The value of employee engagement heat-maps


In an earlier post on breaking out of the standard formulas of employee engagement, we described why it’s so important to capture individual grassroots feedback from the ground up, rather than a corporate-led framework dreamt up by the Exec team.

But we’re also committed to giving senior management a set of themes that represent this myriad of employee sentiment that they can track year-on-year, as well as split down to contrast across different parts of the business.

From a reporting perspective, getting visibility of this needs to be simple, actionable and shareable  – something the whole organization can use  – for this, we create a heat-map.

So, what is a heat-map?

A heat-map is a coded table, using colours to draw your eyes to the highest and lowest scores for different factors. It helps to make the colours intuitive, so in the example below, we’ve used a traffic-light code i.e. green colours are positive, red colours are negative. Most cultures interpret red as a warning, so it tends to work especially well in pinpointing problem areas.

Here’s an example:

Engagement Heat Map
What Matters to Employees, split by Region

This heat-map shows scores for nine different regions on twenty-six different factors as well as showing the relative position of each of them compared to the total organization. Straightaway, it’s easy to see how Factor 9 (about the company taking an active role in health and wellbeing at work) gets a dark red score overall, and that it’s being driven from four regions in particular. It’s interesting that the same regions have a concern about the clarity of the company’s future plans (Factor 3). Perhaps this is driving worry and stress in the workplace, impacting the Factor 9 scores? This could be something for Regional Managers in the affected locations to explore and tackle.

It’s also easy to see how Scotland has a whole string of positive scores at the bottom of its column, especially issues around getting recognition, feedback and a fair wage. Why not run a focus group with some Scottish teams to explore what’s working well here, or at least extract their individual comments from employee surveys? This is a great way to develop best practice detail, from which to build initiatives.

The heat-map can be used tactically too – for example the North-East region seems to have a problem with the support Managers give their teams (Factor 21). The Regional and HR Directors might well seek to address this quickly, with comms and training support.

The insight and action possibilities from such engagement heat-maps are almost endless, but the colours help to provide focus and priority. Australian software house CultureAmp even suggest gamifying the process a little by not showing which regions are which, and have people try to guess the regions instead! This can actually be quite interesting in terms of clearly seeing how well they know their organizational culture first hand. This can drive interaction with the data (which is great, as engaging people with numbers is not always easy!).

The Takeout: We would not suggest using engagement heat-maps as the sole basis for making change (once again – always be clear on ‘why’ the scores are the way they are before acting). However, they are an invaluable tool for comparing employee sentiment across different offices, regions or other variables (focus on splits you can action, rather than purely for academic interest!). Most of all, they make Engagement data engaging, which is pretty fundamental really!