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10 questions to help you gauge employee engagement

For hospitality businesses, the customer comes first. But the satisfaction of employees, who are arguably a company’s prime advocate, should never be neglected. And yet a 2015 poll by Gallup revealed that a mere 13% of employees worldwide felt engaged and emotionally invested in the organisation they work for – meaning 87% of them are not. 

That’s far from ideal, especially for an industry in which people (and working relationships) are of particular importance. But what is engagement? It’s a relatively new concept that is based on the work of William A Kahn, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University. He carried out in-depth interviews that uncovered the fact that employees were more engaged emotionally if they had the following:

  • Psychological meaningfulness: the sense that what they were doing was making a positive difference.
  • Psychological safety: a feeling that they were working in a positive environment in which they were valued and respected.
  • Availability: the sense of feeling secure and confident in their work. 

So why is employee engagement important? A report for the Institute for Employment Studies, ‘Employee Engagement: a review of current thinking’, revealed that engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organisation, perform 20% better than their colleagues and act as advocates for the business. And that isn’t all: employee engagement can enhance bottom-line profit and improve efficiencies within a business.

So, in the absence of a scientific study of your own, how can you effectively gauge how your employees feel about their jobs and the business? Or understand how engaged your employees are in working with you? You could invest in a comprehensive employee engagement programme, and this may be the best route for you. But to begin with, asking your employees these 10 questions should provide a snapshot of what’s making them tick and highlight some immediate areas of improvement for you…

1. Do you enjoy your work?

Why go around the houses? The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, so it’s important to find out whether they are having a positive or negative experience doing so.

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you in your work (1 being extremely dissatisfied, 10 being extremely satisfied?)

This question includes a numbered scale to allow people to quantify how good or bad their experience of work is. Aggregating these scores provides a broad picture of general satisfaction across a business.

3. Would you recommend your place of work to a friend or family member?

Answers to this question will reflect the satisfaction of your workforce, an important metric impacting on retention rates and employer brand.

4. Do you have a clear understanding of your career or promotion path?

This will help you ascertain whether a member of staff knows where they are headed within the organisation. According to the Gallup poll, employees who have the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely to stay at a company, so if the response you receive is below par, you’ll need to start offering developmental opportunities to avoid losing the people that matter.

5. How frequently do you receive recognition from your manager?

According to the ‘Employee Engagement: a review of current thinking’ report, ‘inspiring leadership’ is one of the seven most commonly referenced drivers of engagement. Inspiration often comes from recognising the achievements of others. This question will help identify whether employees are receiving what William Kahn identified as ‘psychological safety’ (the feeling of working in an environment in which you’re valued). If the majority of workers say it’s been more than two weeks since they had any direct feedback from management, there’s a good chance that morale is sinking faster than a sagging soufflé.

6. Do you see yourself working here one year from now?

Answers to this question reveal a lot about retention rate, which is a real problem for hospitality employers generally, and an issue that is more pressing than ever. According to Gallup, millennials (who by 2020 will form 50% of the global workforce) are the most likely generation to switch jobs, with six in 10 open to hearing about new opportunities (15% higher than non-millennials). So if the majority of employees are saying they don’t see themselves working at your company within one year, then making key changes to up engagement can be a safeguard against attrition.

7. Do you believe you’ll be able to reach your full potential here?

The more the opportunities for growth, the longer staff will stick around. Two-thirds of millennials believe it is management’s job to provide accelerated development opportunities that will encourage them to stay, finds Gallup.

8. Do you think your manager can name your work-related strengths?

According to the Gallup poll, employees who believe their managers can name their work-related strengths are 71% more likely to feel engaged and energised, while teams led by managers who focus on their weaknesses are 26% less likely to be engaged.  

9. On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable do you feel giving upwards feedback to your supervisor?

A hostile or suppressive work environment tends not to be productive and certainly won’t help your retention rates or employer brand. Employers who enable and encourage employees to provide feedback to their manager and offer suggestions for improvement will benefit from inspired and engaged teams who in turn give back to the business.  

10. Do you feel that co-workers respect each other?

A primary aim for successful employers is a culture in which people respect one another – not one in which they lock horns. This question delves into how employees truly feel about their co-workers. If they are not supporting one another, it might be worth investing in a team-building day out, or a deeper assessment of your working culture.

With so much evidence pointing towards the fact that happier, more satisfied employees equal a better working environment and increased business performance, employee engagement isn’t something that hospitality businesses can afford to ignore. According to the ‘Employee Engagement: a review of current thinking’ report, aside from inspiring leadership, the other most commonly referenced drivers of engagement are: the nature of the work, the transparency of the work and its purpose, opportunities for development, receiving timely recognition and rewards, building respectful relationships and two-way communication. If your business isn’t measuring and addressing all or some of these metrics, you may be causing serious barriers to your attraction, recruitment and retention strategies. It’s worth asking your employees these important questions (and listening intently to the answers) in order to get a clear view of engagement levels. The results may surprise and inspire you.