels of engagement in the organization and what you can do about it.

Learn More: 5 Industry Experts on HowOpens a new window to Measure Employee Engagement Effectively in 2020Opens a new window

Measuring Employee Engagement Now and for the New Normal

Engagement measurement can be divided into the short run and the long run. While now pulse surveys will dominate measurement, in the long run, biannual surveys and crowdsourcing will help organizations learn what drives the engagement of their workers in the new way of work.

Pulse surveys to measure engagement in the short run

During a crisis, regular pulse surveys – designed specifically for the current state of affairs – may be one of the few ways to check in on employees. Only 31% of respondents said in a recent Willis Towers Watson studyOpens a new window that they had surveyed their employees in response to COVID-19. But this number needs to be much higher to identify the drivers of engagement and demonstrate employee care and listening.

“In uncommon scenarios like a global pandemic, companies should be surveying their employees every one to three weeks depending on what programs and resources have already been rolled out,” says Amelia RansomOpens a new window , senior director of engagement and diversity at AvalaraOpens a new window , a provider of cloud-based tax compliance solutions. But this is best done a few weeks after a new initiative/change has been launched. “A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the change, the longer you can wait to survey employees with less risk of change having a significant impact.”

Several tools with preconfigured surveys designed by behavioral scientists are now available to help HR take the guesswork out of what is most appropriate to ask. However, do note that a pulse survey must immediately be followed up with action on the feedback.

Ransom suggests that “Surveying employees with the intent of just knowing how people feel with no follow-up isn’t doing anyone any good. Ask yourself and your team, ‘What might we do about this scenario based on the feedback we’ve received?’ If you can’t answer that question, then it’s best not to ask.”

Biannual engagement surveys and enterprise crowdsourcing for engagement measurement in the long run

Mullen believes that “employee engagement isn’t the goal.” Instead, the goal must be to deliver a great employee experienceOpens a new window – of which employee engagementOpens a new window is one metric. And that, he says, should not be relegated to a once-in-a-year check.

“Do you think your finance department only checks in on revenue forecasts and budget expenditures once a year?” asks Mullen. “I’d love to suggest you survey employee engagement as frequently as every quarter, but we all recognize employee survey fatigue will set in pretty quickly. I’d say twice a year is the sweet spot.”

Biannual surveys help organizations pick up on the overall engagement levels and performance of employees. Pulse surveys enable in-the-moment listening, but biannual surveys can help you access larger data sets that can be compared with historical engagement data and enable new initiatives accordingly.

Two great tools to measure engagement biannually are the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale and the Gallup Q12 EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Survey.

Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES)

The UWES is a 17-point self-report questionnaire that measures employees’ vigor, dedication, and absorption in their job. Vigor refers to employees’ energy invested in their work, dedication is indicative of employee involvement in their job, and absorption refers to how engrossed employees are in their work. The UWES takes about 5–10 minutes to complete and can help identify general engagement trends in the organization.


Gallup’s Q12 is a 12-point questionnaire that claims to identify the most important elements of employee engagement. By providing access to the collected survey data on a dashboard, Gallup’s survey allows you to benchmark your employee engagement levels to its own database. This, again, can help you benchmark your organization against a large data set. Gallup recommendsOpens a new window providing a 2-week window for employees to respond to the questionnaire.

Another technology that can help organizations pick up on trends in employee sentiment is enterprise crowdsourcing technologyOpens a new window . These platforms allow HR leaders to ask questions beyond the regular feedback survey, and employees to respond specifically – beyond the limited survey responses. CHROs may be able to seek viable suggestions from their employees and help build a culture based on their feedback. In a 2019 surveyOpens a new window of 50 companies in North America, Europe, and the APAC region, 65% of respondents said that they had used a crowdsourcing program to improve employee engagement.

When changes and initiatives are rolled out based on this feedback, Ransom suggests “Being clear that these changes are based on the feedback received from the employee survey.” This, she says, “allows employees to see that their feedback is taken seriously, and it allows the company to continue to calibrate.”

This is important because according to a 2019 Salesforce ReportOpens a new window , employees who felt their voice was being heard were 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best at work. As we move to a new world marked by uncertainty, ensuring that employees are empowered to do their jobs well is critical.

Learn More: 20 Essential Employee Engagement Survey Questions for Your 2020 QuestionnaireOpens a new window

Old Employee Engagement Strategies for a New World

Organizations have had to lay off a significant portion of their workforce. Those retained form the core workforce now, and this group needs to be kept engaged to see the business through the current difficult time.

Revisiting employee engagement for the new world requires a certain level of change management – but a quick one. Mullen tells us that “Anyone who has undertaken a change management initiative recognizes there are so many systemic challenges – some big and some little – that exist or could get in the way.”

However, he recommends that executive leaders make meaningful improvements in the engagement process by overcommunicating with employees, trusting them “over and over again,” and focusing on developing great managers.

Together, these efforts can help to create and sustain a level of engagement essential for the very near future of work.

What are your thoughts on the metrics of employee engagement in a post-COVID-19 world? Share them with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .