Okay, you understand why setting targets for engagement surveys should be avoided...but if you have to set engagement-based incentives, here’s what you ought to keep in mind...
Employee engagement can be impacted by many varied work experiences.
In our customizable template, we include a number of potential drivers of engagement for you to assess. However, what drives engagement today or this week may not be the same driving factor tomorrow or next month. Organizations change and teams evolve, and so do the experiences of the employees within them. What you choose to focus on from feedback provided yesterday may not be the most impactful driver of engagement in 6 months.
So, while the focus from last survey might improve (example - manager feedback), another driver that hadn’t surfaced prior might have dropped (example - access to learning and development opportunities), leveling out the overall engagement score despite the targeted focus area demonstrating positive movement.
Therefore, if you’re going to incentivize something, incentivize the engagement driver(s).
If you are going to incentivize employee feedback, you should focus goals on the drivers themselves - the focus areas that are driving your actions. This is critical for two reasons.
First, engagement is considered a 'lag indicator' such that it is an after-the-event measurement. And while it’s useful for assessing current state or progress, it’s pretty useless when attempting to influence the future (e.g., I can’t directly change how proud you are to work where you do - pride being an indicator of employee engagement). In contrast, all of the other work experiences we examine as potential drivers of engagement are 'lead indicators', and are predictive in nature. It is these lead indicators that are your focus areas for driving action. These are the measures that can be more fairly associated with incentives, all other factors being equal (e.g., as a leader I can change your perceptions for whether or not you understand how we make organizational decisions - and it's those perceptions that are likely to impact how proud you are to work for the company).
Second, goals based on engagement scores themselves can confuse employees and managers on where to focus their energy and time. Organizational communications will tend to be steered around the desired goal of increasing the outcome (with targets for engagement) rather than on the critical drivers that impact how engaged employees are. For example, if targets are set on engagement rather than the driver, then the communications that go out to employees about goals are more likely to focus on that rather than on the specific actions being taken to improve employees' understanding for how decisions are made - the driver.
TIP: As with all goal setting activities, it’s best to strive for difficult, but achievable goals. These are consistently shown as the most motivating.
It’s always good practice to work towards identifying just one or two focus areas from the impactful drivers of employee engagement. Any more than a couple will make it really tough for managers and employees alike to rally around and track. In general, when picking focus areas, you’ll want to consider:
- The favorability ratings
- The impact of the focus areas (driver) on engagement
- Internal and external comparisons (benchmarks)
TIP: Read our Focus Agent Summary for guidelines on how to narrow to one or two opportunities.
If you are going to incentivize your employee feedback program, focus the incentive(s) on 1-2 drivers of engagement and communicate the goal(s) in a way that will motivate teams towards a common initiative.
Please download and share this guide with stakeholders in your organization considering engagement targets.