The Powerful Impact of Employee Engagement Surveys

By Stephanie Schehr, Client Services Specialist

Chris & David

(From left to right) Chris Dustin and David Rowlee

Employee engagement surveys have been used for decades to measure employees, but they have proven their worth to report on more than just employee satisfaction data. Studies have shown the predictive analysis between highly engaged employees and lower accident rates, higher customer satisfaction, better market penetration, lower turnover rates and more. Simply put, highly engaged employees are better for business.

Chris Dustin, Managing Director and Senior Advisor, and David Rowlee, Ph.D., Managing Director and Practice Leader, are two driving forces behind employee engagement surveys with Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. For over 15 years, our team has developed and refined the employee engagement survey to provide specific and applicable results to our clients. Not only do our employee engagement surveys measure energy, enthusiasm and satisfaction levels, but also the employee’s passion for their organization. Adding passion proved to be such a powerful indicator that it has doubled the ability to predict key performance outcomes. The advanced analytics that we offer clients pinpoint key areas that positively impact employee engagement and business outcomes.

Gallagher has identified the healthcare industry as a unique niche in which we can thoroughly measure the impact of employee engagement. Since healthcare is utilized by such a large percentage of the population, there are many systems already in place that measure areas impacted by employee engagement, including hospital distinction awards and patient satisfaction surveys.

We have been able to measure the long-term effects of employee engagement surveys with one client in particular: a full-service, mid-sized healthcare system located in the Midwest. Beginning in the 1990s, our Client experienced an overall decline in their facilities, most especially in their flagship hospital. Among the poor performance indicators they identified were high employee and nurse turnover rates, low employee survey scores and a declining market share. Fifteen years ago, our Client turned to us to conduct their annual employee engagement surveys so that they could begin to work on their image from within and they continued to work hard with each year’s results. In the time that we have worked with them, our Client has dramatically improved their image and attained Magnet® recognition and also earned a national quality award.

The Engagement Survey and Its Scope

Chris and David have worked to refine our survey model to measure eight key areas that impact the employee experience: Leadership Team, Career Growth, Human Resources Program, Teamwork, Immediate Supervisor, Quality Care, Safety Culture and Department Director. Beyond these core areas, clients can customize their report to include employee feedback on any number of organization-specific goals. Each year our Client alters their survey slightly so that they can receive employee feedback on annual initiatives. This provides our Client with the chance to glean a wide range of responses from their employees without having to conduct multiple surveys.

Any organization-wide initiative has the chance for complications, but our team works closely with clients to make the survey run as smoothly as possible. Recently, our Client acquired a new facility, which brought a potential for communication problems with the new employees. However Chris and David worked to seamlessly fold the new facility into the overall survey. In processing the report, we were able to provide not only the overall engagement statistics for the healthcare system, but also the filtered data for each facility. This gave our Client a baseline for their new employees’ engagement level, which helped direct future communication with the new facility.

The Results and Next Steps

Engagement surveys can be so impactful that Chris and David suggest that the only time an organization should not consider one is if they are not willing to implement the changes found by the survey. Our Client worked hard each year using a three-pronged approach to address their results. First they develop multiple committees and subcommittees to spearhead the different identified focus areas. They also set clear and specific goals using the guidelines and standards set by national awards they hope to achieve. And finally they work closely with their leadership to gain their necessary support to help impact and drive change across the entire healthcare system.

While the change in survey scores is expected to be slight from year to year, comparing multiple years shows the large improvements. Over the past 15 years, we have watched our Client’s employee engagement scores raise a few points. But that impact can really be seen in the reduced employee turnover rates, which saves them thousands of dollars annually in training costs; attaining Magnet® recognition, which attracts more patients and more qualified staff; receiving national quality awards, which denote a higher level of patient safety and attract more patients; and the increased employee ratings, which have earned the healthcare system designation on national workplace and hospital ranking lists.


Every organization has its own unique growth areas, and even the same organization may have new goals from year to year, so employee engagement surveys also need to adapt and change. Our Client’s goals this year are different from the first year we worked with them, so our surveys have modified to fit their changing needs. David explained our unique take on surveys, “I find there is a poor science to using one standardized engagement survey for all companies. I am constantly struck by how truly different each company’s needs and growth areas are and I enjoy unearthing the nuances of each organization.”

Simply conducting employee engagement surveys each year does not automatically lead to reform. Organizations must be willing to push themselves and work to implement change. Our Client worked hard each year because they wanted to improve for their employees and for their community. When thinking about the past 15 years of working with our Client, Chris said, “I enjoy working with companies that are committed to creating a stronger connection with their employees. I like identifying the areas where we can improve overall talent in an organization to create better overall outcomes.” Regardless of an organization’s current state, employee engagement surveys can offer invaluable insights on what can make them truly great, so long as they are willing to change.