Understanding, Engaging and Developing Your Workforce

Understanding and developing your people

The most valuable resource of any organization is its people. Staff well-being and their level of satisfaction directly impacts on an organisation’s performance and success.

Satisfied people are not necessarily high performers. Happy, content employees are less inclined to seek improvements or do things differently. In today’s climate, this is not a good position for any organization. A company needs energised, motivated staff eager to try something new.


Organizations need to understand behaviors and the key motivating factors for employees. Motivational theories can be helpful at understanding motivations, though satisfaction at work is achieved through a complex interplay of variables. High pay rarely compensates for poor working conditions, and modern offices and good working conditions rarely compensate for very low pay.

Engaging your employees

Engagement is a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. It goes beyond job satisfaction. Engagement cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract. There are many individual and organizational factors determining engagement. Engaged employees speak positively about their organization, have a strong desire to be a member of their organization, and make an effort to contribute to its success.

Measuring satisfaction

Common approaches to measuring satisfaction use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research designs. Off the shelf staff survey packages are available, but most companies choose a customized project design conducted by an external agency/partner or in-house HR team.

Qualitative research methods take their roots in the social sciences. They are often used in early consultations with staff identifying issues of greatest importance. At this consultative stage, staff should have freedom to express their views. Research is carried out through internal focus groups and depth interviews.

Quantitative research methods involve samples of large numbers and measurement. It is usual for staff surveys to be census surveys, inviting all staff to participate. The questionnaire is developed from issues which have arisen from the consultative stage, and the questionnaire comprises mainly closed questions.

The employee survey

Employee surveys normally cover key areas impacting on the staff experience, such as leadership and staff development opportunities.

The rating scales are usually determined by the sensitivity of the measurement required. There is no definitive or “correct” way to measure satisfaction – all scales need to be translated to a numerical scale in order to analyse the results.

Ensuring the highest response rate

When carrying out surveys, getting employees on-board can be challenging. Poor response rates, insufficient or unclear information and a failure to use the survey to drive actions are just some of the disappointments that are reported. Attention to several issues surrounding the survey can facilitate a positive response, including CEO involvement and a publicity campaign prior to the survey.

Comparing employee satisfaction

Benchmarking of employee satisfaction can be carried out internally where scores from within the company are compared using the same questions over a period of time, or externally, where scores from other external organisations are taken and compared.

External benchmarking has problems of comparability when taken out of the context of the original survey. It can be tempting to “cherry pick” questions from several sources where the data from other companies is publicly available, however, questionnaires tend to work in their entirety, and the total composition of the questionnaire therefore has an impact on the results obtained.

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