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Want to boost engagement, retention? Dig into your Employee Net Promoter Score

Ani Banerjee, KnowBe4
Ani Banerjee
Ani Banerjee is chief human resources officer for KnowBe4, the security awareness training and simulated phishing platform used by more than 54,000 organizations. Banerjee oversees HR operations across 11 countries and has 30 years of experience in global HR leadership roles working for VMware, Dell, Yahoo and AOL.

In a business environment that has been plagued by the “Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting,” employers and their HR advisors are understandably concerned about managing both turnover and engagement. They need to know sooner, rather than later, if the culture is supportive of employees. Once an employee gives notice, it’s too late.

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There’s a simple diagnostic tool that can help—eNPS, or employee net promoter score.

How eNPS works

A net promoter score is a metric used widely by marketers as a way of assessing customer loyalty. It’s based on the answer to a quite simple question—“Would you recommend…?”—and a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest. While originating in marketing, the same assessment tool has come to be used by HR professionals to assess employee loyalty: “Would you recommend this company as a good place to work?”

The resulting scores are indicative of employee loyalty, broken down by:

  • Promoters—those who score a 9 or 10
  • Passives—those who score a 7 or 8
  • Detractors—those who score a 0 to 6

The eNPS is then calculated by comparing the percentage of promoters to the percentage of detractors, resulting in an overall score ranging from 100 to +100. The higher the score, the higher the number of promoters. And, while moving toward 100 is certainly a goal, it’s unlikely that any company will receive that. Bain & Company, which created the NPS, says that above 0 is good, above 20 is favorable, above 50 is excellent and above 80 is world-class. So a good eNPS would be 50—if you get an overall NPS of 50, that’s very solid.

But we have to look at this in context with the overall organization.

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See also: Recruiters Are the Most Satisfied Workers in the U.S.

eNPS in context

eNPS scores are both absolute and relative. As we’ve seen, an absolute score of 50 is considered quite good. But that score is also relative to the rest of the organization. For instance, suppose the finance department had an eNPS of 52, but the overall company score was 60. That tells us that there may be an opportunity in the finance department to make some changes that could help boost that score.

Conversely, suppose the company’s score was 60, and the sales team’s score was 80. There are likely some best practices that could be identified and shared to help boost scores in other areas of the company.

At a previous company I worked at, we found that the eNPS of our senior director population was in the single digits. And we were seeing a mass exodus of people in these roles. Something obviously needed to change, so we had conversations to determine what was happening. Why were we losing so many people? What is the root cause? What can we do to turn things around?

HR leads the way

HR leaders can play a vital role in terms of starting conversations with business leaders about their eNPS results.

See also: 4 employee engagement survey questions you should be asking

Results can be compared to the overall company score, as well as to scores of other business leaders. They can help identify where relative scores are indicating opportunities for improvement as well as potential best practices that might be identified and shared with other business leaders. HR leaders can serve as a catalyst for interventions in areas where scores are low, working with leaders to determine root causes.

  • Is it a compensation issue?
  • Is it a career advancement issue?
  • Is it related to a lack of empowerment?
  • Are work demands too demanding?

These conversations need to take place with the staff members themselves to understand what impacts—both negative and positive—they may be feeling, and with business leaders to help them understand what they need to do to improve those scores. And, of course, the organization overall plays a role, especially if issues are related to compensation or company policies and practices.

In fact, while each company is different, the most common issues I’ve seen are typically related to compensation, career opportunities and communications. Another key area that influences eNPS is leadership. Do you trust your leadership? Not only in terms of accomplishing the company’s North Star but also acting in the best interest of the company’s employees? This can include transparent communications, following through on promises, fairness, equity and inclusion.

While eNPS results are telling and can identify areas for focus, they need to be considered along with other metrics—like employee satisfaction or engagement scores—and explored in more detail through conversations that might take place in focus group settings or one-on-one to help understand the issues that are driving the score.

And we really need to listen—and then take action.

Transparency and trust are especially important. Employees at all levels of the organization need to feel that their input is valued, even when that input is critical, and they need to feel that the company will take action to address legitimate concerns.

Opening up the channels of communication is a good place to start. That, along with continual assessment through eNPS and other tools can help organizations ensure a climate and culture that provide a competitive advantage and a great place to work.