Retention Secret #10: Employee Engagement and Climate Assessments

I’ve written in previous articles about how important it is that employees feel like they are valued members of tight-knit team. This can be accomplished through such practices as participatory decision-making that not only solicits input from employees, but actively engages them in taking that input from the divergent thinking phase into the convergent decision-point phase of the process. Another way to increase employee engagement and retention is through periodic employee engagement surveys or workplace climate assessments that really uncover what’s happening with employees and how they view various aspects of the organization. Doing this effectively is a serious task that requires a substantial commitment of time and energy.


Far too often, organizations do have some form of annual employee survey, but it often takes the same route as the tired old strategic planning process, the result of which is a plan that sits on a shelf collecting dust. No one takes that kind of process seriously, and with good reason. But measuring employee engagement can become a vital tool that reveals all sorts of ways that your organization can do better by its employees, which will not only help you achieve the company’s vision, but also retain employees to be a part of it.

In the series of performance management articles on this site, one was about the highly successful PM system overhaul that happened at software firm Autodesk. What’s important to know about that case study is that it was the company’s annual employee engagement survey that revealed how broken the PM system was in the first place. Jonathan Levy, Director of Training and Organizational Development at Autodesk, had this to say about it: “…this is something taken very seriously throughout the organization. In fact, among our 8,000 employees, the response rate on this survey is always at least 92% or higher, which is pretty amazing. Part of the reason for that high response rate is because the company, right up to the very top leaders, uses the data from that survey to make changes in the organization. The company is committed to taking that input and acting on it.” Download the case study here.

The benefits of doing a robust employee engagement assessment can only be realized if your company takes the information generated and actually does something with it. Autodesk does exactly that, and isn’t afraid to make far-reaching changes based on the findings.

There are many different ways to conduct this kind of organizational review among employees, including the following:

  • Paper survey instruments
  • Online survey instruments
  • Focus groups
  • One-on-one interviews

What you’re really assessing is how work happens in your organization in order to identify problem areas that can then be fixed. You’ll need to form a solid committee of people committed to figuring out what areas to explore and how to present the questions and get the feedback. But even more importantly, this kind of effort must come with support from the very top of the organization, not just in terms of engaging the process, but a strong commitment to act upon the information gathered.

No matter what kind of survey design and questions you come up with, an essential feature is offering anonymity for at least one part of the process. If you use focus groups and interviews, you also need to have an additional survey element in which people can openly speak their minds without fear of repercussions.

Developing a robust employee climate or engagement assessment process can allow your organization to not only identify potential problem areas before they become very real crises, but also potential solutions to such problems as part of the assessment. When employees see that the organization is not only committed to soliciting this input but also acting on it, morale, retention and productivity will all be significantly enhanced. That makes all the time and resources spent on the process more than worth the effort.

November 18, 2014   Updated :March 23, 2015   climate assessment, employee survey, engagement survey, retention   

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