Episode 18: Market Research & Employee Engagement

Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast
Episode 18: Market Research & Employee Engagement
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As a result of COVID-19, the last few months have been a large adjustment for the employees of businesses all over the world. They’ve had to learn new systems and new ways of staying operational in what is a completely unprecedented business environment.

For many employees, staying connected and engaged with their places of work has been something they have had to navigate – perhaps for the first time.

So, for this episode, we’re diving into the topic employee engagement!

We’re joined by Grant Douziech, Partner and Senior Consultant with Apex Performance Consultants and expert in cultivating and maintaining employee engagement.

In our conversation, Grant shares why employee engagement is so crucial for businesses of all sizes, offers some tips and best practices for managing remote teams, provides some thoughts on steps businesses should take as they look to reopen their doors to their staff and a whole lot more.

Grant recently authored an article in The Business Advisor magazine, titled Working From Home: Is It Here to Stay? Check it out – it’s a great read.

Later in the episode, we speak with Insightrix Chief Revenue Officer, Shonna Caldwell, to get some thoughts about employee engagement research itself – what methodologies work best, how often the research should be done, what should be covered (and what shouldn’t be discussed) and who should be included.

If you would like to know more about Insightrix employee engagement research, contact us. 

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Episode Transcript

[EPISODE INTRODUCTION]

[DUNCAN] For many organizations, their people are their most important resource. They operationalize your organization’s goals and are often your customers main touchpoint, making up a big part of your customers buyer’s journey. That’s why many organizations work tirelessly to keep their employees and staff engaged and in step with company values and goals through engagement practices and programs. Sometimes, there are changes in organizations – or in the world itself.

Take the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic for example. Changes that make it critical for organizational leaders to check in on their employees to ensure that they’re getting the supports they need, to monitor their satisfaction with their jobs, and ensure that they’re still in alignment with the company’s culture and its values. Other times, during times when it’s business as usual, it can be just as important to touch base with your employees to see how everybody’s doing in their work and with the organization itself.

Market research and insights agencies help organizations maintain the engagement of their employees through employee engagement research, often in the form of employee engagement surveys and discussion groups. With the insight employers gain from this research, they can gather important data on issues like what concerns or needs employees have and how their managers and supervisors are performing. They can answer questions like are employees clear on company expectations and are employees connecting with organizational goals. Provided with this valuable information, employers and managers can take action where needed to improve the engagement of their employees and their connection with their coworkers in the organization itself.

Hi there, my name is Duncan McGregor, the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Insightrix Research in Saskatoon, Canada, and your podcast host.

In this episode of Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast, I’m joined by Partner and Senior Consultant at Apex Performance Consultants, Grant Douziech, to discuss the importance of employee engagement and some of the challenges and best practices for managing remote teams. And Grant also provides some advice on steps employers can take to help their employees through the transition of returning to the office after a remote working arrangement.

Then, later in the episode, we’re joined by Insightrix Chief Revenue Officer, Shonna Caldwell. Shonna returns to the podcast to talk about employee engagement research itself, including some best practices and challenges when it comes to developing and administering employee engagement surveys, when the best time to administer them can be, who should be doing them and what should be covered in them.

Engaged company cultures, avoiding organizational silos and pets who want you to go back to work in the office. All that and more in this episode of Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast.

[OPENING THEME MUSIC]

[INTERVIEW SEGMENT 1]

[DUNCAN] First, I’m joined by Grant Douziech, Partner and Senior Consultant at Apex Performance Consultants to talk about the importance of employee engagement, to get some tips about managing remote teams and even more.

Hi Grant, welcome to the podcast. It’s going to be awesome to have you on the episode talk about employee engagement. Thanks for coming on.

[GRANT] Thank you Duncan for the invitation. I look forward to having that dialogue with you.

[DUNCAN] Well, I really appreciate having you on. We’re going through some pretty unprecedented times right now, right? I mean, the situation around the pandemic’s been something that most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes and employees are seeing a lot of changes to their lives, and especially the way they work that they never expected because of it. I wonder if I could start by asking, if I’m a manager or business owner, what are some best practices I could be looking to adopt when leading employees through periods of big change like this?

[GRANT] Definitely, this is an unprecedented time like you stated. I think it comes down to, how do you manage change, and there are many change models out there coming such as Kotter, Lewin, ADKAR. What I suggest for most businesses, it really comes down with a focus on leadership and communication. Change starts with the why, and then the how – and then, you need to work on getting buy-in from the team and ensuring that you’re keeping on top of how people are responding to change. So, when you look at the components of best practice for change, to me that would include leadership; so, it starts at the top. It’s a function of your commitment and it’s about keeping your team informed and listening to the feedback from your team. Another component would, another best practice would be communication so check in frequently and make sure that you’re making time to do that. Overall, frequent communications and strong working relationships equate to better engagement. And also, when you’re looking at another best practice is defining responsibility and accountability so hold everyone responsible for being part of the change and ensure that everyone is accountable to one another. The other best practice is continuous learning so make sure that your assessing and adopting as, as you go along the change. At a bare minimum for best practice, I would recommend focusing on leadership and communication.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, those are, those are very important things to be, to be looking at and it’s been a lot to adapt to, right?

[GRANT] It is. This is, this is a big, big change. From a work perspective, but also from a society perspective as well.

[DUNCAN] Yep, entirely. Entirely. Like we were just saying, it’s going to be something that might be kind of paradigm shifting it when it all sorts out, right?

[GRANT] Correct and I think it’s one of those events that because it includes that personal and workspaces, sometimes those are just intertwined with how people are reacting and dealing with the change.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, tell me about it. Can you explain some of the challenges of having employees work remotely.

[GRANT] Sure, and actually, I address this in a recent article written for the Business Advisor magazine. The challenges for people working remotely start with resources and how you would deal with that is you make sure that they have the right equipment. So, that could be printer, laptop, mobile device, that they have their right Internet data plans, they have secured access to the software that they need and to the data that they need – and that you’re also supplying possibly ergonomic equipment so that they’re not suffering fatigue or health and safety issues, even though they’re working at home. So, that’s one of the challenges. Another challenge is related to productivity and work schedules. So, you have to realize that people are more productive during certain times of the day. Also, due to other family members sometimes or other distractions, and you need to reconcile those differences in work schedules to make sure that people have time to be available for one another, but also have that uninterrupted time.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, we’re all managing that actually a little bit right now too right, with little kids and stuff running around the house – maybe dealing with pets that are asking why you’re not leaving for the day and that stuff.

[GRANT] Or just really curious as to what you’re doing. With the challenge of productivity, sometimes you might have to assess the role. You might have to set new expectations and goals because it might be different now that they’re working from home and for some managers, they actually need to change their focus and manage to outcomes or results versus tasks so they’re not able to go to someone’s desk or hover over their shoulder so they need to manage them differently.

[DUNCAN] You know, I was going to ask you about managing remote teams to especially because a lot of people who listen to the podcast are in management themselves. Are there any best practices for managing remote teams?

[GRANT] Definitely. Some of the best practices when managing remote teams comes down to creating that connectiveness so communication, ensuring that people have a sense of belonging and feel they’re contributing. As a manager, you also need to establish a higher level of trust since you’re not able to regularly see people in their office, or as I mentioned, hover over people. It puts you in the position where you really need to trust your team. And lastly, availability – you have to let the team know when you’re available. So, it’s not like an office environment where they can see you’re in or you’re busy. They just can’t do that when you’re working from home so in some cases you have to let them know that it’s OK to call, message or video call you at any time, or schedule times that you’re available so that they know when they can reach you.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, the last thing you want to feel as an employee is that you’re stepping on your manager’s feet when they – when you’re just trying to communicate with them, right?

[GRANT] Correct. Yeah, some of the other challenges just to circle back with having people working remotely, is communication is a challenge. So, it’s just establishing that regular cadence for communication – so scheduling team meetings, organization meetings, one-on-one meetings. You need a little bit more structure with communication and then working at home. And then lastly, as I mentioned earlier, that connectiveness – you have to make sure people are not feeling isolated, and you want to encourage dialogue and contributions from everyone during virtual meetings. I don’t know if you’ve been finding this, but when there’s more people in a virtual meeting, you definitely see more people hesitating to speak up, or they become more silent.

[DUNCAN] Yup.

[GRANT] And while some people might thrive working environment and find themselves more productive when they’re working at home, you also have to be aware that there could be the opposite effect for others, leaving them feeling lonely and unmotivated.

[DUNCAN] Yeah.

[GRANT] What I recommend is connect with your team frequently, both from a work and personal perspective. Don’t forget the first perspective, just to see how they’re doing. Maybe ask how their cat is, how the kids are doing.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, keeping people connected to the company itself too, like the company culture can be kind of tricky, as well. I know, not just in my own research, when you find people doing remote working, they end up sort of maintaining their communication with their colleagues and their buddies in their own departments, but it’d be pretty tricky to keep them actually connected with the company culture itself. You mentioned communication being very key. That must be very key in this as well.

[GRANT] Yeah, absolutely – it’s encouraging them to connect with one another, so it’s more than just the manager connecting to the one person. It’s encouraging them to connect with others on the team – and quite frankly, others in the company.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, because frankly, you don’t want a bunch of organizational silos forming in your company. You’re just trying to manage them, right?

[GRANT] Yeah, so some other practices that a manager can do, relative to keeping people connected to the company, is just having a company-wide event, virtual event. I know that some are having a Friday afternoon, or they just get into a separate meeting room or conference room and they just hang out.

[DUNCAN] That’s what we’ve been doing, actually. We’ve been having our company wide Zoom meetings at least every Friday just for that very reason.

[GRANT] Also, setting up virtual lunches or coffee times. You could have even a lunch and learn where someone is presenting to the others on a relative topic. Yeah, and then having the scheduled kind of company update so everyone’s in the loop as to what’s, what’s happening.

[DUNCAN] So, like a regular communication, sort of, through like email or whatever communication that your company is most, uses the most, say like Slack, Messenger or something like that.

[GRANT] Sure.

[DUNCAN] Just something to keep everybody on the same page.

[GRANT] Yeah.

[DUNCAN] Awesome.

[GRANT] Getting the information to them – you bet.

[DUNCAN] Now, it’s got to be a two-way thing too. You can’t just sit there and dictate at your staff how things are going to be and expect them to get engaged, right? One way we actually recommend doing that is employee engagement surveys. Is that something that you recommend?

[GRANT] I think engagement surveys have their value in measuring the outcome of whether you’ve been keeping employees connected to the company and so we would recommend doing them. They have a lot of value, and actually, what we kind of recommend is that during this period of time that you are actively engaged at least doing one survey. One engagement survey to see how your initiatives are going. And also too, I think, the key component of this is also using the what I call ‘verbal check-ins’ with people to determine how comfortable they are feeling with this change. You’re also discussing their engagement and I think that provides additional information in terms of the management understanding either some insights about the engagement or people where people are at relative to engagement and also might give them a heads up where of a red flag prior to it becoming more of a widespread issue.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I can see those verbal check-ins being a great supplement to an employee engagement survey because some people might not engage with surveys as well as others. So, there’s some value in that for sure.

[GRANT] Yeah, it was mentioned about pulse surveys.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, actually I was going to ask you.

[GRANT] Yeah, so this this might be a way to actually do that in, in real time, in establishing those stronger working relationships by having those conversations.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I can see that. Because, like you say, one big survey would be a really great thing but regular pulse surveys would be better, right? Especially if something is, let’s use the word ‘unprecedented’, as this current pandemic – the situation has been so fluid, changing almost daily, so with situations like this, I imagine that you’re going to have to touch base more often than you would say, if things were running just business as usual, correct?

[GRANT] Absolutely, and especially when we’re talking about that connectiveness. You know these informal conversations or pulse surveys also provide that opportunity to establish that connectiveness.

[DUNCAN] 100%. So, when doing engagement service, what are the main elements that I should be covering to make sure that I’m hitting all the bases here?

[GRANT] And just to set the context…

[DUNCAN] OK.

[GRANT] How I view an engagement survey, it’s about really understanding an employee’s passion about their job, their commitment to the organization and their work effort. And looking at it from that lens, the main elements should be individual feelings and beliefs, organization and leadership, equipment and support, management and team and personal development.

[DUNCAN] So, those are definitely categories that you want to be making sure that you’re hitting on every one of those, correct?

[GRANT] Correct.

[DUNCAN] Yeah.

[GRANT] It goes really to understanding the employee’s passion about their job, their commitment to the organization and their work effort.

[DUNCAN] And those are going to look different in every organization, really, because it sort of speaks to each employee having their own different point of view, every organization having a different culture, correct?

[GRANT] Correct. And also, different level of engagement.

[DUNCAN] For sure.

[GRANT] Which, once you look at the results, the next challenge is how do I increase that engagement?

[DUNCAN] So, the whole point of an engagement survey is to increase engagement. So, the last thing you want to be doing is actually reducing engagement with your surveys. What should I avoid asking in these to make sure that the experience stays positive?

[GRANT] Yeah, one of the things is asking satisfaction-type questions. So, satisfaction surveys are – those questions are designed to measure how satisfied employees are with their jobs or with their work environment, but doesn’t necessarily measure engagement. So, satisfaction is definitely the minimum threshold. But sometimes, people are satisfied at their job you know,  because the pay is… and benefits are OK or the work hours are OK, but they’re not necessarily motivated to contribute. And to me, that’s a component of engagement. So, avoid satisfaction-type questions. Avoid questions that are too generalized. So, for example, how do you rate your supervisor’s ability? It doesn’t really give you a lot of information as to what aspect of the supervisor’s ability you’re trying to identify as being important for engagement. Questions are that ambiguity, double negative questions. And then lastly, questions that produce a result that the company can’t respond to or make a change.

[DUNCAN] Well that’s a big one because the last thing you want to do is have people weigh in on something with their opinions and beliefs, and then do nothing with it, right?

[GRANT] Right. That will actually be counter to engagement.

[DUNCAN] Quite literally, right?

[Grant] Yes, so it might make – you might want to use that for a disengaging survey.

[DUNCAN] Yeah exactly, if you ever need an employee disengagement survey that would be definitely a place to start. So, other than employee engagement surveys, communication I guess, is 100% on when it comes to this stuff. Are there other examples of forms of communication employers could be engaging in?

[GRANT] Yeah, absolutely. Any communication is better than none, you know. First of all, but specifically related to engaging employees, communicating clear goals and expectations is very important. Providing that ongoing coaching and feedback and then recognizing employees for a job well done.

[DUNCAN] Because you need that positive encouragement, especially now when the remote and you don’t actually get to see those facial expressions or those body languages that let you know that you’re doing a good job.

[GRANT] Exactly.

[DUNCAN] That’s very fair; that’s fair. Implicit communication is probably something you want don’t want to be doing right now and just being really clear cut.

[GRANT] Yeah, really direct and being genuine.

[DUNCAN] So, that could take the form of say emails or newsletters – stuff like that?

[GRANT] Yes, that’s quite possible. I just find that sometimes and especially with today’s environment, where connectiveness is so critical, as much as you can do face to face, over the phone – those higher modes of communication, more effective that that’ll be. Not to say you shouldn’t use email or text or instant messaging, but having those higher forms of communication usually lead to more effectiveness.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, more genuine too, right? Because you’re actually able to bounce ideas back and forth and actually get a feeling for the actual communication itself.

[GRANT] Yeah.

[DUNCAN] I’m always, as an old comms guy myself, I’m always a big fan of just picking up the phone. So, I’ll always say that that’s a good idea, and frankly, it’s even easier nowadays with Zoom, Skype – all the other jazz that we’ve got opportunities too, right?

[GRANT] Yeah well, and the challenge with sometimes an email and a text is that people will read the context in it and it may not be the context you wanted.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, yeah – I think anybody who’s ever used Twitter can attest to that, right?

[GRANT] Exactly.

[DUNCAN] So, we’re couple of months into this now and there are a lot of businesses that are looking to begin the reopening process. How should managers and employers be looking into these re-openings with COVID-19 still prevalent?

[GRANT] Well, I think the first big step is to – the big thing is to work on a plan. That’s where they need to start on. If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to start doing that. As part of that plan you need to consider communication. So, you need to be able to communicate the plan to people when are you going to be reopening, what are the things they can expect. You need to consider physical space and the ability to physically distance from one another, you need to determine who needs to return to the office. You might also determine who might be working at home. You need to work on, or at least consider work schedules so if you have a combination of people working at home and people working at the office you might have to establish core hours.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, because you get… Oh sorry, but you could end up with people working in shifts to allow for distancing and stuff like that if you if you looked into that, correct?

[GRANT] Correct, or because of your physical space, you may not be able to have everyone return to work at the same time. So, you may have to have some people come in the morning and then a change of people come in the afternoon or you know, work half a week. The other person comes in the other half. Yeah, so those work rotations.

[DUNCAN] That’s super important to nail down before you start to reopening process.

[GRANT] Yeah, make sure you have it as part of your plan. Same with PPE. What PPE are you going to supply? What are you expecting people to bring it on their own?

[DUNCAN] Yeah because there could be costs for staff when that’s looked at, correct?

[GRANT] Correct.

[DUNCAN] And you’ve got to make sure that they’re able to handle those costs or be able to take them up yourself, right?

[GRANT] The new plan should also address cleaning routines not only in the in workspaces but also for washrooms and lunchrooms – so, those common areas.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, those are the ones that get missed out on I imagine the most too because of the things you never think of.

[GRANT] Well, and then in all fairness, in some places, even at the best of times, they’re messy and people don’t always make a contribution to keeping it clean.

[DUNCAN] That’s pretty much every office, right? Not Insightrix, but…

[GRANT] And then also, part of your plan is to have it in your mind in regards to how are you going deal with those employees that are reluctant to come back. Either they’re afraid of getting sick or they just want to continue to work from home. So, you should have a plan to address those concerns and that’s actually a, almost a topic in and of itself.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I was going actually ask you to expand on that to some degree because when you’ve got some employees that have maybe compromised immune systems or maybe they’re just afraid to come back period, and you can’t really blame them.

[GRANT] Yeah.

[DUNCAN] How do you handle that?

[GRANT] Well, like I said, it’s fairly complex. I think the first thing I would suggest is just to address their concerns. But in the end, you may even have to revert to health and safety legislation and follow that process of refusal of unsafe work. Sometimes, unions are involved. Yeah, it’s just from that perspective, like I said, it could be a topic in and of itself.

[DUNCAN] To me it sounds like really having that plan is really, really important.

[GRANT] Yup.

[DUNCAN] And having really clear-cut expectations and communicating them really, really heavily to the staff – and then, coming back as often as you can is probably the best way to stay engaged during all of this.

[GRANT] Yeah, and I think the other part of it is identifying as part of that plan what other business processes need to be modified or changed.

[DUNCAN] Yeah.

[GRANT] It might be a case where someone’s returning to their cubicle, however, what they did at, you know, prior to COVID, to what they’re doing now could be different.

[DUNCAN] Yeah.

[GRANT] Just a process flow. I think a lot of businesses, one of the things I think this is paradigm shifting for a lot businesses and some of them had to reevaluate what they do and have actually made modifications for the better.

[DUNCAN] You see that in a lot of retail believe it or not, you see that in a lot in food service and even professional services where none of us being able to conduct business the same way that we always did.

[GRANT] Yes.

[DUNCAN] So, you’re seeing a large amount of people having to change to accommodate that.

[GRANT] Or introduction of innovation or technology.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, well that’s really – that’s a lot to think about. Actually, like you’re saying, it is a topic in and of itself, right?

[GRANT] Yeah and – yeah and that doesn’t even address people who are adamant that they can work from home and they actually prefer to work from home.

[DUNCAN] That is the thing. I think you’re seeing paradigm shifting. Is it something that you’re seeing a lot of organizations just saying, you know what, let’s just – let’s just try to restructure and do the work from home permanent kind of thing.

[GRANT] Some are doing that as part of their planning process. So, understanding who personnel is – is productive working from home. And second of all, has the right tools and resources to do that – and can they sustain it? So it’s some great, great questions, and I think it’s also unique to each organization in terms of how they’re looking at this and how they will move forward with this.

[DUNCAN] That’s really awesome. And it’s all really – let’s just face it – amazing information to be getting right now from you. So, it’s really great thing to have you on.

[GRANT] Thank you – and I think one of the advantages we have is because of our industry, we’re able to work with a multitude of different clients.

[DUNCAN] Yeah.

[GRANT] So, we get to observe some really interesting you know practices and identify what could work for, for any company.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I can imagine that. I just wanted to mention before we head out if you’re looking for the article that you brought up earlier “Working From Home is Here to Stay” – I believe you just told me before we started it’s in Business Advisor magazine.

[GRANT] Correct.

[DUNCAN] If anybody is looking to check that out, we’ll make sure there’s a link to that on our podcast webpage.

[GRANT] Thank you – and then I did email it to you as well.

[DUNCAN] Hey, beautiful, beautiful – OK well, I really want to thank you for coming on our podcast. Really appreciate it.

[GRANT] Thank you. Those were great questions and look forward to hearing the entire podcast.

[DUNCAN] You betcha.

[INTERSTITIAL MUSIC]

[INTERVIEW SEGMENT 2]

[DUNCAN] Next, I speak with Insightrix Chief Revenue Officer, Shonna Caldwell about employee engagement research and its benefits, and to get some tips and best practices on designing and administering well developed employee engagement surveys.

Hi Shonna, thanks for coming on the podcast again. It’s great to have you.

[SHONNA] Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s good to be back.

[DUNCAN] Awesome, well it’s great to have you back on the podcast, this time to talk about something near and dear to my heart – employee engagement research. Insightrix has got a really long history of doing that kind of research. I was just going to ask you what kind of companies and organizations usually contact us for this kind of research?

[SHONNA] For sure. So yeah, we’ve had quite a few different clients and types of clients contact us. Everything from nonprofits to professional associations to government clients, as well as even some privatized clients. So, some of our existing clients that we’ve worked with for years and years come back and ask us about employee engagement and then we’ve also had new ones so yeah, quite a range.

[DUNCAN] Are there any specific industries that usually need employee engagement more than others?

[SHONNA] I wouldn’t say that there’s any specific industry. I mean, you could do employee engagement surveys for staff as small as 12 employees, as well as for as large as say a 100+ employees. So obviously, the more departments within an organization, the more complex the analysis can be. But when it comes to who did do employee engagement surveys, there really is no kind of cookie-cutter answer for that. So, what I have seen though is obviously the smaller your organization is, maybe the type of engagement research might different for that organization and so for instance you may wish to invite employees to something like an online discussion forum. So, if you have less than 10 employees, it might be easier to have an online community where employees can go and share and discuss ideas, whereas maybe a larger company with multiple different departments it might be easier to do a survey and you can do that online.

[DUNCAN] Cool! Now, when organizations usually come to us to help them get their answers around employee engagement, what kind of difficulties or issues that they usually seeing that prompt them to contact us?

[SHONNA] That’s a good question. This can be anything from an organizational change to a shift in leadership, a strategic decision to focus the business in a different way. Or, as we’re all dealing with right now, external factors such as the global pandemic where employees are now all working from home and employers are asking questions about engagement and safety, productivity and communication. All those things that have now taken on a new meaning right, so measuring the impacts of those things in a very different environment where we don’t have as much control is really important.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I can see that. Now, how would these issues usually affect these organizations?

[SHONNA] The most common is kind of just a shift in change within an organization that has occurred, and it has made the awareness of employee engagement heightened. So, something has happened where now organizations really want to understand what employees are feeling. And so, what’s important to know is employee engagement research should always be an important part of the way we do business. It should be used as a tool to better understand what’s happening within our organization as a chance to you know, connect with our employees – as well as give employees a chance to have input into our processes. An organization that really values the opinions of its employees and listens can really only expect a greater impact on the business as a whole.

[DUNCAN] Well yeah, because employees are such a huge part of the customer journey. You have to really make sure that there firing on all cylinders, right? Now, how do insight agencies like inside Insightrix help these organizations improve their employee engagement?

[SHONNA] Insights associations can help by working with companies to understand some of the key questions that may be impacting their businesses during this kind of organizational change if you will. Things like what concerns or needs do employees have; how are managers handling these things and these changes; are employees clear on the expectations and the company’s priorities, either as a whole or during this particular change; and do employees feel engaged; are they connected to the overall organizational goals of the company? Insights companies can also help by analyzing the results from an unbiased viewpoint, which I think is a very important thing to remember when we talk about getting feedback from our staff. This could be done by measuring against industry norms, which at Insightrix, we have our own compilation of engagement norms that we would use in doing that process and allows for companies to make a more objective decision when they’re looking at the feedback on how they might move forward.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, that objectivity’s got to be huge when you’re dealing with, well frankly, not being able to see the forest for the trees. And let’s face it, our own emotions get tied up in our business is quite a lot, right? So, having that third person to come in and actually take a ceiling level view from things – so it’s going to be pretty beneficial, right?

[SHONNA] Exactly, and I think it really makes employees feel more comfortable, right? So…

[DUNCAN] That’s a big thing too. A lot of times people might not feel very comfortable opening up to their managers directly about what’s going on in their careers but maybe if you give them an opportunity to go through a third party or take a survey approach those, those responses would be a little easier to get.

[SHONNA] Exactly.

[DUNCAN] So what specific methodologies do we use to undertake in employee engagement studies?

[SHONNA] Well, I mentioned one earlier. Like, if you have a smaller number of staff for you, there can be like an online community or discussion forum but there’s a number of strategies that we can take. One of the most common and most effective that we found is kind of a pulse survey approach where regular scheduled surveys are administered to staff to tracked changes. So, as your company implements new ways of doing things, you’re measuring the impact of those changes and the response of the company overtime. These pulse surveys also give you a quick read on how employees are feeling and the opportunity to react quickly to implement new strategies to help mitigate any long-term risks. So, for instance if you implemented a new change or if I take this, the global pandemic that we’re in right now, by measuring how employees are feeling over time, it gives companies and senior leaders the opportunity to kind of step in and change something on the fly if they need to. So, I think that’s a really beneficial thing of doing these pulse surveys every few weeks or every few months, depending on how long the change is being implemented. Another thing that can accompany those pulse surveys is a larger annual employee engagement survey. So, this would be done kind of once a year, maybe during that planning stages or as you’re looking into moving into the next year, or maybe a bit longer in length and you could be a bit more in depth on the questions – and it might be unrelated to a specific event that happened but more so on the company as a whole. So, asking questions about the company’s mission or vision, the goals of the company – and then it really allows you to see kind of the impacts over time and how employees are feeling about the way that the company’s answer to their questions throughout the year and then gives you that opportunity, as I said, during your planning stages too. If you need to pivot, you can kind of make changes then.

[DUNCAN] So, there’s no real one size fits all.

[SHONNA] That’s exactly it – and like I said, I think the one that we’re seeing the most value in right now and I think that’s because of the situation that we’re in is that pulse approach, but for instance, some clients with limited budgets that might not be something that they can consider. So, maybe they would want to look at either doing an online discussion, or maybe just an annual survey and to get a feedback on the entire year and then they could plan and then do another annual survey next year. That kind of thing.

[DUNCAN] Gotcha. Now, those all sound really cool. Is there any that we should be avoiding?

[SHONNA] In terms of methodology?

[DUNCAN] Yeah, are there any methodologies that we should be avoiding?

[SHONNA] I wouldn’t say there’s any specific methodology when it comes to employee engagement research that should be avoided. This kind of goes into maybe something that we’ll talk a bit about later, but it’s more so the approach that you take to employee engagement, so there’s certain things that a company should do to make sure that employees feel comfortable providing their feedback, the way that the results are being used to make decisions, things like that so it’s not necessarily a specific methodology that should be avoided but it’s in the approach that you take to measuring the feedback and collecting feedback from your employees.

[DUNCAN] Maybe we could get into that a little bit and unpack those approaches.

[SHONNA] Sure. So one, as we mentioned, is using kind of a third-party vendor that does help especially as we know is some of the challenging parts of employee engagement research is privacy and making sure that your staff feel comfortable providing their inputs. There’s also knowing how the results are going to be used. So, using a third-party vendor does help that, as well as being upfront and honest with your staff.

[DUNCAN] Yes.

[SHONNA] So, letting them know well in advance that an employee engagement survey is coming, giving them a little bit of information as to why you’re doing this survey and how you might use those results. So, if we want our employees to be honest with us, I think that the best way to do that is be honest with them around the entire process and how we’re using it and just if they have any questions to kind of have that open-door policy. Like, this is not to be used as a performance metric as it for an individual, but more so as a broader perspective to help the company succeed.

[DUNCAN] That’s a really big thing.

[SHONNA] For sure. Yeah, that’s something that we often hear from clients is we’ll just get one of our staff members to administer the employee engagement. And we try as much as we can to limit that kind of thing because if something is coming and they think someone else in the organization is going to get access to the information that they might not want, it just doesn’t set a really good tone for the results and the impact that an engagement survey can really have

[DUNCAN] Yeah, I can see that. So, what other challenging parts do you see what you’re doing employee engagement research?

[SHONNA] Again, like I said – so, keeping things anonymous. So, this is why using an insights partner or a third-party supplier can help because the surveys would be not administered by the employees themselves. Like as I just mentioned, not using like a tool that you can just access online, but professional tools. And then, also meaning that all results will be delivered to the employer on an aggregate level, so none of the results would be tied back to an individual employee themselves – and less so otherwise discussed with employees. But we try and steer away from this kind of feedback when it comes to employee engagement because it’s, like I said, it’s not a performance metric of an individual. It’s more so to get feedback as a company on how we can change policies and processes and strategic direction to better fit the company as a whole.

[DUNCAN] That’s really cool. So, what’s most rewarding while you’re doing this kind of research? For you as well as the client?

[SHONNA] As for what’s rewarding about engagement surveys, I think, we kind of speak to – it kind of goes in conjunction with making employees feel comfortable. But having been involved in administering a few of my own employee engagement surveys in the past and looking at the information that was provided back to me, it gives you a chance to connect with your staff – to understand what’s really going on in their minds. And oftentimes, I find that the results that you get are much more valuable than you would ever have thought before conducting the survey. So, you’d be surprised at how open and willing employees are willing to be, I guess. And if you ask the right questions and working with at a third-party vendor that can help in making sure those questions get at what you really want – but for the most part, if you give employees the chance to provide input, ask their opinion, show that you’re listening – you would be very surprised at the types of things that you get and usually it’s a much more positive experience than is negative. So, I think that’s always a rewarding thing to do. And then, sometimes, you’ll find some really funny comments or some stories in there. So yeah, it’s really – it’s something that I think organizations need to consider and it’s important for an organization to succeed to make sure that everyone’s on the same page. So yeah, it’s a great thing to do.

[DUNCAN] It sounds really, really beneficial, so I can understand why doing these things would be very, very important. Thanks for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate you coming in and just touching base and letting us know about this stuff.

[SHONNA] No problem. Just before I go, I do want to mention just one other kind of benefit.

[DUNCAN] Please do.

[SHONNA] With my engagement that I’ve noticed too is by doing even those pulse surveys that I talked about or something and you see those results, it gives the company also a chance to, I guess, see a problem before it becomes too big – if that makes any sense.

[DUNCAN] 100%.

[SHONNA] So, as employees are providing feedback and you’re monitoring things, that ability to respond quickly has never been more important so I think that’s also a very benefit of employee engagement.

[DUNCAN] Yeah, 100% and being able to trend them over time and be able to see where you’re – where you’re being successful and where things still need a little bit of help, right?

[SHONNA] Exactly.

[DUNCAN] I really want to thank you for coming on and explaining this stuff to us. That was really cool.

[SHONNA] For sure. No, thanks for having me. I mean, like you said at the beginning, this is something that’s also very near and dear to my heart and I think it is – it’s a really important thing that all organizations should be doing.

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[DUNCAN] And there you have it. I’d like to thank Grant Douziech from Apex Performance Consultants. It was great to get him on the podcast to talk about how important employee engagement can be and offer some best practices and tips when it comes to keeping employees engaged, especially during COVID-19 with so many employees and managers adjusting to new ways of doing business and remote working.

Grant recently authored an article that was featured in Business Advisor magazine about these very topics. We posted a link to this episode’s podcast web page so you can find it and check it out. It’s a great read.

If you’d like to know more about Apex Performance Consultants, you can find them online at apexconsultants.ca.

I would also like to thank our own Shonna Caldwell for coming back on the podcast to share some of the challenges and best practices when doing employee engagement research. Hearing a perspective was really informative.

And of course, I’d like to thank you, our loyal and amazing fanbase. Did you know that you can access Stories of Market Research pretty much anywhere podcasts are available. You can get the Insightrix podcast on Spotify, Apple podcasts and YouTube just to name a few platforms.

And if you’re there and you’ve got a minute, please take a few seconds to give us a like and leave us a positive review. It’ll help get Stories of Market Research in front of more people like yourself, awesome folks with an interest in market research.

If you have any questions about this episode or ideas for future topics or guests, why not send us an email at podcast@insightrix.com?

Thanks again for joining us. We’ll be back in another few weeks with another episode of Stories of Market Research: The Insightrix Podcast.

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