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Employee engagement stays strong at SDN even through pandemic

SDN Communications employees after serving at The Banquet in Sioux Falls

SDN Communications employees completed their fourth employee engagement survey this past spring, with overall positive results and opportunities for improvement said Amy Preator, SDN’s HR Director.

“It would have been easier to say, ‘we’re not doing it this year.’ But we felt it was even more critical to see where employees were standing,” Preator said.

This was the second year SDN employees took the survey during a pandemic. Last year the team had been working remotely for about a month before taking the survey. They took the 2021 survey after about 12 months of remote work.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the numbers after one year of isolation, quarantine and a quick decision on how to deal with Covid,” Preator said.

The Gallup poll is a 12-question, anonymous survey that takes a snapshot of employee engagement. The questions go through a hierarchy of needs:

  • Basic — What do I get?
  • Individual — What do I give?
  • Teamwork — Do I belong here?
  • Growth — How can I grow?
Gallup employee engagement hierarchy triangle graphic

All employees are at different levels of growth, Preator said. Some are working on basic needs, especially newer ones. Others who’ve been part of the team for 20 years are probably at teamwork while others who’ve been at SDN “forever” may be at growth.

“We are constantly trying to move each employee to help them achieve the next step in the hierarchy,” she said.

In general, the engagement mean score dropped a very small amount from last year. Considering that SDN’s scores have consistently been very high, Preator says it’s difficult to increase them year after year.

Employee engagement refers to how committed an employee is to their organization, their role there, their manager, and their co-workers. Gallup’s research shows that engaged employees are better employees because they tend to give more effort, have higher productivity and, as a result, the company experiences reduced turnover and safety incidents.

“Our (Gallup) representative says it takes four actively engaged employees to make up for one actively disengaged employee. That’s a lot of work for good employees to do and to make up for,” Preator said.

Preator was pleased that the statement “my manager cares about me” saw an increase this year.

“To be able to increase in a remote environment and staying in touch with staff — that’s a lot of kudos to our managers,” she said. “We don’t want to blame everything on 2020 and Covid, but it’s hard to stay engaged when you’re not with your coworkers.”

The management team uses the results from the Gallup survey to focus on areas of opportunity. One that the team has already committed to working on is creating more training and development opportunities for staff.

Coming off a year of remote work, these opportunities were in short supply. Over the past three years of analyzing survey results, Preator has seen improvements when the company targets key areas. Individual departments can also work on areas that may be more relevant to them.

“We were successful working remotely because we knew each other very well and we knew the processes,” she said. “But we missed the human interaction and missed getting to know new employees. That’s the part that’s hard to replace. Even though we know we can do it, we really want that interaction.”

The company’s Great Ideas Group, better known as The G.I.G., is a longtime employee engagement committee. The members worked hard to keep employees engaged through work-from-home period and have been working to bring back that interaction this summer.

The group coordinated cornhole tournaments, volunteer opportunities and even a series of Olympic Games that ended with a dunk tank. After all, an opportunity to dunk a manager or vice president would bring employees together at just about any company. Take a look.

SDN Communications has about 115 employees located in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Pierre, and Blue Earth, Minn. Together, they deliver the most reliable business internet, private networking and cloud connectivity services in the region.

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