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Rules of engagement

Hybrid working is now the norm in many workplaces and is highly valued by a wide range of employees. Gary Cattermole, Director of The Survey Initiative, looks at how to measure whether you’re delivering a workplace that employees feel engaged with and loyal to, even when not on the premises

Post-pandemic, a lot of people were relieved to get back to a physical workplace. Vast numbers of FM employees, clearly, could not deliver services without attending premises in person. Many others, however, with more administrative roles, are reluctant to leave the virtual office.

Research by Microsoft in conjunction with YouGov, conducted at the end of 2021, revealed that 51 per cent of UK workers would consider leaving their company if hybrid working was removed, while 59 per cent of HR decision makers agreed that hybrid working has had a positive effect on the mental wellbeing of staff. Hybrid working has evidently become less of a ‘nice to have’ and more of a ‘must have’.

The YouGov research also revealed that more than a third of workers who started a new job during the pandemic had never set foot in the workplace. They have not met managers or colleagues in person and may have struggled to absorb their employer’s workplace culture. Ensuring that more recent starters and their longer serving colleagues feel like an integrated team, and enjoy a level playing field, can be quite a challenge.

For many organisations, an effective hybrid work strategy is now a necessity, but making that strategy feel equitable is also vital. Increasingly, we are being asked to gauge what employees want from hybrid working and how they feel it should be managed.

Active communication with your team about hybrid working is key. This includes gaining quantifiable feedback. Employees who feel listened to and consulted are invariably more engaged than those who don’t.


One of the most useful tools is the tailored employee engagement ‘pulse survey’. The pulse survey is run at regular intervals, asking a few key questions, in the form of an anonymous online survey which takes just a few minutes to complete.

There are some off the shelf solutions, but these will inevitably contain some irrelevant or inappropriately phrased questions for your organisation and, as a result, usually produce poor results.

The best way to identify the right questions for a tailored survey is to ask the prospective respondents. Far too often, managers think that they know what the issues are, but their assumptions may not reflect the true picture. Talking in confidence to small focus groups, or individuals, depending on the size and structure of the organisation, is highly revealing. People are usually very happy to tell us (rather than their manager) what they think and feel; even though they can’t quantify how widespread their issue or opinion may be. This vital intelligence helps us to craft the survey. In our experience, a well-tailored survey, based on issues relevant to your team, will yield response rates of around 84 per cent, which provides excellent quantitative data on which to base critical decisions and form plans.


Prior consultation also serves another essential purpose, signalling that the results will be noted and acted on. We encourage employers to invest resources in positioning an engagement survey in advance, to assure employees that its findings will result in progress. Every level of the organisation should be surveyed, from front line operatives to middle managers and senior executives. Naturally, this may mean that the survey needs to be tailored differently for the various groups so that opinions on issues such as hybrid working, diversity, inclusion and another current hot topic, allyship, can be measured in the different strata of the organisation.

Using a pulse survey is more reliable than ‘always on’ surveys, which are offered by some engagement analysts. Always on surveys tend to be popular with some sections of a workforce, but fail to provide rich data from across the whole organisation. Measuring engagement at set intervals in a pulse survey also helps to avoid ‘blips’ from employees who turn to the always on survey as a form of complaint, following a particular workplace experience. The pulse survey can be run every month, quarter, or other predetermined intervals, depending on the issues under examination. Regular feedback from your key stakeholders allows you to monitor progress, check against KPIs and understand what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. We can adapt the survey questions as you make progress or dig deeper into particular issues.

Tailoring your survey does mean that every question must be apt and relevant, but not necessarily that the wording is exclusive to your organisation. We have access to some industry-wide data, so you may wish to benchmark your teams against this, by asking the same question that others have asked.

Accurate findings from plentiful survey data will often go a long way to explain why you are losing (or retaining) staff and how you might achieve greater engagement and loyalty.

About Sarah OBeirne

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