When Growth Gets in the Way of Employee Engagement

organizational growth

What comes to mind when you think about successful employee engagement? Magnetic organizations and productive workforces?

We equate employee engagement with business growth.

But what happens to employee engagement when business growth mushrooms?  Cindy Grant, VP of Human Resources for Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company frets exactly about that.

Having worked her whole career in the heart of Canada’s financial district with some of the country’s largest financial service industries, Grant and her executive colleagues are gob smacked and justifiably proud of the 96% engagement rate Trisura has earned from a workforce that’s growing exponentially. They’re also justifiably worried.

Organizations on a growth spurt experience growing pains. It’s hectic, a tad haywire. There’s lots on the go, fires to put out. People are being pulled in different directions. Priorities shift and change. Time is at a premium. Deadlines get pushed back. In many instances, especially among small to mid-size organizations, work falls to a department of one, or too few. Busy is an unspoken understatement.

A recent Harvard Business Review article about organizational culture and the impact of progress suggests fast growing organizations are so busy with rapid growth that leadership doesn’t always have the time or inclination to invest in cultural infrastructure. The authors also suggest corporate culture must adapt with growth, as do the organization’s original employees when new workers are added into the mix.

Trisura’s workforce has more than doubled over a handful of years.  Grant admits one of the things that keeps her awake at night is ensuring the firm holds on to its great culture; where people aren’t afraid to express themselves and leadership takes that openness to heart.

“We want to know if there’s any other information that can help us to be a better company. We’ve won a number of best employer awards. We want to maintain that, we want to keep that going,” Grant explains. “We want to really understand the different groups of staff that we have – the folks who have been here from the beginning and may have more experience, the people who joined in the middle and the fair number of new grads we’ve recently added. We need to understand workforce changes. What do our workers want? Is it the same? It probably isn’t, and so I want to measure, I want to know.”

While employee engagement surveys have long been the purview of large organizations and large consulting firms the merits of tapping into workers’ insights is reaching further afield. A lot of companies like Trisura are conducting their first surveys in startup mode.

Grant suspects organizations that are small to mid-size may not think they can afford employee engagement surveys, “because when you go to the really big consulting firms it’s big dollars and you’re not really sure what you’re going to get.”

But by working with a trusted survey partner, setting up proper benchmarks in the early days and regularly measuring and tracking employee engagement Trisura has been able to achieve and maintain high employee engagement rates. If perceptions change, the organization will be on top of it and change tacks to keep its people and operations smooth sailing.

For organizations in hyper-growth mode, employee engagement surveys take the guess out of what can be done to attract new recruits while safeguarding against attrition. Recognizing that internal resources may be limited during intense periods of growth organizations are best served by looking for a survey partner that:

  • reflects similar corporate values
  • delivers what’s wanted rather than a one-size-fits-all solution
  • accommodates and helps modify questions to suit your sector and workforce
  • actually listens to what you say as opposed to having all the answers
  • has unflappable project managers who will carry the ball, work with shifting deadlines, be there as your primary point of contact to troubleshoot or to simply run things by
  • offers a library of external benchmarks from like-minded/sized organizations for comparative purposes
  • analyzes and interprets data with scientific precision and reliability
  • presents results in a manner that’s clear and secures leadership commitment
  • supports your post-survey action plans with demonstrable expertise.

The last point is especially important, even for highly engaged organizations like Trisura.  Their score was so high that the action plan was a bit of a challenge, says Grant. “With a 96% employee engagement rate and 100% survey completion rate, there’s not a lot of room to move, not much to change. That’s where I relied on some of the ideas that our survey partner, TalentMap, suggested when they came in to give us our results.

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