starting a role in employee engagement

6 min read

So, you’ve found yourself heading up engagement at your company. Firstly, congratulations! I was in the same position 100 days ago, so I know just how much of a big job it is. With that in mind, I’d like to share what I found really helpful in my first three and a half months as Global Head of Engagement and Internal Communications.

The first thing I want to start out with is that even though my title encompasses engagement and internal communications, sometimes companies treat this role very differently. I focus primarily on managing our employee engagement platform, delivering on our employee communications strategy and championing our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, but in other companies, depending on size, company focus etc., other responsibilities might roll up to the Head of Engagement like working with a Rewards Director to evaluate company benefits or to put in place an employee rewards system.

My role is heavily linked to technology, and I believe that in the coming years we’ll see the role of Head of Engagement even more defined by technological opportunities. 

OK, back to you, the new Head of Engagement! My first piece of advice might surprise you, but it’s to relax a little. We don’t want horizontal, just ease your foot off the pedal a little. Trying to tackle a few months of work in just a few weeks will inevitably end in disaster. Not only will you burn yourself out, you won’t be able to implement effective changes and real, long-lasting policies. It’s far better that you prioritise, spread out the load and ensure ample time is allocated to each task.

My plan of attack? As is inevitable, some overlapped and some ran simultaneously, but for the most part, I handled things like this:

employee surveys

1. Survey your staff

To begin, I created an employee survey asking one, basic question – “Would you recommend Reward Gateway to a friend?”

A text box, rather than predetermined answers, allowed for entirely open and honest feedback.

We emailed it out, hosted it on our internal engagement platform and once completed, compiled a report. The results were powerful and enabled us to focus on the areas needing the most attention. 

Start with your own big data crunch and then keep tabs on it with regular checks to see how you’re doing. To make it even easier, I used our own Reward Gateway employee survey tools that we provide to our clients. It’s flexible, quick and was effective in meeting the exact requirements I had for my survey.  

And while my survey was being completed by my colleagues, I packed my bags and went on...

2. Visit all your offices

We have nine offices globally and I was able to visit each of these. This was a key part of having a global understanding and insight into the way the business works. 

I made connections with key stakeholders in the business, but it was also crucial that I didn’t focus all of my energy on those in leadership roles. I also dedicated time to building relationships with individuals in a whole range of positions, from all different teams. Doing so gives a far more balanced viewpoint, after all, how a CEO sees things could be very different from how an intern does!

On your own office visits, find out where impact has already happened. Why did it succeed? Conversely, where did previous initiatives fail to take off, and again, why?

Share as much information as possible from your end with those who you meet and speak to.

Reward Gateway previously found that employee engagement can increase by a huge 30% simply by taking the time to share what had changed since the last time feedback was given.

3. Talk, and don’t forget to listen!

Talking to people and listening to what they have to say – whether during these visits or once you’re back at your own base – is key. There are two categories at play here, internal and external.

Internally, make time for drop-in sessions. Consider setting up a more informal environment for some of these chats, such as at lunch or breakfast. This will encourage the conversation to flow more naturally and for people to really open up in a way they probably wouldn’t do in a boardroom!


Externally, keep up to date with HR magazines, websites and trend reports. It was through these channels – not from speaking that our staff – that Reward Gateway learned how mental health would take a significant role this year, not just in HR, but UK-wide too. (See how we brought these initiatives to life during Mental Health Awareness Week – more on this soon!)

4. Accept and prioritise the negative feedback

When you get the data back, focus on the negatives. It might be hard to hear but it’s important you get stuck into it. It will either highlight the weakest areas of the business, or inform you of where there have been misunderstandings in processes or in employee benefits that have been rolled out. You can then work on aligning everyone into the same place.

Remember though, negative feedback is likely to speak much louder to you than the good. Rather than being immediately reactive to it, be sure to quantify that data.

One unhappy employee could be too many, sure, but don’t let it knock you too far from best judgement. You need to be able to separate yourself from emotions.

5. Host an all-hands company update

Once you have sufficient information to update the company on, do it! Mine was at my 4-week mark, which fell at the financial year kick off. We discussed strategies, challenges, the changes and focusses that were coming, and why these would take centre stage – putting everyone on a level playing field.

FY19 Sales Kick off UK-100 (

Make your own company update as visual and interactive as possible. We had various members of staff make videos explaining how they were going to contribute towards Reward Gateway in the coming year and spent time after the event recapping highlights through employee communications tools and hosting the videos on our engagement platform, boom! Since the company update, we’ve held several Town Halls with members of our Product, Leadership and People Teams to give people even more of an opportunity to hear of our upcoming strategic initiatives and break down communication barriers to improve collaboration among employees.

Finally, a word to the wise…

You will inevitably find yourself having difficult conversations, particularly with individuals who have worked in a set way for an extended period of time.

Support decisions you implement with your survey outcomes. Showing hard facts and data will give your changes credibility and back you up. Just one small team operating differently or at a sub-par level to the rest can throw a whole company off, so be bold, be brave and make the changes needed.

Best of luck!

Catrin Lewis

As Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications, Catrin's main focus is to make Reward Gateway a better place to work. Using the Engagement Bridge™ model, she drives our mission, purpose and values while adding sparkle and creativity to our internal communications.

Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications

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