In short, engaged employees play a vital role in creating customer promoters.
Leaders, therefore, have good reason to want to earn the enthusiastic loyalty of their employees. This means understanding employee engagement levels and how to improve them. The traditional once-a-year employee survey process, however, simply doesn't meet the needs of most companies.
As a result, Net Promoter® practitioners have developed an approach to employee engagement based on the Net Promoter System® itself. They systematically search out those forms of employee engagement that have the biggest potential impact on customer loyalty. They identify and strive to improve workplace characteristics that support high customer loyalty.
To reinforce the cultural support provided by the Net Promoter System, they align their approach to collecting and acting on employee feedback with their approach to collecting and acting on customer feedback. They explicitly tie together their customer system and their employee Net Promoter System.
The eNPS approach, as employee Net Promoter practitioners call it, differs somewhat from customer NPS:
- Sorting employees into Promoters, Passives and Detractors. Most adopters of employee Net Promoter Scores®, such as Rackspace and Apple, have settled on one central question to determine employee engagement: “On a scale of zero to ten, how likely is it you would recommend this company as a place to work?” However, eNPS is an emerging science. In some cases, Bain & Company has found that a second question can yield an even more accurate gauge of the health of the employee relationship. The second question is typically a variant of this: “How likely would you be to recommend this company’s products or services to a friend or colleague?” (In some settings, this question may need to be modified to include only appropriate friends or colleagues—those who might be qualified to buy such a product or service.)
- Survey length. Employee surveys must be kept confidential to encourage honest feedback. That means follow-up questions must be included in the survey—they can’t be asked by phone as they would in a typical bottom-up Net Promoter customer survey. But eNPS surveys are still much shorter than the typical annual employee survey. Although they can be very useful to the executive team, the primary purpose of these surveys is not merely to help headquarters identify and solve everyone’s problems. Instead, they are designed first and foremost to help teams and team leaders recognize and prioritize issues.
- Frequency. Because eNPS is meant to be part an ongoing operating system that can support coaching, action and continuous improvement, companies often adjust the frequency of the surveys to ensure a steadier stream of input than is provided by traditional annual employee surveys. Some companies survey all their employees every few months. Others survey employees on a staggered or rotating basis to get a continuous stream of new input without putting a heavy survey burden on individual employees. For example, they may send a survey to each employee ninety days after hiring, and again on every anniversary of the hiring date.
- Speed of action. Typical non-Net Promoter employee satisfaction or engagement efforts require data collection and analysis by a third-party firm in a large batch. Data collection and analysis require several weeks or even months, followed by a centrally coordinated process for disseminating the data and recommending actions. In an eNPS system, the surveys are short, and emphasis is placed on sharing (disguised) feedback as quickly and as fully as possible with supervisors and leaders. This supports virtually continuous focus on experimentation and action at the individual, team, function and enterprise levels, with rapid feedback on what’s working and what’s not working.
An employee Net Promoter System makes the people side of the business far more transparent. They support learning and experimentation. Companies can discover which departments represent liabilities and which offer potential best practices. They can see which team leaders are doing the best job and which ones need more coaching. Ultimately, companies can also understand which elements of employee sentiment and engagement most affect customer loyalty advocacy so they can identify ways to improve both.
A note of caution: employee Net Promoter Scores can be substantially lower than customer scores. Employees often hold their company to even higher standards than do customers. So before you initiate the employee survey process, be ready to process some tough feedback and respond with appropriate action.