Spend much time researching employee engagement, and you’ll eventually come across the term eNPS. It can be a useful enough metric, but people often seem to conflate it with employee engagement in general. So, is eNPS a good measure of employee engagement, or is this confusion just muddling an already broad term?

Employee engagement versus eNPS

Is eNPS a good measure of employee engagement or not? We’re ultimately here to answer that question. But it’s hard to answer it clearly without first establishing some definitions. If you’ve spent more than five minutes on our blog, then you’ll probably know our definition of employee engagement off by heart.

So, to be brief, engagement is the extent of your attachment to your role and colleagues. But it’s also your commitment to the business and its goals. And while that sounds simple, there are numerous contributing factors such as wellbeing, work environment, compensation, autonomy and much more.

The good thing about eNPS is that it’s more specific. That means it’s generally easier to nail down. It’s a variation on the idea of a Net Promoter Score, with the little “e” obviously standing for employee. A promoter is someone who would be willing to talk positively to others about the business. The score, on the other hand, is simply a performance metric. “Net” simply refers to whether the results are positive or negative in total.

So, a Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a quantifiable statistic. In theory, NPS designed to encapsulate how people feel about your business, its service, and its apparent ideals. So a basic Net Promotor Score deals with things like customer satisfaction. But eNPS reflects how employees feel about your business, its service, and its workplace culture.

Essentially, that makes eNPS a short-hand stat for assessing the likelihood of employees advocating for your business. So, you can see why some might ask, is eNPS a good measure of employee engagement?

The pros of eNPS

Frederick Reichheld invented the concept of NPS as a new method of assessing customer satisfaction. The level of its success excited a lot of people. When employers realised it might also be useful in employee management, that excitement only grew. So, let’s look at some of its strengths.

It’s a quantifiable result

Arguably, the biggest strength of eNPS is that it gives you a simple, measurable statistic with little ambiguity. With recurring eNPS surveys, this makes it much easier to analyse trends over time. This makes it much easier to be on the lookout for dissatisfaction among your staff.

For a comparable example, consider Zensai’s own employee check-ins. The qualitative questions provide valuable context. Without quantifiable metrics from other questions and goal-tracking backing them up, their use would be extremely limited.

It helps you track employee satisfaction

Let’s put the relationship between eNPS and employee engagement aside for the moment. It’s true that eNPS can give you an idea of general employee happiness. Sure, engagement is vital. But just knowing whether your employees would recommend your products or you as an employer can be very useful info in terms of marketing and recruitment.

eNPS surveys tend to be very small and lightweight

One of the biggest problems with any survey is ensuring that there’s enough employee uptake to provide a workable sample size. Fortunately, eNPS gets around this to a degree by being incredibly minimal. In fact, some eNPS surveys contain only a single question. This survey tool makes it much less of a chore by reducing the likelihood of employees being put off from filling it out.

The cons of eNPS

So, Net Promoter Scores definitely have their uses, but is eNPS a good measure of employee engagement? NPS is easy enough to get to grips with. However, it has some definite flaws that make its use as an engagement-tracking tool pretty questionable.

There’s a lack of detailed insight

You don’t really get a lot of context for eNPS stats. This is partly due to the small or sometimes singular number of questions. But it’s also down to the emphasis on quantitative information. So, while you might know whether employees are talking positively about your business or not, you don’t necessarily know why.

Businesses are misusing NPS, according to its creator

Reichheld feels that NPS is incredibly useful for its original purpose. But looking back, he disagrees with some of the ways it’s been co-opted by businesses. Some businesses have taken to using it to calculate things like bonuses, or to justify investments. Reichheld has stated that this is ‘just asking for trouble.’

There are clear flaws in eNPS stats

You would think eNPS stats would be on point. After all, it is a quantitative metric. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. For example, many eNPS metrics use 11-point rating scales. By itself, this isn’t a problem. The real problem is that they are so broadly categorised.

0-6 scores are labelled detractors. 7-8s are labelled passives, while only 9-10s are labelled promoters. So, imagine you had one team where everyone gave scores of zero or one. Then another where they gave scores of five or six. Nobody would pass the boundary into being a promotor. Despite significant statistical difference, there wouldn’t be any distinction in the end result.

That’s despite one team responding around 50% more positively than the other. On top of that, so-called “passives” may as well not have responded at all. Poor response rates are an extremely common flaw in many survey tools.

So, is eNPS a good measure of employee engagement after all?

Although it has some clear flaws, eNPS can be a useful metric for getting an idea of employee satisfaction. But it’s essential to remember that satisfaction isn’t the same as engagement. Satisfaction is absolutely part of the wider engagement puzzle, but it’s far from the whole. 

For example, picture an employee who is very lazy, does little work and never gets pulled up for it.

That employee is quite possibly very satisfied by not having to work. They could happily recommend others get a job with your company because it’s so easy to coast by. They might even like the products or services their employer sells. In theory, that means they’d give you a high eNPS rating.

But nobody in their right mind would call that person an engaged staff member. Sure, they could advocate your products. But if they recommended a friend apply for a job, it would probably be for all the wrong reasons.

Just to be clear, we’re not saying that eNPS stats are useless. We’re saying that, firstly, they aren’t a single measure of engagement in any sense, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. And secondly, eNPS is only one facet of the questions you should be asking to give managers and HR the insight they need to help employees thrive at work.

Get a clearer measure of how engaged your people are with a simple 10-minute employee check-in.