We all know Apple as a sophisticated, trendy brand that has built an empire of loyal followers. People display their products like a badge of honor but Apple wasn’t always so smooth. They had a customer service experience that felt stiff and pompous.
After their 9th different iPod release in 5 years, they turned to the NPS – Net Promoter Score. The NPS is a numerical measure of how likely customers would be to recommend you. Fixating on this score, Apple did everything it could to improve over time and saw outstanding results.
So if Apple uses NPS to help measure customer satisfaction, could you use the same process to measure your employee satisfaction, the eNPS?
With huge success in an array of Fortune 500, the eNPS eventually permeated the employee experience. Employers began asking “How likely would you be to recommend EMPLOYER as a place to work?”
Let’s explore how to use the eNPS and what are the pros and cons of it.
What is the eNPS?
The NPS was born from a Harvard Business Review article billed as “The One Number You Need to Grow”. It was designed as a predictor of customer loyalty. Those who scored highly saw a correlated upswing in business.
So great was the improvement that it was transferred to the employee experience. It became a quick measure of how happy and loyal your employees are. Each respondent is asked:
“On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend (EMPLOYER) to a friend or colleague?”
Those who answer 9 or 10 are known as promoters of the company. They are champions of your brand. 7 or 8 are known as passives and anywhere between 0 and 6 are detractors. Detractors are those who would advise against taking a job with you.
In most eNPS scores, passives will be removed from the equation. That leaves the promoters and detractors to settle things. To get your eNPS, simply subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
For example, 60% of survey respondents are promoters (9 or 10) and 15% are detractors (0-6). This leaves you with an eNPS score of 45%. eNPS can swing anywhere from a poorly -100% to unanimous delight +100%.
The average eNPS score noted by Percyptex stands at just 14. Industries such as telecommunications fairing slightly better at 27 but healthcare arrives in at -6.5. Some industries rarely achieve high results and so it must be taken in context.
What are the Pros of eNPS?
Quick Snapshot of Employee Happiness
Pulse surveys are all about getting a quick understanding of where your employee engagement stands and nothing is quicker than eNPS. It is one closed question that can easily be automated from end to end. If all employees answer instantly, you can get a quantitative value in minutes.
No time is wasted generating thoughtful questions and resources are not thrown at heavy-weight engagement software. The speed of answering means far higher response rates which is the mark of a good survey.
Easy to Work With
Many of the employee engagement survey vendors have erred on the side of over engineering. Their platforms produce considerable reports that are often inaccessible to the layperson trying to enact solutions.
The eNPS is the least demanding and easiest to grasp. Over 0% generally means the safe zone with 30% and above being considered quite positive. Both the positive and negative are on a sliding scale depending on how significant the number. Any result is easy to comprehend for any manager.
Many managers will use the eNPS as a facet of their change management plans. Whether going through a period of growth, a merger, or even to measure against previous scores, leaders can take a quick picture of where employee morale stands. The lack of variables involved remove the potential for confusion.
The eNPS is a fairly low cost option when it comes to employee surveys. Even if you were to build your own engagement survey in-house, the salary expenditure would exceed the costs of running an eNPS.
While some providers have limited trial versions, broader survey tools start at $7 per person per month for annual subscriptions. Some platforms start with a $5,000 minimum subscription. These costs don’t take into account the ancillary expenses of employee time and management training.
If you have a savvy accounting or IT department, it would be quite easy to develop your own eNPS in-house (or simply use SurveyBot for free).
What are the Drawbacks of eNPS?
Lacks Depth and Complexity
The simplicity of a singular number representing your employee experience is enticing to many. However, it unsurprisingly lacks any tangible insight. In fact, a singular follow up question disassembles any gains it might provide – why? Why did we get a high or low score?
Qualtrics, an employee engagement analytics firm who provides the eNPS, actually recommend against its use. It lacks any depth of understanding and appreciation of employee health. In the words of Leapsome:
“ eNPS just provides a canary in the coal-mine to signal roughly how much work needs to be done and how urgently.”
At best it is a starting point and a surface-level inquiry. There is no indication of how committed your team is, how much they enjoy working for you, how hard they are working or how motivated they are. Maybe you have a high eNPS because you offer free lunch on Fridays, but the eNPS leaves you guessing.
Treats Employees like Customers
NPS was developed in 2003 by Bain and Company to grasp if customers enjoyed their experience with businesses. While it gives a CX snapshot, it is totally insufficient for employees.
It works for customers because customer experience is essential to loyalty, referral sales and reviews. The higher it can be pushed, the more directly correlated it can be to sales. That is not the case for employee retention and performance.
Employees can happily recommend you to a friend because you offer exceptional wages, workloads are not demanding, or any other number of surface-level reasons. However, none of those reasons indicate performance or engagement.
The eNPS asks an externally facing question despite the internal experience. While the individual may be unhappy with their direct management figure, they may feel the employer overall provides desirable benefits to others.
The eNPS is Directionless and Actionless
The eNPS allows for virtually no dialogue. Worse still it discards the voices of an entire employee populace – “the passives”.
The point of running any employee survey is to open a dialogue that recognizes the employee experience and inspires action. The aim is to align both employees’ aspirations and business goals in an effort to optimize workforce effort.
Without a reason why or any room for further discourse, the eNPS grossly underestimates the value of engagement to profitability, productivity and wellness. There is no indication of what strategies will affect the score or how you can craft a better experience.
There is a Danger to eNPS
To the untrained eye, a positive eNPS may indicate that all is well inadvertently masking a variety of problems. For example, a high eNPS does not mean you don’t have a high turnover rate.
Employees could be leaving in droves but employers are led to believe they are doing a terrific job if a positive score is upheld. Furthermore, employees could quite literally be doing the bare minimum in their roles and be happy for others to enjoy similar benefits. There are far too many cracks in the system.
eNPS is the equivalent to your doctor taking your temperature and not giving you a diagnosis. Employers and HR managers need more information to make decisions.
Many employee survey vendors offer the eNPS because it is quick and easily understood despite knowing there are exceptional limitations and potential hazards. The truth is with eNPS; you pay for what you get. It is a vanity metric that should never be considered as anything more than a starting point when dealing with employee experiences.
The results are devoid of action, reduce the employee experience to positive or negative, and jettisons the opinions of those in the middle. Most employees live in the middle. There are areas of their roles that they thoroughly enjoy and there are parts they would like to change. To investigate either, a conversation is required which the eNPS doesn’t encourage.
If employee engagement is a priority, which it should be, deeper insights and robust conversation is required to optimize your team.