Research as fuel for employee engagement

August 17, 2020


The summer period traditionally offers time for reflection, but it is no longer a secret that many organizations are reviewing their organizational culture. Employee engagement scenarios are being revised to keep up with the new reality. Research on this topic has become even more essential. The past six months have made that clear. Yet research is not being properly deployed. In this blog, we provide advice for communication managers and HR managers on how to design research to keep your corporate culture up-to-date and, ultimately, strengthen your reputation.

Culture as driver

For years corporate culture has been one of the primary drivers for talent to (continue to) choose an organization. The increasing focus on purpose-driven organizations has only reinforced this. Companies are expected to be empathetic. Culture is thus a strategic weapon of reputation and therefore requires the continuous attention of not only the HR manager but also the communication manager.

Steering information

Requirements and expectations regarding an employer are changing rapidly. Remote work is becoming the norm, but it requires much more from organizations to keep employees engaged. However, the necessary information to do this really well is often missing. A lot is changing for employees, including  their opinions. What do people expect from remote leadership? How do they view coaching? How do they perceive new technology?? What do they think you, as an organization, are doing well and what can be done (even) better? Conversely, what can a boss expect from employees? What is reasonable to expect from your employees? Continuous research into this is essential to anticipate changing sentiment and keep your corporate culture (even from a distance) appealing and alive. This research is often underestimated and not performed (well) or often enough. You now often see an unannounced questionnaire sent out by HR in the organization. Employees hardly receive any feedback on this. Either no further depth is sought to find the opinions behind the figures or team leaders are not encouraged to verify changing sentiments and make them more concrete in their daily conversations with their teams.


How can you perform and implement research properly? You can do research easily by setting up short online ‘pulse’ questionnaires. In this method you ask employees for their opinion about measures taken or planned, cultural elements and expectations. Additionally, internal communication is needed to increase the feedback  response. You can do this by announcing the questionnaire ahead of  time and explaining the why behind it. Not just by email or a collective virtual company meeting. This must also be done at team level and in consultation. It is essential to provide feedback on the insights obtained and communicate next steps. In this way you send a signal to your employees that their opinion is important to you and is actually being taken into account. Moreover it keeps you dedicated to properly substantiate policy changes.

Online workshops

If you want to give your research even more depth, workshops are an interesting tool. These workshops can also take place virtually, although somewhat less ideal. It is advisable to organize these workshop sessions both under management and among employees. Ultimately you will compare the output. To what extent are there overlaps in perceptions and expectations? Where exactly are the discrepancies? These are exciting exercises. After all, what if the experience of higher management does not match the perceptions of the employees? Then it’s best to organize these sessions with management and employees together, so that they learn to understand each other’s expectations and notice all the overlap, but also the differences.

Online focus groups: really listen

Although online workshops are a big step forward, it doesn’t stop there. In order to refine the insights obtained, it makes sense to organize additional online mini focus groups (max 3-4 people), with a variety of employees in terms of ages and roles. In a trusted environment (introverted) employees tend to reveal themselves more quickly. You can bring in and discuss cultural elements that you have heard mentioned in the other meetings. It greatly enriches the cultural image and (desired) organizational values. Culture is often an intangible thing and in this way can become tangible and therefore easier to discuss. An organization in 2020 must be open to sincere dialogue and is constantly facilitating it. And don’t forget the value of face-to-face conversations. If you can organize this in a safe social distant way it will provide valuable information.


In short, research is more important than ever as a link in (re) shaping your organizational culture and engagement policy. This is certainly true with a  desire to remain an inspiring employer now and in the future. An additional advantage is that research is a communication tool to gain support among your employees and give them ownership. Treat your employees like the adults they are. The organization and culture will come alive and become part of themselves. If you take good care of your employees, they will ensure a good reputation and business growth. It is a win-win situation.

Photo by Lukas via Pexels.