Engagement for the New Year – Part Two of a Two Part Series

Author: Danielle Brown

In Part One of this series we explained the incredible, positive impact that successful employee engagement can have on organisations – from increased productivity and profitability, to improved employee health. We discussed the potential for engagement to be a powerful tool, and now we need to put it into action! In this second and final instalment, we provide two further recommendations for maximising employee engagement at your workplace…

  1. Incorporate engagement measurements into your organisational strategy.

One of the reasons that employee engagement initiatives often fail is that many organisations struggle to make employee engagement part of their overall business strategy, and/or articulate its importance throughout their organisation.

Although many of the best-in-class companies described in Part One acknowledged the importance of employee engagement, less than 50% of these companies were measuring their success against other business performance metrics. Without these measurements, it can become particularly difficult for a business to identify and discuss the impact that employee engagement is having within the organisation, and can begin to explain why it is often left off the table during business strategy meetings.

There are numerous ways to measure the impact of employee engagement against business metrics, such as the The Service Profit Chain, however most will rely on you implementing at least some of the tactics discussed in Part One, and comparing them to other metrics within the business.

Setting up metrics around workplace engagement is beneficial for a variety of reasons, but most notably, it will enable your organisation to fully understand the affect engagement activities are having in a range of areas, including business performance. This will naturally help support future engagement efforts, and instigate thought and discussion around the vital role each employee plays within your business.

With all of this in mind, we can finally get to the fun stuff – implementing strategies that work!

  1. Implement strategies that work.

There is so much I want to say here as there is a vast amount of data available, all highlighting very specific factors to keep in mind. However, as we are all-time poor, I have tried to condense this ocean of research into something immediately useful (but seriously… if you ever get that dying urge to talk research with someone… you know who to call!).

So what can you do to create engagement strategies that work?

Here are a few quick tips to get you started……

a. Involve your employees in engagement-program development.

An obvious place to start (that hardly any companies do) is to include your employees in the design of engagement programs. This doesn’t mean simply having them complete a survey, or incorporating information about their feelings and ideas through a manager, it means including them as a significant part of ongoing employee engagement meetings and planning decisions. This will help you develop engagement strategies that go beyond financial incentives (which we know aren’t always effective), and provide employees with program ownership and therefore, emotional investment.

b. Look beyond the back pocket.

Despite what you might first think, providing fiscal rewards can actually lead to less motivation and engagement, as well as poorer performance! This is a finding that research has replicated numerous times across multiple culturally distinct samples. I could quote a number of great studies here, but I think that this presentation by Dan Pink (albeit from 2010) is a really great visual summary the research in this field.

Additionally, there is a body of research indicating that if you start to provide rewards to people for doing work that they are already intrinsically motivated to do, you can significantly decrease their motivation to do that task, which in turn leads to poorer performance. I know… engagement can get reaaaalllll tricky!

c. Focus on the factors that really matter.

Another valuable step that steers clear of bonuses, which Dan Pink also highlights, is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table (fun side note, there is a body of research indicating that the lucky number in this equation might be around $75K).

Once the question of money has been taken care of, employees are free to focus on what really matters. At this point, science shows that there are three factors that lead to better performance and satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (three areas that I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about in my Psychology undergraduate degree, and each extremely worthy of their own blog).

In short, if you want engagement, you must embrace autonomy in your employees and support their drive to be self-directed.

You must also facilitate your employees’ mastery of their work, because as humans we like to get better at things and are driven by progress.

Lastly, and this is the point on which I’d like to end, you must facilitate purpose! The magic of ‘purpose’ is something that is fundamentally important to any organisation.

d. Instil a sense of purpose.

I believe that to create successful engagement strategies, you must be able to articulate to your employees why your organisation is operating in the first place, and how their roles connect to this much larger mission. Consider NGO and Social Enterprise organisations for a moment. People are often astounded at the kind of output they can achieve on minimal budgets. How do they achieve this kind of die-hard level of engagement? By harnessing purpose.

I’m willing to bet that when you give those you work with a sense of purpose – and passionately demonstrate how what they do contributes to something more than just themselves – you will start to see a significant increase in employee engagement and organisational performance.

Having done quite a bit of work with and for Social Enterprise organisations (something I’m very much passionate about), I have seen firsthand, time and time again, the power that connecting a group to a purpose can have. This observation is backed by recent research showing that a sense of purpose is a key success factor in many high-performing organisations.

e. Make a start.

There are a thousand more hints and tips I could throw out here about increasing employee engagement, but my final (and perhaps most important) advice is simply to get started.

Getting going with some of the above tips, and developing a few of your own, will help you create happier and more engaged employees, and improve the performance of your organisation.

Curious?

Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions or wish to discuss anything covered in this blog… you should know by now that I love this stuff!

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