The employee survey is a commonly used HR tool to gauge employee sentiment around a wide range of issues related to work experience — from management practices to development opportunities, to communications, pay and benefits, and more.

But while these surveys certainly have value, the results they generate really don’t get at a very fundamental element of the employee experience. Namely, would they recommend the company they work for to others?

HR professionals have long known the value of employee referrals when it comes to finding job candidates. Existing employees aren’t likely to refer someone who they don’t feel would be a good employee or a good fit, so this pool of candidates can be especially productive.

In addition, though, there’s another reason that recommendations really matter, and it comes from our colleagues in marketing — the Net Promoter Score — or NPS.

NPS and How It Works in Marketing

In marketing circles, NPS relates to the scientifically demonstrated correlation between customers’ or consumers’ willingness to recommend a product, company or brand to others.

It’s a metric that was introduced in 2003 by Fred Reichheld with Bain & Company — and one that has been widely used by companies ranging from State Farm to Vanguard and Chick-fil-A, according to a Harvard Business Review article titled “The One Number You Need to Know.”

And that’s exactly what the NPS is — one number that provides an easy measure of customer loyalty. Based on the simple question — “Would you recommend?” — and a 0-10-pt scale, with 10 being highest, the NPS has been shown to be highly correlated with customer loyalty.

And, in more recent years, with employee loyalty as well.

Employee NPS and Its Value for HR

The employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), asks a similar question of employees: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our company as a place to work?”

It’s one thing for an employee to “agree” that their manager manages well, their pay and benefits are good, and they have opportunities for training and development. It’s another thing entirely for them to say, “Yes, I would recommend this company as a great place to work!”

That’s what makes the eNPS so powerful.

When companies use eNPS, they consider their results in terms of promoters, detractors and those who are neutral. Like other types of surveys and polls, the goal is to establish a baseline and then work to improve that baseline score through regular monitoring and actions designed to move the needle.

Finding the Right Cadence for eNPS and Employee Satisfaction Measurement

While the eNPS can be a powerful metric, it obviously doesn’t drill down into all the details your organization will want to know about employee satisfaction, engagement and employee experience. You’ll still want to gather additional information through your traditional employee satisfaction or engagement surveys.

But you can incorporate the eNPS into that process. Here’s one way to do that:

  • Conduct a formal employee survey twice a year that contains an eNPS question.
  • During quarters when the employee survey is not being done, do a pulse survey that might go out to 30%-40% of your employees to provide directional data about how things are going.

Tracking and trending this data on an ongoing basis and using it to work with business leaders and managers to make adjustments can help organizations stay continually attuned to the climate of the employee experience.

Turning Data Into Action

The combination of employee satisfaction and eNPS data, along with the anonymous comments received as part of the employee survey, provide rich insights. These insights can be used to work with business leaders and managers to help identify positive trends as well as opportunities for improvement.

Keep in mind that if you ask the right demographic questions in your surveys — e.g., sex, age, race/ethnicity, length of service, division, department, location, etc., you will be able to drill down into the data to identify areas where they may be differences in sentiment or perspectives.

For instance, do employees who have been with the company longer feel more positively about the company? Do different generations have different perspectives? Are certain divisions or departments excelling or needing improvement in specific areas?

This kind of detailed data, along with open-ended comments, can provide HR leaders with both objective and subjective inputs to be used as a starting point for powerful conversations. For instance:

  • Here are the top three areas where you’re performing well; here are the bottom three which represent areas of opportunity for improvement. How can we close those gaps?
  • Here are some interesting comments from employees that might suggest a theme. Let’s have a focus group or some conversations with employees to gather more input.
  • Here’s an area where you’re performing at a higher level than any other business unit. Let’s identify some best practices that can be shared with other business unit leaders.

Employee satisfaction survey results don’t tell the whole story about how loyal employees may be and the role they might play in encouraging others to work for your company. The eNPS score doesn’t provide details about specific improvements that might be made.

In combination, though, both of these measures can yield invaluable information to help drive improvement and engagement, which lays the foundation for attracting and retaining top talent, even for the hardest-to-recruit positions.