Increasingly, employee engagement is one of the most important pieces of data an organization can collect — and for good reason. If you don’t understand employees’ perceptions about working at your organization, the challenges they face and the improvements they would like to make, you can’t evolve to become an employer of choice, and you can’t achieve your financial and growth goals. As the competition surpasses you, your organization will fall behind in recruiting top talent, managing leadership changes, overcoming continued technology disruption and adjusting to the shifting expectations that come with each new generation entering the workforce.
Make no mistake: This is about results. Disengaged employees are typically less productive; they often have low morale and follow haphazard priorities instead of your overall vision. And if your leadership and managers aren’t effective at building relationships and coaching team members, you can bet that attempts at innovation and collaboration will lose to silos and grudges between people and departments.
Measuring employee engagement is the first step to becoming a sought-after and more productive organization. As specialists in measuring and acting on employee engagement results, we’ve found three activities are key to improving engagement:
1. Action Plan With Clarity
There’s no point in measuring employee engagement if you don’t act on the results. Breaking down those results, creating priorities and developing a roadmap all the way down to the supervisor and small-group levels will help you more easily implement changes and realign your organization with its mission and vision.
When working with clients on employee engagement, Wipfli partners with an industry-leading employee engagement research and software provider to ask the best and most proven questions, establish and compare results to benchmarks in any industry, and validate results in a dynamic, instructive and compelling format. Having the right partners is critical to interpreting your results and developing an action plan that works the way you need it to.
2. Learn and Apply Best Practices — Especially From Within
There are best practices when it comes to improving employee engagement, and they will influence how you develop your roadmap. Here are examples of best practices at different levels in an organization:
Individual, Supervisor and Team-Level
A shared best practice is implementing peer-nominated rewards and recognition programs. In this era of millennial-driven cultures, employees want to recognize others on the spot for great work only they may see.
Employers don’t realize how important this type of recognition is to their employees. Don’t think you’re attracting the best talent to your organization because your tangible benefits package rocks. Employees see beyond health plans and flexible work schedules, and often place more value in timely rewards and recognition that make them feel like the work they do makes a difference in the company.
Over and over, we see feedback that “better communication” is the most pressing organization-wide issue. Whether it’s from the top to the bottom or side to side, communication drives trust and trust dictates discretionary effort. Organizations need to keep pace with the technology that’s available and provide employees with real and virtual space to collaborate, share information and even socialize.
Instead of letting only a few people share what they think is important on a traditional intranet, consider utilizing technology like Yammer or Microsoft Teams to let everyone share what’s important to them, at different levels.
Policy and Benefit-Level
How much emphasis and effort are you putting into benefits that matter to employees now versus into the benefits you’ve always offered? Measuring what’s important to your employees will allow you to tailor your benefits and stop wasting budget on the things that may not matter to many employees.
3. Communicate Smarter, Not Harder
We touched a bit on communication above, but its reach is far and wide. For example, some of the most valuable methods for measuring engagement lie outside surveys and instead are grounded in listening to people’s personal stories and paying attention to open-ended questions.
It also involves sharing results. After all, you can’t ask your employees to be honest and forthcoming about their opinions and then decline to share results while expecting them to be on board with any changes you try to implement. That only leads to more disengagement.
The important thing is to not be embarrassed by results you get but rather confident in leveraging that data to create visible and meaningful plans for improvement. And don’t forget your communication plan! An essential element of change management is communicating the “why” of making changes. What will the changes help your organization and employees achieve, how will the changes benefit them and how do the actions they need to take connect overall?
How to Achieve High Employee Engagement
To improve employee engagement, you should measure regularly, confidentially and with proven tools. Measuring regularly allows you to stay on top of changes before they become challenging to deal with.
By working with an outside resource, such as a consulting firm, you also can share information with the right people in a way that’s protected. For example, the software Wipfli uses doesn’t report back on groups with fewer than five people — that would make it too easy for those with the results to connect the dots of whose feedback belongs to whom, defeating the purpose of providing transparent, honest answers regardless of the emotions such feedback may trigger in others.
In addition, make sure you measure with proven tools. You won’t know what’s important to your organization unless you ask. Don’t take a shotgun approach. Be more targeted in discovering what approaches will work best for your organization.
To learn more about how your organization can engage your employees at a deeper level and achieve better results, contact Wipfli.