Is employee satisfaction and measuring engagement really that important?

Sasha Hanau | 26th May 2016

Somewhat controversially maybe, I am going to start by saying that I genuinely believe that no one is irreplaceable within an organisation. Of course, the leaders/founders are critical to the direction and success of a company, but skills-wise there is almost nobody in your organisation that couldn’t be replaced. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but in reality, it’s true.

My father once told me that a few years ago his organisation (a very famous publisher) had employed a new MD. In his first month, the new MD suggested removing a senior colleague from the organisation. His peers, however, said ‘Oh you can’t sack X – s/he’s irreplaceable!’. The new MD went on to ask around – ‘who else is irreplaceable?’. Once he’d determined who these star individuals that everyone regarded so highly were – he, in a rather rash and brutal show of strength, promptly he sacked them all. It was his way to prove to the larger wider organisation that in reality no one is irreplaceable and the company could survive any changes that may come its way. And, to be fair, he was right – the company went on from strength to strength without hindrance for years and years despite the loss of what was widely considered its ‘key’ employees at the time.

Now, with that said, while it proves one point in the starkest way possible, what he didn’t consider was what is irreplaceable and that is time. The time it took to replace those key figures will, without doubt, have had a big impact on the growth of the organisation short term. And there were also probably casualties along the way – employees left working there who were understandably horrified and fearful for the future, displaced and aggrieved. This is what kills growth, especially dangerous if your organisation is in a fast-paced sector like tech or retail.

I have worked in companies of all sizes over the years, from a three-man property firm to multinational corporations. I’d have a fairly broad experience in different types of companies and for a whole variety of different managers and CEOs. The one thing I have learnt is that listening to feedback is indeed key.

Why? Because replaceable or not, your team is what makes your company. They represent you and act as your ambassadors in every interaction your clients or customers have with your brand. If they are dissatisfied, it’s likely it will come through in their day-to-day dealings with clients, colleagues and will also affect their home lives if left for too long, potentially leading to much costlier long-term absenteeism.

So, why is listening to your staff sentiment really so important?

  1. Your team should be the best, and be able to help you innovate. Good leaders and managers recruit people they think possess skills they do not, and are the experts in their field. You should be employing people you like and trust and therefore listening to their advice and feedback is probably wise. If you recruit people you do not like or trust, then you have a whole different, much more serious problem altogether! Feedback isn’t always about satisfaction either, sometimes business leaders miss out on brilliant ideas that will massively improve productivity by failing to listen to their colleagues working on the front line. Simple frustrations that are aired can easily lead to major innovations in working process.
“If you put fences around people, you get sheep.”  

William McKnight, former CEO, 3M

  1. Time is precious. Ultimately time is always in short supply. Losing people isn’t the end of the world, sometimes it happens for reasons you cannot control, but the time it takes to recruit and replace staff is what can be killer. It takes a long time to retrain new individuals and in the meantime, the rest of the team is generally picking up the extra slack and workload leading to new dissatisfactions and stress amongst the wider team. The faster your industry moves, the more important this point becomes. In order to stay ahead of your fiercest competition, you need to keep the momentum going and losses in the workforce restrict your rate of growth.
  1. The cost to recruit is ever increasing and the skills gap in certain sectors causes real pain to those looking to recruit good people. Depending on what research you look at, the rough estimate for the cost to recruit or replace a member of staff in the UK is around £30k. Unfilled vacancies are costly in so many ways and often people forget the cost of the time of the managers/leaders who have to dedicate their valuable time to conduct interviews. Having recruited for lots of roles in the past I know what a drain on time that process is, and it doesn’t stop when you finally find someone – they have to be integrated, supported and trained too.
  1. Happiness at work, without doubt, leads to greater productivity. Recent research by economists at the University of Warwick found that ‘happiness’ led to a 12% spike in productivity. Not only are people more productive, but they are also brighter too apparently! Your brain works better when you are in a positive frame of mind…And there’s a ton of research to support the fact that engaged workforces lead to increased business revenues, so no matter what your role within an organisation, it’s in your interest to keep colleagues engaged, happy and motivated.
“You must capture the heart of a supremely able man before his brain can do its best.”

Andrew Carnegie

  1. Dissatisfaction breeds dissatisfaction. Negativity is contagious and one unhappy staff member can bring down a whole team and depending on their internal relationships, can spread frustration even further within an organisation. Tackle problems early and a lot of nastiness and detrimental negativity can be avoided.
  1. Bad people management = bad PR. In a world where employees can leverage sites such as Glassdoor to lodge their complaints both about current (!) and ex-employers, companies need to be wary of the bad press an unhappy employee can cause. It’s a big turn off for clients. If their public feedback gains enough traction or social media coverage it could potentially affect future hires, lead to the loss of key potential staff to your competition and will probably increase your cost to recruit over time.

While you cannot please everyone all of the time, you can listen to feedback and strive to continually improve. Ask the right questions and take appropriate action – your clients, staff and stakeholders will thank you. And for those of you who do invest time in engaging your people properly, international research by Towers Watson showed that it is likely your operating margin could be three times that of your low-engagement competitor counterparts.

Measuring how people feel about your company on a regular basis is a way for you to ensure your team is aligned with your company goals and reduce churn. It’s an essential part of any successful and sustainable business. There’s no denying that a happy workforce is a more productive one, so if you want to grow your business and continually innovate then measuring engagement is essential.

If you aren’t already regularly measuring how your team feels, practice being curious –  you never know what improvements you will make from the intelligence you receive! Don’t know where to start – of course we are always on hand to help. Get in touch if you want to chat through how we can help.