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Inspiring Employee Loyalty Begins with the Art of Listening

By Eric Mann | April 23, 2019 | Rally Health

Historic levels of job openings combined with low unemployment are creating the perfect storm for employers: More workers are voluntarily quitting for other opportunities than at any other time in history, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Retaining existing talent is becoming more crucial and more difficult than ever before. Not coincidentally, employers have begun to put a lot of focus on improving the “employee experience,” which encapsulates everything that employees encounter in their journey through the company.

A critical part of creating a positive employee experience is the ability to listen to your population and understand their needs. But to make “listening” more than a buzzword at your company, you need to approach it with a strategy in mind, and then devote the necessary time and effort.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the different strategies and tools that benefits leaders can use to gather, analyze, and act on employee feedback to improve their program offerings and employee engagement — key components of the overall employee experience.

Net Promoter for People

You’re probably aware that the Net Promoter Score is a metric that measures consumer loyalty. It’s derived by asking customers a single question: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or relative?” This is usually followed by a qualitative question: “Why did you give this answer?”

Since its introduction, NPS has become the gold standard for determining overall customer satisfaction with a company’s services or products. It’s not hard to understand why: NPS is quantifiable, easy to measure, and easy to analyze.

Fred Reichheld first introduced the Net Promoter Score in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “The One Number You Need to Grow.” In his research, Reichheld found a strong correlation between a company’s growth rate and the percentage of “promoters” (those who were very likely to recommend the company to someone else).  Hence, companies with high NPS ratings generally enjoyed profitable growth.

But what many companies have come to realize is that the key to getting a great NPS score lies in their employees.

“One of the most important lessons that Net Promoter companies taught us was that the system’s success in unlocking customer loyalty relied on its ability to inspire deep commitment from employees — harnessing their energy, enthusiasm and creativity,” wrote Darci Darnell and Rob Markey, partners at Bain & Company, one of the originators of the Net Promoter Score.

One of the first companies to hit on this revelation was Apple, which coined the term “Net Promoter for People.” Other companies simply call it the Employee Net Promoter Score or eNPS. The eNPS aims to track employee loyalty by asking the question, “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company as a good place to work?”

By tracking eNPS, employers can quantify the state of employee loyalty, which has a direct relationship to retention. Measuring employee loyalty can give employers invaluable insights into company culture, trust in executive leadership and company direction, employee engagement and satisfaction, and the strength of its community.

In one of the few academic studies done on eNPS, author Tim Legerstee concluded that eNPS “correlated very highly with intention to leave. Employees within organizations with a higher Employee Promoter Score are less likely to quit.”

More evidence for the power of employee loyalty can be found in Fortune’s annual Best Companies to Work For rankings. Since 1998, the firms that have made this coveted list have outperformed the S&P 500 index by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, according to a study by the Russell Investment Group.

Elements of an excellent eNPS program

The goal of an eNPS program should be to promote “the voice of employees who are trying to do right on behalf of customers,” according to the Bain authors. At one bank, Bain found that employees with the highest Employee Net Promoter Scores generated customer Net Promoter Scores that were more than three times higher.

With just one question (“How likely are you to recommend this company as a good place to work?), the eNPS survey serves as a barometer of sorts for employee sentiment. But it should be complemented with additional tools and feedback mechanisms that can help a company better understand how to improve the employee experience.

Typically, eNPS-focused companies rely on multiple feedback channels to listen to employees. These channels might include comprehensive annual surveys, weekly pulse checks, town hall meetings, exit interviews, and anonymous feedback forms that are readily available online or in paper form. The Bain experts suggest creating “huddles” — short, regular meetings where employees at every level of the company can escalate problems.

All of this feedback is then tracked and analyzed for any obvious trends, glaring problem areas, or more subtle shifts in employee sentiment.

“Ultimately, your goal is to gather feedback that leads to meaningful change,” said Katey Brown, director of consumer insights at Rally Health. “You want to establish various forms of listening posts that can effectively capture employee sentiment. Then the results of that listening should be directly tied to actionable programs that enhance the employee experience, which might include career development opportunities, wellness initiatives, flexible work and/or vacation policies, holistic health and medical benefits, and skills training.”

Before you send out your employee surveys, consider some of these best practices:

  • Anonymity allows employees to provide their most honest feedback
  • Be sure to segment your audience so you know which groups are providing what feedback
  • Mix channels for higher response rates. You can ask for feedback by email, company intranet, live chat, social media, mobile apps, and even old-fashioned suggestion boxes.
  • Ask why. Be sure to follow up the single-question eNPS survey with a query asking participants why they gave the score they did.
  • Benchmark yourself against comparable companies. Comparably.com lists the top-rated eNPS companies in every major city here.

If your company has a large workforce, tracking and analyzing your eNPS data can be a beast of a task. Fortunately, there are numerous software-as-a-service companies that can help you manage and analyze this data (companies like Retently, cultureIQ, Reflektive, and OfficeVibe). They provide tools for segmentation, automated keyword analysis with machine learning and artificial intelligence, and integration with your existing services (like Mailchimp, Slack, Salesforce, or other commonly used companies).

Remember that it’s a continuous cycle of collecting, analyzing and acting on feedback that never stops. It’s not enough to simply gather the data; action is what makes the data useful. Employers should be tracking the impact of changes they’re implementing to ensure that they’re getting the desired improvements in the Employee Net Promoter Score or retention rates overall.

Lastly, it’s critical that employees know that their feedback is being heard. Employees who answer anonymous surveys should have the option of getting a personal response. Additionally, senior leadership should be vocal about making changes as they respond to feedback.

The link between well-being and eNPS

Did you know that employees who actively participate in employer-sponsored health and wellness programs are much more likely to promote their company as a great place to work?

That’s according to an Optum Health survey of more than 1,200 full-time employees at companies with at least 3,000 employees. The research found a strong correlation between eNPS and the availability of wellness offerings.

Not surprisingly, employee engagement had the biggest influence on eNPS. In fact, 48 percent of workers who frequently engage in health and wellness programs are extremely likely to recommend their employer as a place to work, according to the survey.

In its white paper on this research, Optum offers some intriguing recommendations for engaging workers:

  • Programs that help manage a chronic condition and a physical environment that supports healthy decisions seem to have the greatest impact on employee loyalty
  • Program availability matters a lot. Employees at companies with seven to eight well-being programs are almost three times as likely to recommend their employer and 1.5 times more likely to stay at their current job, than employees with no access to such programs
  • Promoters (those who score 9 or 10 on the eNPS survey question) are more engaged in their health care, happier with their job, and more productive at work. Find ways to increase the number of promoters, who are your most valuable workers
  • At the same time, support the needs of detractors (those who score 0-6 on the eNPS), who say they experience more stress than promoters. Sixty-five percent of detractors report work-related emotional stress, while 49% of detractors report co-worker/manager relationship stress and 38% report financial worries. Well-being programs that address work stress and financial health can help turn detractors into promoters

Rally Health also offers resources to help your company boost its employee health engagement on our blog, including this white paper on “Three Ways to Increase Engagement With Your Wellness Programs.” You might also consider these tips for supercharging your wellness participation and a six-step plan for successful benefit communications.

Final words

In today’s hyper-competitive environment for talent, not actively listening to your employees means putting your company in peril of losing its best people. An excellent system for collecting and acting on feedback can be built around the Employee Net Promoter Score.

For benefits leaders, one of the best ways to improve your eNPS is by improving engagement with your well-being programs. We know that eNPS promoters within companies are also the same people who are highly engaged with their health care and well-being. Hence, any effort you put toward increasing your employee engagement and improving the overall employee experience will pay you dividends in the form of higher eNPS ratings.

Rally Health can help you increase your Employer Net Promoter Score by making it easier for you to promote your well-being programs to your employees and increase engagement with their health care. Find out how you can take steps to boost your eNPS today. Contact rallysales@rallyhealth.com.

Eric Mann heads up marketing efforts for our key partners. He has more than 20 years of technology and health care marketing experience, leading browser marketing for Netscape and product marketing for Oracle Health Science.

Eric Mann
Rally Health