How to Use Employee Engagement to Increase Results Pt.2

October 15, 2015
Robin Dominik Havre
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So, you’ve found this article that gives you some excellent practices to improve your employee engagement in a verifiable way.

But, is it worth your time to follow these points? Will you really see results?

In last week’s article, we looked at a mountain of evidence from credible sources to show the results attainable if you invest time not just reading this article, but taking action on it, too. Yes, it’s a bit of a time investment, but the results are very real.

Below are hand chosen employee engagement tips and strategies from some of the best studies going and, as always, we’ll give you source links for further reading.

By the end of this article and after implementing these ideas, you’ll know how to use employee engagement to increase results.

1. Measurement first

Often, companies tend to measure employee engagement with an annual engagement survey.

While these are somewhat effective, more quantifiable and real-time methods were posted in the Harvard Business Review and several companies have found success with them. You can read the full report in the link, but some key points are:

  • Work completed outside normal hours
  • Amount of time spent with employees outside of the immediate regional team
  • Ad hoc initiatives and meeting attendance
  • Additional time spent collaborating with customers outside of what’s required

“Discretionary effort” examples such as the above are an excellent indicator of engagement. Before you begin your employee engagement efforts, be sure to read this article and take note of measurement techniques that are both relevant and accessible to your business.

Some points will be more viable than others. But, the important thing is to measure now to get a benchmark before you take action so you can verify your results.

2. Work from the top down

It’s been proven that the best way to successfully improve engagement is to ensure the people at the top are doing the things they’re asking everyone underneath to do.

We all know that it’s important to lead by example, but a lot of managers rarely do. And the lacklustre results that many businesses experience can be directly the attributed to this notion.

In an article titled “Why You Hate Work” written by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath for the New York Times, it was found that lack of trust from the top trickles down to the rest of the employee base. It states:

For example, our study found that employees have a deep desire for flexibility about where and when they work — and far higher engagement when they have more choice. But many employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.

Source: New York Times

Before you start implementing initiatives, ideas, strategies and processes that affect your workforce proper, it’s important you start from the top and get things right with the management first. If not, you’ll be in an uphill battle the whole way.

3. Sufficient thanks & recognition (seriously)

Leading on from this top-down angle, recognition and appreciation are good areas to start with.

Since 2012, Aon Hewitt’s annual Trends in Global Employee Engagement studies have shown that appreciation is a top driver for engagement and, if you look around, you’ll find plenty of studies that show this works.

You may already know this, and perhaps you’ve tried to show a bit more appreciation the workplace and thought something along the lines of “oh, that’s interesting, I must get better at that”. But, do you have a specific initiative in place? According to Bersin by Deloitte, around 75% of organisations do, though only 58% of employees realise they have one.

Don’t overlook this fact. If you want the results, it’s time to take appreciation seriously. And, once your initiative is set up, make sure you act on it.

4. Acting on feedback

By now, you also probably have some kind of feedback mechanism in place after having implemented this proven employee engagement strategy. You know your frontline staff will give you qualitative insights the likes of which you simply cannot get from anywhere else.

Something you may be less aware of is that failing to act on this feedback is incredibly damaging for employee engagement. The fact that you’re getting feedback from the frontline and nothing’s happening about it saps staff motivation faster than many people realise.

If you want a specific method to follow, what you need is an “employee engagement loop”. There’s an excellent read here written by Forbes contributor, Bruce Kasanoff, outlining an excellent way to go about things.

The key takeaway is to have strategies at the back of your engagement gathering mechanism to ensure the feedback is acted upon.

5. Mission alignment

Another thing you’ve probably read many times before is the idea of creating a company mission statement of some kind. We discussed the principle here and it’s been discussed in many other studies and top HR or IC blogs.

So, to take this step further, let’s instead talk about the idea of having your company mission strongly aligned in all aspects of the business. It’s a good idea to get someone involved who knows something about branding; in particular the idea of “brand consistency”. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you have a clearly defined mission statement?
  • Does everyone at your company know what that mission is and why they’re working towards it?
  • Is your company branding, tagline and other aspects of its marketing or presentation aligned with that mission statement?
  • Do your company policies match up with your stated company goal?
  • What aspects of your employee handbook or other processes are at odds, or incongruent with your company mission?
  • Are there any other internal areas of the business that send confused signals to employees?

If you don’t get these things right, you’re sending mixed messages to your employees that seriously damage your company’s output.

6. Autonomy

Autonomy is a tricky one, not least of all because it goes so fundamentally against the grain of what we’ve all become used to. Managers rule by nagging and scaring employees into action, thinking it’s the only way to get anything done.

We spoke about this before when looking at the work of Daniel Pink, a productivity author with several bestsellers under his belt and who’s a contributor to major news publications and governments alike.

The reason this is worth mentioning again is because what level of autonomy you give and in what areas and ways you give it are very dependent on your business. It’s a scary thing to implement, which is why most companies don’t.

The important thing is to know that it works wonders and that you really must experiment with it.

7. Meeting “core needs”

We’ll leave you with another quote from the New York Times article mentioned above. There’s a lot of research on the idea of “core needs” of employees being met and these are discussed in some detail throughout the article. It also happened to contain a particularly apt quote on the topic:

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

It’s worth familiarising with these deep-seated needs we all have and making it habitual to base decisions on whether or not they’re consistent with your employee engagement strategies. When you meet these needs and integrate them with everything you do, the results inevitably follow.

Over to you…

Think there’s anything we’ve missed? Don’t keep them to yourself. Let us know in the comments below.

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Robin Dominik Havre

Robin is the CEO of New Intranet. He's helped many companies deploy successful mobile intranets that are easy to use and specially designed for employees not working in front of a computer. The goal of this blog is to provide research-backed intranet and internal communications advice for more successful HR strategies.

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