When you ask employees to share their feelings and experiences about work and then nothing seems to happen as a result, employees quickly disconnect from the feedback process.
When it comes to employee engagement, it’s not enough to just survey employees. That’s the first step. It’s still not enough for leaders to show employees they’re listening by simply sharing results - though that is important. What really shows employees they’re being listened to is action: specifically, targeted employee engagement initiatives responding directly to the feedback given.
Deciding which actions to take can be challenging, so in this article, we’ll look at a range of employee engagement initiatives. We know they work because either our customers have used them or we’ve used them.
We’ll look at engagement initiatives under the four key factors that relate to employee engagement:
Leadership-focused employee engagement initiatives
Employees want to have confidence in their leaders and they want to be inspired and engaged by them. They also want their leaders to recognize the importance of people in the journey.
Here are three ways organizations can act to improve leadership:
1. Synthesis sessions
In monthly ‘synthesis sessions,’ a leader in each department discusses current challenges and successes as well as changes in market position(s). In the first 15 minutes of the session, the leader shares current opportunities and discusses future possibilities.
The remaining time is devoted to open discussion on any questions employees have about the organization and concerns that individuals may have about blockers to their ability to help the organization achieve its goals.
2. Bringing company values to life
A national casual dining organization created a ‘Book of Signs’ to bring their values to life during onboarding of new employees. It’s a simple thing - a small paper booklet with the name and description of a single value on each page, along with two or three lines for employee signatures under each value.
In order to ‘earn’ an employee’s signature on a value, the new hire has to ask what that value means to that employee, then the newcomer paraphrases the response to ensure they understand its meaning and relevance. If they do, the incumbent signs it off.
It’s a win-win-win for bringing your company values to life and expanding the newcomer’s internal network.
Enablement-focused employee engagement initiatives
Enabled employees feel like they have the right resources and tools to get the job done. They also want to feel confident that resources are being directed to the right places. At a higher level, employees want to see innovation happening and that the company maintains a strong position in the market.
Here are two initiatives which target enablement:
3. Transparency report
One company uses a resource transparency report, including ROI where possible. The report helps guide constructive discussions about whether the resources allocated to each initiative are appropriate. Employees are often surprised by how much money is spent on salaries and employee benefits.
4. Customer panel
There’s nothing like bringing in the voice of the customer to help employees connect to the bigger picture. Make this voice a regular presence through inviting a panel of customers to be a part of your all-hands meetings.
Each customer explains how using your product or service has positively impacted their business and shares some things they wish the product or service could do (or ways the product or service has failed them). A similar approach can be used with internal customers.
Alignment-focused employee engagement initiatives
Employees want to feel worthwhile, connected and appropriately involved in the organization’s operations. They also want to feel that their abilities are well-matched to their role, so setting realistic expectations about the role (e.g. when recruiting) is important. When the day-to-day experience within a role doesn’t stack up against expectations, it has a significant impact on engagement.
Here are two initiatives that help build alignment:
5. Write your own role description
Ensuring there is alignment in job expectations starts from the first day of employment. At one company on the first day at work employees write down their understanding of the job expectations. This is put aside to be reviewed about a month later, when employees are asked to write their job description. In this second instance the question posed to them is, ‘If we were to hire someone else like you in this role in the future how would you describe the activities?’
The original expectations document and the recently written job description are reviewed with their manager. If there is misalignment, the manager and employee are encouraged to discuss any adjustments that can be made. The manager is also encouraged to share learnings with HR to make any needed adjustments in the hiring process or to job descriptions.
6. Online leader communication channel
One organization helps build employees’ involvement with leaders via a channel in their internal communication software where leaders are present and available to answer questions. They also encourage leaders to post questions and updates in the channel to keep employees engaged with the discussion.
7. Recognizing employee behavior
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but the best leaders recognize good work and behaviors - big and small.
Here are three ways our clients recognize their people:
- Thank you cards: One organization provides thank you cards for people to complete and hand-deliver. The HR team creates templates that link to the company values and current organizational objectives. This is a great way to reinforce your vision and values, while acknowledging exemplary behaviors.
- Events: Having a schedule of events where employees are recognized for their work ensures intentionality and follow-through. One organization has monthly recognition events. They recognize good work and highlight what people are working on and how it's helping the organization deliver on its mission and work toward its vision.
- The Wow! Wall: One company has a Wow! Wall where people can post stories of when co-workers have gone above and beyond. The wall is in a high-traffic area so everyone can casually pass by and read about the great work of their colleagues.
Development-focused employee engagement initiatives
Development comes up again and again across all the industries we work with as a critical driver of employee engagement. Employees want to know they have access to opportunities, both formal and informal, to develop and that their leaders and managers are invested in their professional development.
Here are three development initiatives to drive employee engagement:
8. Personal coaching
Culture Amp provides personal coaching for every employee. The employee selects their coach for either personal or professional development. There is an allocated budget and set number of sessions covered by the company, but the content of the coaching remains between the coach and the employee.
9. Stay interviews
One company uses ‘stay interviews’ as a way to re-engage with employees that are at risk of leaving. Employees are encouraged to discuss their career development needs as well as any blockers to their long term success at the organization.
In departments where there are higher rates of turnover, it can be helpful to have a skip level meeting with someone more senior in the organization, rather than a direct manager, intermittently throughout the employee lifecycle.
At team level, managers might wish to schedule stay interviews with employees when they hit their one-year mark so they know what is important to people and most likely to influence their decision to stay.
Good questions to ask include:
- What do you want to be doing that you aren't currently doing?
- What are the three most important things you would like to accomplish right now?
- What do you need that's preventing you from reaching those goals?
- How can I best support you to achieve those goals?
10. Employee-led teaching programs
Encourage employees to learn from each other. One organization's learning and development program is taught by employees. They teach classes and workshops that range from extracurricular skills to those that are essential to their roles. The community aspect fosters collaboration and team support.
These employee engagement initiatives are the ultimate in active listening. Through taking considered action that responds to employee feedback, your organization can show they have both (figurative) ears open. This is the key to creating a great place to work.
Choose the initiative that’s right for your company
Whether you try out one of the employee engagement initiatives above or create your own, it’s important to understand how to improve employee engagement overall. This process starts with crafting your survey, and asking the right employee engagement questions to understand what’s driving engagement. Once you know what's driving engagement at your company, you can take targeted action for change.