Shaping an employee engagement strategy?

14 June, 2019

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Employee engagement is a topic that continues to have prominence in UK businesses, with a growing number of employers seeking quirky and unique ways to motivate, inspire and retain their talent.  From increasingly flexible working, to company funded holidays, extreme team events, life coaching and creative workspaces, the diversity of ideas is clear for everyone to see.

What we all need, to give our best every day in work, varies wildly.  Developing an employee engagement strategy, that will appeal to everyone, whilst enabling an organisation to thrive is therefore a daunting task.

Unique to every organisation, your engagement strategy should unlock an emotional commitment in your people and a desire to ‘go the extra mile’ (Purcell 2010). Through this, everyone plays their part in achieving company goals and values (MacLeod and Clarke, 2009). It’s largely about driving a culture of continuous improvement, in a way that is right for everyone.

There is much evidence to show that having an engaged workforce has many benefits.  As a result of everyone’s ‘discretionary effort’ (Purcell 2010) an engaged workforce will be a more successful one.  Greater productivity and profitability, higher retention levels, more innovation and fresh thinking.  Trying new approaches in how you engage your people will sustain the interest of those who are already engaged and help get on board the non-engaged and disengaged.

In amongst the disparate ideas on employee engagement, there are five key areas you could start to consider now:

Leaders

How well leaders set, share and involve people in the direction of the business will have an impact on engagement levels. Ongoing visibility of business plans is crucial in keeping people focused.  Cascade business plan objectives into employee appraisals and provide regular progress updates.  Alongside this, develop your leaders to be approachable and authentic. Support them to lead with integrity and empathy. Invest in leadership development, encourage an ‘open door’ approach and a culture of listening.

Key tip: be visible as leaders. Make people aware when you’re available or going to be in certain locations so they can catch up with you. 

Employee voice

Look beyond communication, or even consultation, and build your communication strategy around involvement. Look to inspire, as much as to inform. Involving your people will connect them directly to the business plan and open greater opportunities for fresh thinking. This could involve feedback – surveys, ‘pulse’ checks (shorter surveys) and roundtable discussions. To strengthen further, implement working groups to drive key issues forward. Build time into your team meetings to hold open discussions about ‘what’s next’ and seek input on specific projects. Suggestion and peer recognition schemes are also positive ways to build employee voice.

Key tip: Talk more and email less to find out what people think and feel.

Personal growth

Invest in employee development and distinguish between progression and promotion.  Ensure what you offer is varied, suits a range of learning styles and will support the business plan. There are many ways in which people learn – job enrichment, new work experiences, e-learning and research, in-house programmes, coaching and education.  Most importantly, enable people to own their career development and provide them with the tools to do so.  Ensure there are clearer lines of sight for people for their career moves and give them tools to drive that forward – implement career paths, competency frameworks, feedback and career planning toolkits which they can access at any time.

Key tip: start with quality conversations to find out what suits each individual.

Strengthen working relationships

Many people enjoy their work and stay with an employer because of who they share their working day with.  Enhance it even further.   Incorporate your company values into your recruitment selection processes so that you know you’re attracting the right cultural fit.  Take the time to strengthen informal networks and formal working relationships.  Celebrate frequently what you’ve achieved as a business – team socials, companywide events, lunches for achievements.  Create team building workshops that will help people understand themselves and others better and, between them, identify ways to work better together.

Key tip: Think carefully about how regular you need team meetings and what should be on the agenda.  Alternate between task focused meetings and ‘working together’ meetings.

Acknowledge and recognise people

It’s helpful to look at what you do from a total reward perspective – even the small perks make a difference.  Ensure your non-financial recognition strategy is as strong as your financial offering.  Take a personal interest in people, acknowledge the work they have done and thank them for their efforts.  Company announcements, special mentions, new work opportunities and use of social media are welcomed ideas.  Celebratory lunches, additional flexibility or tickets to the cinema are other good gestures. For financial reward, decide how you want to position yourselves in the market and start by meeting the basic needs of your people. Look for ways to support them with their lifestyle and build choice into your benefits offering.  Involve people by asking them about what’s important to them.

Key tip: remember not everybody likes the limelight.  Find out what motivates your people and recognise them in a way that works for them.

Finally, remember to measure your starting point and regularly review how you’re progressing.  Incorporate a range of measures – feedback and financial performance being just two of the indicators you may want to use.

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