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6 min read

We all know the feeling of finishing a successful, productive day at work. You feel accomplished and satisfied, and that positivity radiates to everything and everyone else around you. I know that this year in particular, these days are few and far between for many of us.

But one of the reasons why I love my job is being able to make those good days happen more often for more people.

The next step on your employee engagement journey

When the pandemic started to impact businesses, adrenaline kicked in and many leaders channeled that energy into great initiatives and behaviours that helped improve team connection, culture and productivity.

I have been impressed and inspired by the way we have seen people come together, more determined than ever before to get through the physically, financially and emotionally-challenging time. This positive response from employers has paid dividends in our engagement journey. What’s more, Gallup found that in early May, the percentage of engaged workers rose to a record high:

In May, the percentage of engaged employees reached 38% - the highest since Gallup began tracking the metric in 2000.

But that adrenaline has worn off and fatigue has set in. In June, Gallup saw a record dip in engagement, and it’s become obvious that improving culture in this new environment is a marathon, not a sprint.

We need to ask ourselves: How will our business and HR strategies adapt and take the best of what we have learnt and experienced into the next chapter of the employee experience?

Now is the time to ask ourselves if the people programs we invest our time in are designed to improve motivation and company culture beyond COVID-19, and boost productivity despite the obstacles we are currently facing. To continue this journey and bring our people on it with us, we need to check our bearings, recalculate the route we were on or we may even change the destination we had set earlier in the year. Are the goals you set in December or January still the ones that are going to get your teams performing at their best in the next few months?

At Reward Gateway, we use the Employee Engagement Quadrant to help leaders avoid losing great talent by identifying areas that need mobilising and motivating.

The y-axis indicates an employee’s discretionary effort, the x-axis indicates their intent to stay at the organisation.Employee Engagement Quadrant

Detractors have low discretionary effort and intent to stay


These employees actively challenge and undermine whatever efforts you or your leaders are making to grow, improve or make any sort of positive difference. Detractors like to blame others when things go wrong – they’re constantly 'victims' of a bad system, poor leadership or low resources. They thrive on disagreement and negativity and happily spread it at any opportunity.

Generally speaking, Detractors are easy to spot because they’re vocal, but if we have teams working remotely, it may also be harder to see the seeds of doubts that Detractors plant in their behaviour and their words.

The current job market also means Detractors are likely to have lost their willingness to risk unemployment and have increased their intent to stay, so the risk is they move across to stayers.

To improve a culture of Detractors:

  • Create opportunities and channels where Detractors can provide feedback in a productive way. Instead of annual surveys, try implementing more regular, targeted pulse surveys and use employee feedback to improve the employee experience.
  • Make leaders accessible and available: Create a form or 'open survey' on your employee engagement platform so employees can submit questions or feedback to members of your leadership team at any time, and be clear about the time and channel that leaders will respond.
  • Train managers to have effective one-to-ones so that there is a channel where you encourage employees to speak up.

Stayers have low discretionary effort but intent to stay


These employees are reliable and have plenty of experience and knowledge about the business. While this makes them a huge asset, this can unfortunately mean they’re path dependent and likely resist change and impede innovation. They generally do what is absolutely necessary to safely fly under the radar and don’t want anything to rock the boat.

The risk is that COVID-19 has increased the number of stayers within our companies. How do we ignite purpose and passion within these employees and inspire them to bring their best, at a time when your company needs it to survive and thrive?

To improve a culture of Stayers:

  • Reinforce your company purpose and values during times of change or crisis.
  • Make it as easy as possible for employees to access and use new technologies with centralised how-to guides and virtual drop-in sessions.
  • Instead of focussing on service awards, use strategic employee recognition to reward employees who are innovating and displaying behaviours that lead to company growth and success.

Go-Getters have high discretionary effort but low intent to stay


These employees are talented, self-motivated and driven to deliver high-quality work. However, while they often start off highly engaged, they usually are only engaged for as long as it benefits their own interests – their current role or your company might be a stepping stone for them. This means they don’t often consider the bigger picture or mission of the company, and can sometimes go rogue if decisions don’t suit them.

To improve a culture of Go-Getters:

  • Create channels and opportunities to recognise remote employees, so employees are aware of the impact of their individual contribution.
  • Use an internal communications platform to improve connection and community with regular, targeted messages and stories of success across your organisation.
  • When L&D budgets are slim, provide opportunities for learning and collaboration by encouraging employees to take on special projects with teams they haven’t worked with previously.

Engaged employees score high on discretionary effort and intent to stay


We refer to these employees as Ambassadors – they’re high performers that not only enjoy their job and consistently deliver high-quality work, they’re loyal to the company and make decisions based on the long-term good and survival of the broader team or group.

They focus on a constructive – not destructive – approach to questioning management directives or current processes, and bring a positive attitude that brings up the people around them.

High-performing organisations have a high-performance culture because they make it easy for people to move to or stay in that top-right quadrant.

To maintain a culture of Ambassadors:

  • Involve them in strategic business conversations, and give them a platform to share their success story and learning experiences on company-wide blog posts. This not only helps you share the load and avoid writers' block when writing communications, but also gives them a voice and makes employees 4.6x more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
  • Use technology to amplify those nitty-gritty moments of success that would otherwise be forgotten, and encourage team members and leaders to comment and create a ripple effect of that impact. Remember, what gets recognised gets repeated!
  • Give them an extra bonus or reward to spend on something they’ll truly appreciate. You may not feel comfortable or have the means to mail out a physical gift, so consider giving them the gift of choice by offering a monetary voucher that they can redeem at the retailer they truly want.

Employees don’t have to stay fixed to a quadrant

Leaders can make decisions to positively influence Detractors and Stayers, and help grow the loyalty of the Go Getters in your team so that the majority of your workforce are Ambassadors.

On the other side of the coin is if we don’t progress or change the culture, Ambassadors can wear out and either slip to another quadrant, or choose to take their energy and loyalty elsewhere.

This is one reason why effective leaders keep a regular pulse on how employees are doing, so they can ensure their people programs are relevant, impactful and are mobilising people into that top-right quadrant.

As you consider the tools you need to invest in over the coming months, consider how these will help you shift more employees into the Ambassadors quadrant, and how this will help you build a stronger team that can take on the challenges of an unpredictable, changing work environment.

I hope you will continue to maintain momentum through this journey and if there is any way our team can support you, get in touch with us.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Kylie Green

Kylie Green is the Global SVP of Consultancy at Reward Gateway. She has over 20 years of experience working with world's top companies to take their employee engagement strategy to the next level and loves helping leaders find innovative ways to connect with their people and build high-performing, world-class teams.

Global Senior Vice President of Consulting

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