Reverse Engineering Employee Engagement

Today when people talk about measuring employee engagement, it tends to be in one of two contexts. The first is the traditional approach of using surveys to ask the employee a series of probing questions. The second uses sentiment analysis on enterprise social networks, where sentiment is used as a proxy for engagement. While both these approaches are key to understanding how the workforce is doing, they both rely on an employee openly discussing how they feel about the company. In the first instance via a survey, and the second through enterprise social networks.

I’d like to propose an alternative approach, where instead of asking employees to say how they feel we actively track digital signals and use these as a way to measure engagement. In today’s connected enterprise, where collaboration (or social) is increasingly integrated into business processes and mobile is becoming a defacto way of working, these digital breadcrumbs are becoming more plentiful. If we take existing engagement models, backed up by decades of workforce science, and reverse engineer them, we can track more of the signals that correlate with engagement and not be overly reliant on sentiment.

This appoach also has the benefit that because we are measuring active work signals, not something isolated from the process of doing work, we don’t have to argue with ourselves about whether an engaged workforce is a productive one, we just measure it. How do we do that? We just ensure that the engagement signals are tracked to what the business does. For example; if we care about how collaboration, knowledge sharing, community, … contribute to customer engagements, then we ensure that customer interactions are included in our engagement model, alongside the social and content creation ones.

If you are interested in this approach, just check out our new solution page at

6 Responses to “Reverse Engineering Employee Engagement”

  1. Interesting article Marie. But I’m interested, what would the “signals” be? I just can’t quite picture what you’re looking to measure.


    • On the social/collaboration side they may be “signals” (interactions), such as created or co-created content (prez, wiki, doc, …), comment, share, tag, download, read, like, … These are all indicators that someone is engaged within the social system and that they are producing output. Then you take interactions from the CRM system, such as shared (that content with a client), met (meeting, visit), like (client gave positive feedback on the interaction), … These type of signals when built into the Enterprise Graph can provide strong indicators for how engaged an employee is within the company and how engaged they are with a client, and in aggregate how engaged a client is with the business.

      It can also allow you to predict risk for employees that may becoming disengaged (employees that are highly embedded in the network tend to be more engaged than those that aren’t). We’ve also done some interesting studies that show how a delta (change) in an individual’s engagement measures precede an attrition event.


  2. Do you actually have a way to tie conversations to business impacts ? as in Key Performance indicators ?


    • Yes, you can tie to business impact IF you integrate social/collaboration services into business processes. For example; in IBM we’ve created a Social CRM system which allows us to link social interactions (acts of transparent working, like sharing, co-creating, …) with business interactions (customer meetings, work items, opportunities, …) and business outcomes (deal closed, …).

      Yes, I do believe that we want to measure impact of social tied to business measures, but are these specific KPIs are the best way??? only time will tell. We are still in the early stages of exploring people analytics and I believe we’ve got a lot more to learn.

      I do believe the 4 KPIs we’ve started with do provide value. Firstly, they give the individual a simple measure to allow them to get feedback on how they are doing. It must (of course) be paired with evidence drill-down so that people can get the specifics of what is working and what is not (not just a number). Secondly, it gives the organization an easy way to get a very high-level view on how teams are engaging.


      • I like the fact that you mention social collaboration, for me it means collaboration on a social tool that is embedded in the work flow… and means learning socially too, in the flow… I like the concept of Social Interactions, Biz Interactions and outcomes… KPIs do provide value for sure and help keep conversations relevant to work and performance. And yes, these talks can shed the light on what is called Cross-Functional Collaboration occurrences ( between teams and regions etc…) engagement level and quality of engagement.



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