The Fundamental Flaws of the eNPS & why the Happiness KPI is the answer

There's now some reason to be optimistic, and many employers are beginning to look beyond pandemic conditions and hoping to accelerate their growth. To achieve this, leaders need to ensure they have the right people. And, while the eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) can help track whether teams are working well together, it is not a headline indicator of employee experience and it should not be how companies think of wellbeing.

February 19, 2021 5 mins read

With the rollout of vaccinations, there’s some reason to be optimistic. Indeed, many employers are beginning to look beyond pandemic conditions and are hoping to accelerate their growth to make up for lost time. To achieve this business goal, leaders need to ensure they have the right people in the right teams, which boils down to attracting and retaining talent. 

I just want my people to have a good experience.

one employer confided in me. 

The eNPS — a derivative of the Net Promoter (NPS) score asking, “How likely are you to recommend [Organization] as a place to work?” — is a measure of employee wellbeing. Many businesses (and employee wellbeing platforms) quote their eNPS score to attract talent. The logic here is simple: if lots of employees are willing to promote their company, it must be a good place to work.

It’s very sensible to choose a key metric to track. But it’s important to choose the right one. The eNPS is an awkward tool. It serves the employer better than the employee. On the other hand, measuring happiness changes the relationship between employer and employee, allowing real magic to happen. 

In this article, I’ll take a look at the trend to use the eNPS and why I think the Happiness KPI is a much better solution. 

What is the eNPS?

Touted as a quick and easy way to calculate employees’ average happiness, the eNPS shares the same DNA as the NPS. It looks at those likely to support your company (promoters) and those likely to speak negatively about it (detractors). Those in the middle are considered passives. 

Respondents are given a scale of 0-10 to answer and then sorted. 

  • 0-6 are detractors
  • 7-8 are neutral or passive
  • 9-10 are promoters

To calculate the NPS, you subtract the % of detractors from the % of promoters. The final scores can range anywhere from -100 to 100. The result is a number value for employee satisfaction. Employers are encouraged to test for it yearly, quarterly, or as frequently as monthly to “check in” with their employees. Improvement in the score would show that employees are doing better and are more satisfied with their job. 

That’s the theory anyway. The eNPS is great for the specific purpose of recruiting and brand advocacy. But it should not be a headline indicator of employee experience, and it should not be how companies think of wellbeing.  

The reality is that the eNPS is a flawed number.

The flaws of the eNPS

Its flaws start with the initial question, “How likely are you to recommend [Organization] as a place to work?” 

Questions about wellbeing should act as sign posts or guides about how to improve your experience. This provides no guidance at all. There are four main problems with this question:

  • The question is focused on attracting talent to the organization, rather than the employee’s experience
  • The question asks the respondent to imagine how they would behave in a hypothetical future situation, rather than asking them to report on their own experience
  • The question is not time-bound, so it is very general and can only be asked infrequently
  • It does not capture the dynamic nature of employee experience

A critical oversight of the eNPS is that it doesn’t focus on the employee. Instead of focusing on the experience of the employee, it asks the employee to be an advocate for the company. In this way, it feels as extractive as questions about engagement — it becomes another thing that the company will ask the employee to do. 

In short, another chore for the employee.

Sorting the numbers is also problematic. First, it reduces the 11-point scale (0-10) to a 3-point scale. The scaling also appears to be arbitrary. For example, why is 6 considered a detractor? Furthermore, it scores 0-6 in the same way. An individual that selected 0 is much more upset than a 6. What this means is that statistical nuance has been discarded in an effort to simplify the eNPS score. 

And then the frequency that this question is administered brings a further complication. Because it’s just a snapshot in time, it does not account for the dynamic nature of employee experience. If an employee is having a bad day, they may respond with a 6 but later in the day they may respond with a better score. 

The Happiness KPI as a metric and solution 

In many ways, employee experience is much like the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly movements of a share price on the stock market. It rises and falls constantly. Some days are better than others, just like some months or years are better than others. If you deal in stocks, you wouldn’t just look at the stock price once per quarter and make predictions based on that. In like manner, just looking at a quarterly snapshot of employee wellbeing and trying to draw conclusions and analysis is foolish. 

Employers and investors focus on trends. A single score is a snapshot that tells a story of a single moment in time. To understand real trends, you need more than one point of data. This is why the stock market provides updates right down to the minute.

Employee wellbeing needs to be measured to be useful — this is something that the eNPS is correct on. However, I believe that the weekly measurement of happiness makes for a far more reliable KPI than quarterly, or even monthly eNPS measurements. It’s infrequent enough not to annoy employees while being frequent enough to provide ‘real-time’ information that you can use. 

Measuring happiness focuses on an employee’s real experiences instead of hypotheticals. It transforms what is generally an extractive employer/employee relationship into a collaborative one. It signals to employees that employers are willing to listen and act on employee concerns. 

The relationship between eNPS and happiness

Happiness and the eNPS are, of course, interrelated. It would be bizarre if they weren’t. The following chart comes from Friday Pulse clients who collected both the Happiness KPI and eNPS data.

The graph confirms things that you may have already concluded as ‘common sense’. Happy employees are more likely to be promoters, or at the very least passive about recommending the company. Unhappy employees are much more likely to be detractors.

What this means is that employee happiness is a good predictor of employee advocacy — happy employees are more likely to promote the company as a good place to work. But employee happiness has many other advantages as your core people metric:

  • It signals that the business cares about the employee’s experience of work
  • Data can be gathered on a weekly basis so people leaders can respond quickly to challenges.

Happiness also predicts a series of business-critical outcomes:

  • Higher staff retention – unhappy employees are 2x more likely to leave
  • Increased productivity – happier teams are 28% more productive
  • Improved innovation – happier employees are 3x more creative and collaborative

It’s worth noting that many of my clients actively promote their use of Friday Pulse in their recruitment programmes. They do this, at least in part, out of self-interest as they know that it helps them show they care about their employees and attract better talent. 

How I can help

Employee happiness is the best measure of employee experience. Whilst the eNPS does have some value as a measure of employee advocacy, it is much less versatile and useful. 

If you are looking for a more nuanced approach to recruitment while truly understanding your people’s attitude towards your company, I recommend trying the Happiness KPI and Friday Pulse. It’s currently free for six weeks, so please feel free to reach out and book a demo.