Would your employees promote your workplace as a good, great or solid place to work? One way to know is through an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), which plays off the customer engagement metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS). “NPS scores range from -100, which means absolutely every customer surveyed loathes you, to +100, which suggests every customer loves you unconditionally,” wrote James A. Martin, tech journalist and blogger. eNPS is one of the tricks employee engagement trade organizations deploy as they try to improve sinking employee engagement numbers

How Does the eNPS Work?

Companies are able to segment “promoters, passives and detractors” based on their responses from the question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend this company as a place to work?” according to a report from CultureIQ. You can use some variation of that question. 

The goal? Get a score using a method that segments your employees into groups of promoters (those in the 9-10 bucket), passives (6-8) and detractors (0-5). The lower your score, the less likely you are to be engaged. And voila, you’ve got your employee engagement pulse. Or do you? Is eNPS the be-all for employee engagement? 

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Not the Only Engagement Metric That Matters

Not exactly, if you ask David Johnson, principal analyst serving CIOs for Forrester. “Heart rate is one of our most important [personal health] metrics,” Johnson said. “But it’s not the only thing that matters. Your heart rate is good, but it can be incredibly misleading, because you can have a normal heartbeat and still have all kinds of problems.” 

That’s what Johnson shared in regards to the eNPS: it’s just one of the vital signs that can be useful, but it is “not a proxy for engagement at all.” 

Getting to Know How Employees Feel

A better method, Johnson said, is to include a survey that asks questions such as: “How strongly on a scale of 1–10 do you agree with this statement: I feel inspired at work.” Why? Those questions “speak directly to how an employee feels .... Then you can aggregate maybe 10 of those factors together, and it will give you a score. Anything but that isn't really valid,” said Johnson

Go beyond the one question. The “how likely are you to recommend your company” question might not be the most accurate predictor of engagement. Sure, it can tell your company that your employees are in a good place and that your employees are engaged and happy. People generally won’t say good things about their companies if they're upset. “But that's not always the case. There are plenty of times, for example, where I've been frustrated with a company, but I still think really highly of their products, yet I’m not particularly engaged,” said Johnson.

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Learning Opportunities

Creating a Composite Index

Ask things like how people feel about their work, how energized they are. Asking a good 10 to 12 questions like this can create a good composite index that will tell you about how engaged people are in total, Johnson said. “There could be some dimensions in those numbers that are particularly low, like they don't feel particularly energized to work, but they do believe in their company and their company's values,” Johnson said. 

Those low scores can give you a sense of what's weak. Then, you can start working backwards with the composite score and learn which areas strongly predicted employee engagement and which did not. “That's a really useful tool,” Johnson said.

Lack of Complexity, Direction

The eNPS is also flawed in that it lacks complexity, direction and is not a true measure of engagement, according to Jack Davies, head of content for EMEA for Qualtrics, who blogged about eNPS in October. “eNPS is imprecise by nature,” Davies wrote. “It’s a holistic measure, a snapshot that gives an at-a-glance status check of how your organization is perceived and how happy people are to work there. Its brevity is part of its appeal, but if you want to dive deeper, you’ll need to use a range of other methods.”

Unmotivated employees, he added, might be “promoters” (those who scored in their answer as highly likely to recommend the company as a place to work) because the expectation of engagement is so low that they’re able to ‘zone out’ while at work and focus on other things, Davies wrote. “A common criticism is that eNPS gives you no indication of what is holding your employee experience back and how it could be improved,” Davies said. “It can tell you roughly where you are, but not how you got there or how to move forward.”

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Success With eNPS

Still, some companies have been successful implementing eNPS, or at least some version of it. Brian Allery, vice president of employee success and administration at WebPT, said the company collects feedback about employee satisfaction by regularly distributing an eNPS survey to everyone on the internal team. It expands upon the simple recommendation question by tracking employees’ loyalty and collecting feedback on professional fulfillment, needs and concerns, then taking “meaningful action based on the results.” This, Allery said, has helped with employee churn rate.

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Taking Action Is Everything

Regardless of the engagement path your company takes in gathering the engagement pulse of your employees, it’s going to be meaningless unless you take action. Fancy slides for the board won’t matter if you’re not making changes and showing employees you did so based on their feedback, Johnson said. “The most important thing any company can do if they want to continue to receive valuable feedback is to show that they've taken action and do something with that data and feedback,” Johnson said. “We know we scored really low in this area. And we realized that's the problem. Here are the steps we are taking right now and in the next year to solve that problem.”