Jo Geraghty


The engagement remedy

Date added: 24th Mar 2015
Category: Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement is an ongoing process and the sooner that you start, the sooner the business, the employees and your customers will start to reap the reward.

When we speak and think about employee engagement the first question to ask is who is responsible for engagement.  Many would say that the responsibility for creating the culture and the conditions for engagement is down to the leadership team but you can’t force anyone to be engaged.  Having said that, employee attitudes are ahead of those of their leaders when it comes to engagement issues.  According to a Smith & Henderson report, when looking at the reasons for failing to improve engagement,  lack of senior management buy in was cited in 28% of cases whilst lack of interest amongst employees only accounted for 4% .

This overwhelming acceptance by employees of the value of engagement is one of the reasons why best practice is moving away from employer-led engagement programmes and towards an employee-led engagement solution.  This turns employee engagement into a self-managed motivational journey and the very fact of its adoption can be a strong signal to employees that the business cares about their development and welfare.

Standing up and preaching to employees is never going to create engagement.  Offering a self-managed programme which is driven by individuals in conjunction with their work colleagues can help to transform the attitude and work ethos of individuals, teams and leaders.  Typically, self-managed engagement programmes will include elements such as surveys, development resources and action programmes alongside the ability to set goals and review progress  either individually or in conjunction with a team leader.

One of the benefits of self-managed programmes is that they tend to be partly or wholly online, cost effective and can be delivered in bite sized chunks.  With finances still tight following the recession it is perhaps not surprising that 24% of businesses claimed that budget constraints were their biggest barrier to improving engagement. Employee-led programmes make an ideal low cost solution.  And because these programmes contain a strong element of self-determination it means that employees and their immediate team leaders can drive the engagement process, effectively eliminating the charge that only 34% of organisations have a written EE strategy.

Another benefit of employee-led engagement programmes is that by their nature they tend to lend themselves to a continuing cycle of review and improvement.  The traditional method for measuring engagement is to conduct a survey once every year or so, wait for results, discuss findings in focus groups and then start to act.  By this time any benefit gained from conducting the survey has dissipated.    Moving to a system in which employee engagement is an ongoing real time metric not only more closely ties it in with other management information such as sales results and budgets it also keeps the idea of engagement as a priority at the forefront of the organisation.

Interestingly, just 4% of organisations operate a system of continuing feedback and yet for these organisations staff satisfaction at engagement efforts sits at 90%, compared with 59% for those who are surveyed once a year.  Similarly, devolving the action planning process from purely central to a mix of central and localised action planning increases satisfaction levels by 47%.

Of course, employee-led engagement programmes  are not the complete solution and nor should they be run in isolation.  Unless results are monitored and actions taken by the business in a continuing improvement cycle employees can be forgiven for becoming cynical.  Leadership training too has to come into play as does a complete cultural overhaul of the organisation.  There is little point in asking employees to work along an engagement improvement pathway if they are simultaneously put under huge pressure to work long hours and sell at all costs.  Employee-led engagement  has to operate as an intrinsic part of a complete engagement programme which includes an eye to communication, feedback, and teamwork.  And yes, saying thanks or showing appreciation can help too.

If you’d like to learn more about employee engagement solutions then this video* on our website may provide some further pointers.   But the overwhelming message is simply this:  Don’t wait around for ‘the right time’ or budget to be made available.  Employee Engagement is an ongoing process and the sooner that you start, the sooner the business, the employees and your customers will start to reap the reward.

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