Employee engagement: what matters, and what doesn’t
Going beyond buzzwords.
Like “Brexit”, “Unicorn Lattes” and “Love Island”, “Employee Engagement” is having a moment. While no one can argue with the sentiment behind it — which acknowledges that there’s more to work than…well, work — the true definition is still being hotly debated by HR managers.
You’re certainly not alone if you find yourself angrily muttering any of the following:
When does autonomy become a leadership vacuum?
Do I need a psychology degree to plan my company away day?
What do employees really want?The truth is that there’s no one answer. There is huge variation in the way that different companies choose to work: a working mother might prioritise working a smaller company where she can control her own hours to spend time with her children, while a new grad might want to feel like they’re part of something larger and more complex (with a social life attached).
If there is any theme, it’s that individuals need to feel respected and supported. How can you do this? By listening.
Is your door always open?
Do you proactively pursue quality time with individuals?
Have you opened up channels for employees to start a dialogue without feeling judged?
If you truly want your employees to feel proactively engaged, then you need to create multiple channels for them to reach you. Send out weekly company updates written in an informal voice. Introduce an anonymous comment box and post the answers on a board. Even ask new employees to audit the business after their first month.
While data might be good for cross-referencing how much people are using particular initiatives, it cannot replace innovative, personal thinking from the front end.
Once you’ve made sure you’re honestly and truly listening to the individuals within your team, here are a few other tips for creating an employee engagement strategy everyone will love:### **Share your philosophy**
What are your priorities? How does your company view personal growth? What are the values that you are demonstrating to your team?
A huge amount of miscommunication can be avoided if you simply show your working. Share how you’re allocating your resources, and explain why.
Identify perks that actually matter
If you are on a limited budget, put choices in the hands of your employees. Can individuals choose a perk that they would each like from a list, from gym membership to a lunch budget? Giving people control over their choices can do a lot to calm nerves and create a positive culture.
Another way of doing this is by assigning teams to create events and occasions that reflect your company priorities. Is it important that you all socialise together once a month? Make it mandatory, but ensure that it is truly fun and rewarding too.
Deliver information with care
One of the easiest ways to undermine your hard work is by letting new information slip out before it’s ready, particularly if you’re making big changes. *Status quo bias *means that too much movement, too quickly, can be unsettling. Make sure you pace new policies out with a clear delivery plan.
When you do announce news, think about your framing, that is: the context of your message. Place proposed changes in the context of the business as a whole, and use analogies to make your reasoning clear.
Acknowledge individual growth
People don’t join companies out of selflessness; they want to know that there’s room for personal growth. Help individuals to feel self-assured by regularly reviewing their role description. Even if you’re not offering a promotion, simply tracking their progress can be meaningful.
In addition: make rewarding people on the basis of values — such as consideration, kindness and problem solving — as important as recognising milestone achievements. This helps everyone understand the importance of working in a pleasant and supportive environment.
Create an active feedback culture
Actively encourage and solicit feedback after everything you do, both formally and informally. Then demonstrate how you’re using this feedback to develop and progress your ideas.
Most importantly: remember that employee engagement goes both ways. Open yourself up to forming relationships, listening carefully, and paying attention, and expect that in return your team will be open and honest with you. No amount of company-mandated clubs, data crunching company swag can ever replace that.