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This step-by-step breakdown shows you how to calculate your employee engagement score and understand what it means for your business.
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Mike Abrashoff knows a few things about keeping a team engaged.
During his time as a Commander in the U.S. Navy, he was given command of the worst-performing ship in the Pacific fleet. Morale was low and turnover was higher than any other ship. But in just twelve months, he led a transformation of the USS Benfold, turning it into the best ship in the Navy.
How did he do it?
“It all came down to employee engagement,” he writes in his book, It’s Your Ship. “It all came down to recognition. It all came down to leadership, which led every sailor feeling ownership and accountability for the results. You can ask a team to accomplish a mission but can’t order excellence.”
Leaders in every industry are trying to keep their employees motivated and engaged. Most use regular employee engagement surveys to gauge their success. But a survey is only useful if you can uncover insights from the responses, so let’s look at how to calculate employee engagement scores and how to take appropriate action to improve engagement.
An employee engagement score is a measure of how committed your employees are to helping your organization succeed. Many different factors influence engagement. Employee engagement surveys help you uncover what areas you’re doing well in and where you have room to improve engagement.
Employee engagement scores are often measured on a scale of 0-100.
On this scale, a good employee engagement score is within the 67-100 range. When your engagement score is within this range, it’s good news for your business. High engagement means less employee turnover, increased productivity, and more trust and collaboration.
On the other hand, a bad employee engagement score is anything less than 33. When engagement falls this low, your employees are less productive and morale is low. This usually means your team members are at risk of burnout and are more likely to quit.
I hinted at the benefits of engaged employees above, but it’s worth expanding on. While you won’t always see the impact of your engagement efforts overnight, investing in employee engagement tools and initiatives is all upside for your business.
Studies have shown that highly engaged employees are 50% more likely to hit their individual performance goals than disengaged employees. IBM’s research also found that engaged employees report higher levels of discretionary effort at work (nearly double!) when compared to disengaged employees.
That’s a massive productivity boost for a single employee—now imagine the impact if you could scale that increase across your entire company.
Tech companies are constantly competing to attract the best talent they can find. Employee turnover has a negative impact on your bottom line, productivity, and employee morale. Yet data shows that highly engaged teams experience up to 59% less turnover than teams with low engagement scores.
Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared to businesses units with disengaged employees. Companies that invest in building healthy cultures and fostering strong employee engagement receive a huge return on their investment.
Before unpacking the details of calculating your employee engagement score, it’s helpful to grasp how employee engagement surveys are structured. So let’s zoom out.
You’re running an engagement survey because you want clarity on your company’s engagement. Open-ended questions can provide great insights, but they’re also really messy and hard to quantify. That’s why most engagement surveys rely on using structured survey questions (with a few open-ended questions thrown in on strategic topics).
For example, on an engagement survey you’ll ask your employees to rate how strongly they agree with statements like these:
Your employees will pick from a standard list of options (more on this below) to rate how much they agree or disagree with the statement.
The major benefit of taking a structured approach to your core survey questions is that it makes analysis significantly easier. Everyone is answering the same questions in a similar manner, so it’s relatively easy to calculate your employee engagement score. This also makes it easier to identify trends and areas of concern across your whole company, which puts you in a better place to take action and improve engagement.
After your results are received, you’ll have an overall engagement score that falls within one of these four engagement score ranges:
If your engagement score is between 67 and 100, you’ve got reason to celebrate. Your employees are committed to your company’s success. They’ll contribute their best to help you achieve your mission and produce results. With a score like this, you’re likely reaping benefits like high productivity and low employee turnover.
When your score is in this range you should focus on celebrating your success. You don’t need to reinvent the proverbial wheel when it comes to engagement, but you also shouldn’t take this as a sign that you’ve “made it” and no longer need to worry about engagement. Instead, talk to your team and work to understand what has contributed to your success. These conversations will help you find ways to maintain and build upon what’s working well.
An engagement score between 51 and 66 signals measured success in engaging your employees. If your score is in this range you’re doing well in engaging employees across many areas. Your results probably show some clear strengths, along with some obvious areas for improvement.
When your engagement score is in this range, managers should focus on actions that will positively impact areas with lower scores. For example, say your employees were neutral or in disagreement with the statement “I have the resources and tools I need to do my job well.” Your managers should follow up to understand where their teams feel under-resourced. Where necessary, they can then implement new tools or increase accessibility and training to help employees achieve more with existing resources.
A score between 34 and 50 means you’ve got some important work to do on engagement. This kind of score indicates that a large percentage of your employees are feeling disengaged and unmotivated. You're probably having a harder time achieving goals, seeing more absenteeism, and dealing with increased turnover.
If your score is in this range you need to make some key investments to drive up engagement. Your survey results should show the areas that are most in need of work. You can’t do everything at once, so focus on the areas that seem most likely to have positive impacts across the board.
As you build your action plan, keep in mind that sometimes it’s easier to move people from a neutral place to a positive place than it is to move them from negative to neutral. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the harder areas—far from it!—but you’ll likely see faster results in more neutral areas.
Sound the alarm bells!
An engagement score between 0 and 100 should be concerning. If your engagement scores are this low, you’re definitely feeling the negative impacts across your business. Many employees are checked out or putting in the bare minimum. They’re feeling disconnected from your mission and unenthusiastic about the goals you’ve set.
When your score is in this range, you need to take quick and decisive action.
Managers and senior leadership should acknowledge there’s work to be done on engagement. An apology for letting engagement get so low may be a good idea, as it shows your humility and desire to improve. Transparency and vulnerability speak volumes. In response, ask your employees what changes would be most meaningful to them, then take immediate steps towards implementing appropriate changes in that direction.
We’ve covered the big picture on how engagement surveys work and the different ranges you may see in your results. Here’s how to calculate your employee engagement score:
It’s no surprise, but the first step in calculating your employee engagement score is to survey your employees. You’ll want to select engagement survey questions that help you understand your employees’ wellbeing.
There’s no perfect number of questions to ask in your engagement survey, but including too many questions may lead to lower response rates. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your survey short enough that employees can complete it in 10 minutes or less.
The number of questions you include also impacts how you calculate your engagement score. For example, if you have twenty questions worth five points each, you’ll get a max score of 100. Since engagement survey scores range from 0-100, this makes it very easy to score your survey.
Don’t feel limited to twenty questions, though.
If you ask more questions, it’s still relatively easy to convert your engagement score into a percentage. For instance, if you ask thirty questions, your max score becomes 150 points (30 questions worth 5 points each). If an employee’s responses add up to 90 points, you’d divide 90 by 150, then multiply by 100 to calculate the percentage.
In this specific example, 90 divided by 150 is 0.6. Multiply that by 100 and you’ll see the engagement score for this employee is 60%.
The typical format used to structure employee engagement survey questions is a Likert scale.
A Likert scale is a proven methodology for measuring attitudes and levels of agreement with a given statement. A standard Likert scale includes five response options that look like this:
Note: You’ll sometimes see Likert scales using seven questions instead of five. Either way works, but we recommend opting for five as a simpler approach.
It’s important to include a neutral response. Without one, you’ll risk skewing your results one way or the other, because employees will be forced to indicate negative or positive agreement even though that may not accurately describe their feelings.
When you’re using a Likert scale you also need to be thoughtful about how you phrase your survey questions. For example, take the question “Do you feel unheard at work?”
Normally, a response worth five points indicates strong engagement. However, because of the way this question is worded, choosing “Strongly Agree” (for five points) would actually be a negative response. You don’t want employees to strongly agree that they feel unheard.
To avoid this confusion, try rephrasing this question as “Do you feel heard at work?”. With this wording, a “Strongly Agree” indicates positive engagement.
To calculate the score per employee, you simply add up the points from their responses. It’s a simple and straightforward calculation that will give you insight into how every employee is feeling.
Use the same formula to calculate your engagement score per survey question. This is a great way to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as an organization. Celebrate questions that score highly and find ways to take actions to improve your engagement in areas that score poorly.
Employee engagement surveys provide you with a wealth of information. It’s valuable data, but it’s not going to help if you don’t act on it.
Once you’ve calculated all of your scores, sort your results by employee and by question. Bucket the results into the ranges described above, and start strategizing around ways to improve engagement. Involve employees in creating action plans to generate enthusiasm and accountability around increasing engagement across your organization.
Running regular engagement surveys is something every company should do, whether you’re a Navy commander or an engineering manager.
After you’ve calculated your employee engagement score and analyzed your results, you’ll have all of the data you need to foster a highly engaged workforce. Consistent and thoughtful action will lead to improvements in engagement over time.
While engagement surveys are incredibly valuable, they only happen a few times a year at best. If you’d like to make sure you’re supporting your employees every single day, add Kona to Slack for free. Kona’s daily check-ins are the perfect way to supplement your engagement surveys and promote employee engagement and wellbeing every day of the year.