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Non-profit Builds Employee Engagement to Enhance Recruiting and Satisfaction

Successful programs at Seneca Family of Agencies (Seneca) depend on engaged employees who feel a sense of purpose and team. As growth strained existing employee feedback mechanisms, CEO Ken Berrick turned to Energage for a more efficient and effective method of capturing the employee feedback data needed for continuous quality improvement.

Applying the insights gained from an initial survey in 2015, Seneca implemented a two-tiered strategy to boost employee engagement and leadership confidence scores well above industry norms one year later.


Seneca provides a comprehensive range of community based and family-focused services to support children and families through difficult times.

Providing unconditional, individualized care requires an exceptional staff of child advocates. “You can’t work here unless you’re fully engaged in trying to level the playing field for kids that have not had the advantages that others have,” related CEO, Ken Berrick. “The bottom line is the work; it’s what we get to do.”

Effective Recruitment

To create and maintain an integrated service system that provides individualized care to thousands of children with critical needs, Seneca depends on the ability to recruit top-notch employees committed to its

From the beginning, executive leadership sought regular feedback from employees to improve recruitment. As the organization grew to over 1,000 employees, the process of obtaining feedback through staff meetings
became unwieldy.

“We wanted to get a better understanding of how to do continuous quality improvement on our interaction with staff to enhance employee recruitment,” explained Berrick. “I used to do that by asking them. That
worked only up to about 400 employees.”

Employee Satisfaction

For an organization like Seneca, employee satisfaction is, as Berrick maintains, “an end in and of itself.” He wanted to identify the higher performing work units relative to satisfaction, with the assumption that there is a high correlation between satisfaction and performance.

“In a non-profit organization, employee satisfaction helps to create the sense of team, which is absolutely necessary in doing the work that we do,” he stated.

Leadership had already identified agency-wide issues with diversity, inclusion and compensation, but they suspected there were issues on a departmental level that also affected satisfaction.

“Identifying the issue of variance in satisfaction with first and second-tier supervisors allowed us to provide support and training to those individual managers that created greater engagement with their teams.”

Ken Berrick, CEO

Survey & Strategy


After trying other survey options, Seneca turned to Energage. “We had done surveys before,” related Berrick, “but they weren’t normed. We were interested in seeing how we compared to other folks in that space.”

The Energage Top Workplaces Program also appealed to Seneca as a tool to support effective recruitment and highlight progress.

Dynamic Survey Process

The candid but confidential Energage survey measured engagement with three questions about motivation, retention, and referral. Positive answers to all three indicate an employee that is fully engaged.

It also included a number of measures designed to assess the health of an organization. In addition to asking employees if they have confidence in the CEO, the survey asked three questions about how they viewed their manager.

Dynamic and intelligent survey logic enabled Berrick to break out and define work groups, allowing him to capture additional feedback and identify differences among Seneca’s various programs, locations, and work units.

“There is a significant difference for the people working in one school-based program compared to another, and the survey allowed for that,” explained Berrick. “What is more, when someone gives a particularly negative or positive answer, it leads them down a more detailed path.”

Differences across Programs

The candid feedback and meaningful data captured by the customized survey led to significant and, in some cases surprising, conclusions.

Seneca evaluates three areas of performance; client outcomes, employees’ ability to respond to the needs of the kids and family, and the organizational needs and work product. “The key factor in our managers’
performance, was employee satisfaction with their manager,” related Berrick.

“It turns out that there were enormous differences across programs. There were people who thought their managers walked on water—and some that didn’t. Incredibly, their view of the agency was highly correlated to their view of their immediate supervisor.”

Berrick knew that generally, people in nonprofits are less well-compensated. But, he learned from the survey that people who worked at Seneca felt more strongly about it. “So, we have been working very hard to do something about that,” he added.





“I have confidence in the leader of Seneca Family of Agencies.” Seneca scored 14 percent better than its competitors in the Non-profit: Human and Social Services industry benchmark.

Source: 2016 Energage Survey

Data Analysis

In addition to the survey and the initial consultation, a Energage survey specialist provided an expert review of the data collected, including patterning the comments, identifying trends, highlighting outliers and areas that required focus.

To create an industry-specific benchmark, he filtered nationwide survey results down to 24 large businesses in the human and social services sector. Twelve of those had previously been named as Top Workplaces.

“The deeper analysis of the data gave us a better overall understanding of where the issues were,” related Berrick. “That allowed us to engage where we needed to make changes in a more focused way.”

Engagement Strategy

With the insights gained from the 2015 survey, Seneca developed a two tiered strategy to address the company-wide issues and the difference in leadership confidence, engagement and employee satisfaction between work units.

“One, was to look at the organization-wide issues of compensation, communication, diversity, and inclusion,” reported Berrick. “So, we created an initiative around each of those to use the staff’s feedback to help improve our engagement on those issues.”

“Where employees had lower levels of satisfaction with their immediate supervisor and manager, we were able to provide, and continue to provide, engagement and support to those teams to make sure that they engage and include their staffs, acting as conduits of information to the senior management team.”


Employee Engagement Increased 5%

Applying the insights gained from the 2015 annual survey, Seneca helped its work units with lower scores to significantly improve employee engagement levels. When the survey was repeated 13 months later in 2016, Seneca’s overall engagement score had increased by 5%.

Leadership Confidence Up 12%

In February of 2016, the Energage survey asked employees at Seneca Family of Agencies to rate how they agreed with the statement:

“I have confidence in the leader of Seneca Family of Agencies.”

With a 75.3% response rate, Seneca’s two-tiered approach derived from the previous year’s survey results significantly improved how employees felt about the executive leadership and the organization as a whole.

Seneca’s leadership confidence score increased by 12% over the 2015 number, putting it 14% above the Non-profit: Human and Social Services industry benchmark measure. Team members with the lowest job grade showed an improvement of 15%, a notable result according to Energage.

Bay Area Top Workplaces Award

The Bay Area News Group named Seneca as one of the Top Workplaces for 2016, improving their ranking among large businesses in the San Francisco Bay area to 9th. Berrick pointed out that recruitment had improved due to this exposure as well as some other concurrent efforts. “We were focusing our efforts on Glassdoor and Internet recruitment at the same time,” related Berrick. “Certainly, the recognition as a Top Workplace helps with recruitment and we identify and highlight that achievement.”

A Real Sense

Berrick easily recognized the value of the Energage survey and its relevance to Seneca’s engagement issues compared to their previous efforts.

“It was a lot more helpful. You can try to get as much information as you want from internal employee surveys, but you just don’t have a real sense of what’s going on until they’re normed against other organizations,” he concluded.