Employee red flags: 6 workforce metrics to watch

Posted on: November 24, 2023Updated on: April 16, 2024By: Ailsa Bristow

Every business leader wants to uncover employee red flags—but finding them can be tricky. Especially when your deskless workforce is hundreds of thousands of employees, spread across the country. 

Enter workforce metrics. But workforce analytics isn’t just about gathering data and calling the job done. The workforce metrics you collect are useful only insofar as you use it to gain insights into what’s working—and what isn’t. And it’s that second part that can be especially telling. 

Employee Red Flags: 6 Workforce Metrics To Watch
Employee red flags: 6 workforce metrics to watch

Workforce metrics will help identify those crucial employee red flags and underlying workplace issues that threaten your organization, so that you can address them before they escalate into major problems. But what are the red flags you should be looking out for? Here are the workforce metrics to keep an eye on. 

Here are 6 employee red flags that every organization should look out for: 

Red flag #1: High voluntary turnover rate

What it means: Voluntary employee turnover tracks the number of people who have left your organization on their own volition against the average number of employees overall. A high turnover rate means that an above-average number of employees are quitting.  

Why it matters: A high employee turnover rate is costly for your business. According to a report by the Center for American Progress, the typical cost of turnover is approximately 21% of an employee’s annual salary. It also follows that if your employee turnover rate is high, there may be underlying issues within the organization that are prompting employees to leave. These issues could be related to employee experience, problems with managers, a lack of communication or any other number of problems (psst…that’s why collecting upward feedback is so important!). 

One important note: what constitutes a “high turnover rate” will vary according to a number of factors, e.g. location, industry and your own historical benchmarks. This is true of all these employee red flags, but especially turnover. For example, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 turnover rate for accommodation and food services was 78.9%, while in retail it was 58.4%. Determining whether your turnover rate is too high requires context in order to understand what your data is showing. 

Red flag #2: Low reachability 

What it means: Reachability refers to the number of employees that you can communicate with. Usually, reachability refers to the percentage of employees that have adopted the app and used it within the past 90 days. Low reachability means that a large portion of your employees aren’t, well, reachable. 

Why it matters: If you have low reachability, you don’t have access to a large portion of your workforce. Reachability is critical to keep your workforce informed and aligned on company-wide initiatives—and ensure they’re ready to mobilize in an emergency (like, say, a global pandemic?). Low reachability also suggests that your communication channels are ineffective, hard to access or confusing to use. 

Red flag #3: Low feedback participation

What it means: This one is simple: low feedback participation means that employees aren’t giving your organization any of the vital types of feedback it needs to thrive, whether it’s health and safety concerns, protocol and process suggestions or even customer insights. If you have an enablement solution in place, you might actually be able to track a feedback participation rate, which indicates how many employees are delivering feedback through surveys, forums or other channels. A low participation rate means that few employees are engaging in (or don’t know about) the feedback process. 

Why it matters: The ROI of upward feedback is well worth the processes you’ll need to put in place to encourage, harvest and analyze employee feedback at scale. There are a number of business outcomes that can be achieved by fostering a feedback culture with your deskless workforce. So, when you’re seeing low participation in your feedback channels, you’re losing out on valuable insight that could drive your company. 

This red flag could be a sign there isn’t enough psychological safety in the workplace. Limited psychological safety arises when employees fear their feedback will lead to reprisals or negative outcomes. In the absence of psychological safety, feedback participation is unlikely to improve. Low feedback participation can also be indicative of logistical issues: for example, your feedback tool is too time-consuming, poorly constructed or hard to find. 

Red flag #4: Low campaign engagement 

What it means: This metric tracks the level of engagement linked to a specific enablement or communication campaign. A campaign could be related to a key event, like a product launch, a compliance update or a new promotion. Again, if you have an enablement platform in place, you might be able to quantify this number even more. Psst: Interested in learning more about employee enablement campaigns? Check out our guide, Everything You Need to Know about Frontline Enablement

Why it matters: Whether it’s implementing a new hygiene protocol or educating employees on new product lines, your enablement campaigns contain important information. Low campaign engagement can be a warning sign that a campaign your team has spent a lot of time, energy and budget to implement is not fully reaching your frontline staff—it can be a red flag that, for example, they’re not informed enough to properly engage with customers on a promotion or campaign. At a deeper level, low campaign engagement is a warning sign that aspects of your internal communication or enablement strategies aren’t working

Red flag #5: Knowledge gaps

What it means: Put simply, a knowledge gap is a disconnect between what you need your employees to know and what they actually know. Knowledge gaps can be identified in many ways, but to identify this red flag at scale, an enablement or digital frontline learning solution makes things much easier. At Axonify, for example, we monitor for gaps by measuring each user’s progress over time, taking into account their knowledge growth and confidence levels. Fun fact: we collect over 5,000 pieces of data on each user per year as they engage in daily training!

Why it matters: If health and safety knowledge is low on the factory floor, a workplace accident may be about to happen. If hotel employees aren’t up to date on a new loyalty program, they’re going to provide a poor guest experience. If retail workers don’t know as much (and more!) about a product than consumers can learn online, CX suffers. 

More broadly, organizations worldwide spend $357.7 billion on learning and development between 2007 and 2020, with an average annual spend of $1,307 on each employee. But according to advisory and consulting firm Gartner, 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to succeed in their role. In another example, one global technology firm found that its sales employees didn’t know about or understand 22% of the product’s features. Given the investment made in employee training and the need to have skilled and knowledgeable employees on the frontline, a low knowledge rate can flag major issues. Finding ways to measure the impact of frontline training is critical to addressing that. 

Red flag #6: Low employee advocacy

What it means: You’ve heard of Net Promoter Score when it comes to your customer satisfaction surveys, but what about employee NPS? Yes, it’s a thing. It’s essentially asking whether your employees would recommend your company as a good place to work and/or whether they would recommend your company’s products/services to a friend. eNPS tracks whether people in your organization are promoters (likely to talk up the company), passives (unlikely to talk about the company either positively or negatively) or distractors (employees who have issues with the company). A low NPS means you have more distractors and fewer promoters. Employee advocacy can also be measured through other review and advocacy channels, like Glassdoor.

Why it matters: Never underestimate the power of a strong employer brand. Tracking employee advocacy is a good way of tracking overall employee engagement, especially among new employees: an engaged worker is more likely to be an advocate of your brand. Conversely, if your advocacy levels are low, there are likely engagement issues within the organization that may be negatively impacting productivity or customer service. If you have a large number of distractors who are unhappy with the organization, that can also pose a reputational risk, as they are more likely to bad mouth your company to friends and family (your potential customers). 

Catching employee red flags is critical. Keeping your workforce informed, engaged and productivity is crucial to driving better business outcomes for your organization for years to come—and catching issues before they become larger challenges will allow you to stay on track. 

Ailsa Bristow

Ailsa Bristow is a Toronto-based writer, copywriter, content strategist and workshop facilitator.

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