It happened. Your CEO brought up that conversation: “So, what should we do about employee engagement?”
The panic sets in. Where do you start? How can you measure your results? What does employee engagement even mean?!
The trick to implementing an employee engagement strategy is to start small.
Remember that engaged employees make better decisions, are more productive and innovate more. They are key to a company's continued success.
As you think about how to optimize your employee engagement, consider these tips:
Employee engagement is not a one-size-fits-all. Think about what suits your budget and objectives. First things first, you should ask yourself: What should I focus my efforts on? Is it a rewards and recognition program, cool benefits to attract and retain employees, or all of the above? Well, before you do this, you have to begin with some data collection. Intimidating? Here’s the good news: You probably already have a lot of this data! Think of turnover reports, leaver interviews, the Best Companies Surveys you have done, the culture feedback sessions you ran and also from what you see and hear around the office.
Don’t worry about the data being perfect, start collating what you have now and look at where your gaps in the data are. Next, you can start to think about what to do to plug in those gaps.
Start your data collection early and refine it as you go along. There is no magic bullet, just lots of really helpful ones. The next thing you want to achieve is data validation. In other words, are you spotting trends? For example, your exit interview notes might point to the same kind of notes you’ve gotten from the last culture feedback session. Data validation will help you justify your conclusions, and help define your next steps.
Figure out what the information is telling you. The key thing here is not to have the focus on one issue or try and fit the information you have into a neat box. You won’t fix the business through the first wave of employee engagement ideas, but you can get a head start. Just remember that (most) every idea has merit and that over time things will change. Ideas that you put on ice are probably worth revisiting over time. Put those ideas on the backburner, not in the trash.
One model I have always found really helpful is to create a table that shows the issues you think you have identified, supported by where you have found the data that supports that view. Then on the right-hand side, start to list the ideas you have which can fix the issues accordingly. This structure helps you validate running an employee engagement platform or other areas of your strategy. It looks as simple as this:
You can add some complexity to this by starting to assess the risk posed by each issue, and assign a high, medium or low-risk rating to begin the next stage of the process. So then your table would look like:
Then, you're ready to ...
Set your priorities
These are many ways to prioritize lists, but that risk rating exercise you just did was a great start. When you sort by risk rating, it's easy to see the low-hanging fruit that you can quickly solve and what to shelf for a later, or larger, discussion.
Importantly, when doing this, you need to see whether you can assess if issues are cyclical, ongoing, a short recent burst, or longer-term systemic issues. Each of these will require a slightly different response to them.
You should also now start to look at a timetable of activities from your solutions to map out your plan of attack. Start with addressing cyclical issues at the right time, maybe give less focus to a recent short-term issue, and start to look deeply at the issues which are more systemic and need a really strong level of support and activity.
Get it over with: Ask for the money
You’re in good shape. You have your priorities, justified data and a base plan. Now, you need the funds to implement. It can be awkward and scary to get the approval for HR initiatives but it’s important. I suggest having levels of budget asks as well as what you’ll do with the money. Maybe you want to invest in an all-in-one employee engagement platform, or host a big conference. You can try out a leadership blog to humanize your company at a low cost, or opt for sponsoring a breakfast session versus playing for the execution of a three-day conference.
Remember, this exercise is about building the right foundations. Address the issues, and making sure you keep on reviewing what you do to refine and making it better. The more you try and improve then the easier it will become to know what to do, and ultimately, the better your outcomes.