Surveys Losing Ground as Retention’s Priority Grows

Gartner Survey

While new approaches to gauging employee sentiment are making inroads, most companies will continue to use large-scale surveys, according to Gartner. That’s despite increasing talk that traditional approaches provide a less-than-accurate picture of employee engagement.

The research firm expects nearly three-quarters of organizations, 74 percent, to use wide, formal surveys during 2019, down from 89 percent in 2015. At the same time, 59 percent of employers will use other forms of engagement data-gathering, such as pulse surveys. Interestingly, Gartner expects 20 percent to view employee engagement improvement as a shared performance objective for HR and IT.

Two issues seem to be driving demand for more dynamic feedback tools. First, the increasingly widespread use of real-time analytics and recommendations in both the business and consumer worlds is forcing employers to examine whether annual engagement surveys provide a current perspective of employee attitudes.

To get a better handle on employee sentiment, HR is once again taking a page from Marketing’s playbook. Click To Tweet

Second—no surprise—is retention. In a separate survey, Gartner found that in 2018’s third quarter, only 53 percent of employees worldwide had a high or somewhat high intent to stay in their current job. During 2018’s first quarter, that number stood at 60 percent. The third-quarter data marked the fifth consecutive quarter that intent to stay declined globally.

Retention Marketing

To get a better handle on employee sentiment, HR is once again taking a page from Marketing’s playbook. Some employers, Gartner said, are using “voice of the customer” concepts such as social network analysis, sentiment analysis and social recognition and feedback channels to develop “a more holistic voice of the employee.”

They’re also turning to natural-language processing, semantic analysis and machine learning tools to get a better sense of engagement, and disengagement, as well as to identify what helps and hurts their engagement efforts and uncover risks and opportunities that stem changing workforce attitudes.

To improve their employee-listening efforts, Gartner advises HR leaders to:

  • Consider using multiple data sources to get a more complete view of engagement.
  • Clearly define what data is being collected, why and how it will be used to measure engagement, with an eye on possible legal, privacy and labor relations issues.
  • Demonstrate the employee feedback really means something by taking action on it. For example, if workers say self-service apps are difficult to navigate, find simpler self-service apps.

Gartner’s not the first to talk about the “voice of employee,” but we have been hearing the term with increasing frequency. We think it’s an idea that will continue to gain traction. As it does, vendors that offer tools the can accurately measure employee attitudes in seamless, objective ways will gain the ear of many a CHRO. And CHROs who press vendors to create and deploy such tools are bound to improve retention rates.

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Chart: Gartner