4 Reasons Project-Based Businesses Should Measure Employee Engagement

August 17, 2021

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Project-based businesses are all about the people ‘in’ the business, and understanding whether their employees are fully involved and enthusiastic about their work and the organisation involves many things. But a great place to start is with an engagement survey.

Employee engagement surveys and how we act on them are becoming one of the most important tools in the digital leader’s landscape. Gone are the days when leaders can treat their survey as if they want to ‘check-in’ with their employees and tick a box, rather than use it to make actual changes.

Why? Because employee engagement surveys are not box checking, they are there to provide an intense insight into what’s helping or hindering our employees’ engagement in order to make bold moves toward improvement. In fact “Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business.” says Ian Hutchinson (Life & Work Engagement Strategist).

And it’s hard to disagree. Good surveys accurately zone in on the problems the company needs information about. And if a company is timing its employee engagement initiative to ensure high scores, such as post an annual bonus, it defeats the objective. Perhaps the best time to know who you are as a company, how you will grow and what overall employee engagement levels are is now; during and post pandemic.  

Here we focus on four reasons project-based businesses should measure engagement for the purpose of improvement. Namely, retaining and attracting the right talent, solving problems, ensuring continuous internal dialogue and sharing insights transparently. 

1. Retaining and attracting the right talent

We have to start by asking questions. Gaining insight on employees, so that we are able to understand their needs based on these findings and effectively engage and positively affect their long term contributions, is crucial.

I recall an article by Consultancy UK some time back. They shared that, “A survey sent to 44,000 (of PWC’s) employees found that juniors valued two things: flexibility and leadership training. This spurred PwC into action, offering a flexible work program that allowed all employees (not just juniors) the ability to fit work into other commitments. A good work/life balance is valued by juniors, particularly the ability to travel or do further study. PwC’s program had a 90% uptake.”

And feedback like this will only become increasingly important in today’s workplace, with organisations needing to understand employee sentiment around areas such as remote/hybrid work, equity & inclusion and diversity amongst other issues. 

As the war on talent continues, organisations understand the need to focus in on this area. According to our Deltek Clarity study, one in four firms is focusing on attracting new talent.

The truth is, technology is crucial to attracting the best talent and ensuring they want to stay, despite this, only 18% of firms we surveyed rate themselves as digitally mature today. Firms should be asking questions about how they can streamline work and offer technological solutions that alleviate pain points, increase productivity, and above all are easy for employees to engage with. The on-boarding experience is crucial to this, clarifying why the business does what it does and providing a unique opportunity to define a sense of purpose and culture with new talent.

The results from engagement surveys should force companies into action, and signs of success often include an increase in employee engagement and a decline in attrition rates. In fact employees often become a powerful recruiting source themselves. Asking questions and taking on valid complaints can lead to important changes and a company that ignores this in the workplace does so at their own risk. 


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2. Solving Issues

Conducting a survey implies that you are going to listen and take action. Imagine that I ask my daughter “do this shirt and trousers match?” and she replies “yes they look great,” to which I respond “I’m going to change into something else.” She is completely justified in saying “then why did you ask me?” Obviously, what we want is to send a clear message to our employees that we care about their opinions and that we are prepared to take action to engage and improve morale.

These surveys should help to us to develop game plans for months to come, act as a point of reflection for senior management and provide tangible objectives for growth and change. Deloitte for example state that “organisations with highly engaged employees experienced a 3-year revenue growth rate 2.3 times greater than average (20.1% growth vs. 8.9% growth)” and “organisations with engaged workers may have employees who are 57% more effect and 87% less likely to leave.”

Asking our employees questions creates a commitment from the company to listen and be transparent about where it is possible to follow through, solve issues, and improve the experience of working. And the statistics show that it can help to retain a high-performing workforce.

3. Continuous Internal Dialogue

Surveys give employees a chance to feel heard and a chance to express their voice. The primary goal of our engagement survey at Deltek for example, is to secure feedback on processes that are impacting our team’s engagement with the organisation. We want our team to be inspired, engaged and value their performance beyond getting a pay check which means we have to know what is working and what isn’t in other areas of their work/life balance.

For example, McKinsey state that “Employees want flexibility, 64% prefer a hybrid model rather than fully onsite (17%) or completely remote (19%). Furthermore, 29% say they will look for a different job if required to return fully onsite.”

The only way to do this successfully is to maintain the internal dialogue and to be effective, this dialogue has to be authentic if employees are to feel valued. Companies are well aware of the difficulties of replacing talent which is why forging the next normal ‘collectively’ will be paramount.  

4. Sharing Insights Transparently

Transparency might seem like an odd priority since a lot of these surveys are meant to be confidential. However, at a time when we need it the most this transparency can build trust and create a truly inclusive employee engagement action plan that than communicates what our intentions are, how we plan to take action and why some ideas may indeed not be adopted.

At Deltek we often like to share results from our employee survey during regional meetings, and that includes any negative feedback, areas for improvement and a defined action plan. In fact addressing shortcomings transparently as a business are aspects that should be prioritised.

Employees need to be an active part of positive change-making. Of course it isn’t an exact science and in these changing times transparency can feel difficult especially around topics that haven’t been traditionally discussed, but the rewards extend beyond employee engagement.

Ultimately project-based firms live and die by their people and clients pay for talented people by far ahead of other factors. Attracting the best talent and ensuring the best people stay requires us to understand what our employees really want, asking the right questions and listening. This should ultimately provide us with clarity into action that genuinely matters by incorporating ideas from all colleagues.

The pandemic didn’t deal a knockout blow, and despite the twists and turns, we owe so much of our thanks to our people and their engagement. A meaningful shift toward understanding what our employees want in this post pandemic era will be necessary, and asking the right questions with an intent to take meaningful action is a good place to start.


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About the Author

An experienced business professional, Neil Davidson has spent over 20 years’ in client facing roles for Deltek and prior to its acquisition, Maconomy, as Managing Director and Services Director. As Regional Vice President for the EMEA and APAC regions, Neil now leads the Deltek team which takes great pride in partnering with businesses of all sizes, from FTSE 100, CAC 40 and large privately owned clients through to small businesses, to provide innovative solutions to the diverse challenges of running a global professional services business. With vast experience advising professional services organisations on the benefits of project-based ERP, Neil’s deep sector knowledge ensures clients meet their objectives for improved profitability, growth and cash flow from the deployment of ERP. Neil holds an LLB in Law from Nottingham University, and a diploma in Strategy from the Scandinavian Institute of Management.