Written by

Brandon Linn
December 06, 2018

Considerations for Successful Employee Engagement

Setting the Stage

In 2019, employee engagement strategies as part of a holistic talent and development portfolio will be more important to the success of progressive organizations than ever before. Google the term “employee engagement” right now and you’ll find 254,000,000 results. And yet Gallup recently quoted that only approximately 31% of U.S. and Canadian workers are engaged at work. With the continued flow of Millennials transitioning from individual contributors to people leaders, directly influencing many of your L&D investments and efforts, success will be measured in the form of a sense of belonging, impact, and personal growth. The aggregate of these three areas represents how we will define employee engagement. High engagement produces affinity (loyalty, intent to stay, retention), advocacy (higher, brand ambassadorship, positive word of mouth referral activity), and discretionary effort (resilience, output, change agility).

Here are three ways to ensure your employee engagement programs and processes are buttoned up going into the New Year.

1. You Can Handle the Truth: Internal Customer Service

Have you asked your employees to rate any of the following statements lately?

  • “I have an optimistic future outlook of the business.”
  • “I find joy and purpose in my work.”
  • “I work within a diverse and inclusive environment.”

If not, you are most likely widening your blind spots and opportunity areas where employee engagement is lacking, trust is diluted, and thus, transformative change becomes an uphill battle. In an era where social media chatter, opinions, and information flow like a gushing stream, there’s no reason to run from the truth. As regarded leader and financial pioneer Ray Dalio would deem, the best way to decrease the power distance between leaders and contributors in order to assess the good, the bad, and the ugly, is simply via radical transparency.

Like many relationships professional and personal, a bit of active listening and communication goes a long way. Think of your efforts as internal customer service. Through surveys, coffee chats, lunch and learns, or any of the like, ask your employees: How happy are you? How resilient do you feel at work? What have you learned this week? Have you had an effective 1:1 with your leader this month/quarter? Allow folks to speak with the confidence unfiltered (while appropriate) vulnerability creates meaningful dialogue which in turn bolsters psychologically safe spaces, and thus ultimately crystalizes into the trust all teams need to push through any barriers to success, small or large.

2. A Dashboard a Quarter Keeps the ROI in Order: Tell a Story with Data

Leaders (front-line, and/or Executives) need to proactively and explicitly play the role of active listeners by absorbing these highlighted engagement opportunity areas thoroughly, and then make sure to weave these themes and respective solutions into all appropriate actions as well as communications. For example, in town hall format, organization-wide communications, or via blog posts, leaders have an opportunity to say, “This month/quarter/year, we heard you say X or you responded with Y- we hear you, and here are a few way that we are working to solve for this concern.”

 

However, while some prefer the power of a good metaphor or story, others will prefer data and analytics in order to “prove” this positive progress loop has measurable goals or targets. Therefore, to get the most return on your employee engagement efforts, the sweet spot between emotional intelligence and business intelligence is smack in the middle, or as some would say equal parts art and science. A hybrid approach is to tell a story with data by keeping the organization accountable to engagement goals with KPIs (often measured in ENPS or employee net promoter scores, alternatively happiness/fulfilment scores reported on a 1-10 scale as examples).

Ensure there’s a transparent dashboard or document updated at least quarterly to keep the conversation moving. These forms can be housed on the organization’s intranet or even broadcast across television screens in various locations via infographic/summary slide to connect the dots back to the engagement efforts you are putting forth. Included in the summarizations could be updates on an organization-wide set of scores, goals, and action plans, or the same themes broken out by each business unit. However you decide to operationalize this part of the puzzle, there absolutely needs to be owners for engagement actions to ensure there’s accountability. Remember, a worse place to be is to have collected and absorbed employee thoughts, feelings, and insights, only to have frontloaded the excitement around purposeful change whereupon then these datasets collect dust and are clearly an empty act of goodwill without follow-through.

3. Purposeful Eavesdropping: Seamless On-the-Job Learning

Apart from the input/output loop or dialoguing approach as described in points #1 and #2, let’s talk about something completely different which has nearly moved from “next practice,” to “best practice” for leading organizations that want to heighten engagement and collaboration.

Want a way to create seamless pull-through in your learning efforts while also doubling your employee engagement efforts? It’s time to destroy the cubicle farms, closed-door personal offices, and rebuild an open workspace culture so people can lean-in at a moment’s notice. It’s what we’d call “purposeful eavesdropping” such that real-time usage and application of all micro-learnings and developmental micro-moments which touch upon the aforementioned areas of belonging, impact, and growth can occur between team members collectively and organically, rather than only in specific areas of the organization (i.e. the classroom). Take a page from GSK, a pharmaceutical company who not only looks at the correlation between the culture of workspace to engagement, but literally states that, “place matters to health.”

Wrap-up

With a combined abstract and concrete approach weaving in aspects of interpersonal connectivity through active listening as well as workspace autonomy and collaboration through line-of-site as well as other organic shared moments, employee engagement should as a whole see a slow but steady climb from the dismal statistic of 31% of engaged employees, to much larger quantities. Start somewhere small but maintain consistency as the approximately 69% group of those on the fence, are simply waiting to be engaged in meaningful and lasting ways.

What types of communication platforms does your employer use to engage employees during the onboarding or training process? Which platforms are more effective than others?

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Written by

Brandon Linn

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