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Four essential steps to improve employee engagement

Organisations often make employee engagement an HR responsibility; HR are expected to collect, interpret and communicate engagement initiatives in isolation. However, in our experience, high performance organisations actively involve all employees in a four step engagement process to ensure buy-in and ownership of actions across all levels of the organisation.

Employee survey journey diagram

 

Step 1: Surveying your organisation

Employee engagement surveys are a great way of asking employees targeted questions to identify what is and what is not working within an organisation. These surveys can reach multiple employees across different levels, departments and geographic locations in a cost effective and timely manner.  The resulting data can then be used in a variety of ways and provides a quantitative measure for future comparison.

Ideally, a survey should:

  • be benchmarked to show whether problem areas are industry-wide or specific to your organisation
  • identify areas for improvement, whether it be at an organisational level or focused on a particular department, location or function
  • identify pockets of best practice to be celebrated
  • be run in a private and confidential manner, where participants are not at risk of identification.

Step 2: Narrowing your focus

Focus groups are useful to narrow the focus of survey data and engage employees in finding solutions. They are usually made up of carefully selected employees, not including senior leaders, and should be communicated as such to ensure employees who are not invited understand why. The decision on how many groups are run will depend on the types of questions that the organisation wishes to drill down on. Some might address questions that have a whole of organisation focus and thereby require a cross section of employees, while others might focus on particular issues that are sensitive to one department or geographic location only.

The pure nature of group interaction means that properly facilitated discussion will stimulate the memories, experiences and ideas in participants. To be truly robust, focus groups should therefore foster an environment that encourages open and candid feedback. This can be achieved by:

  • using an independent third party and/or an experienced and trusted internal advisor to generate solution-focused conversation
  • setting clear ground rules for the participants regarding how the focus group will be run
  • ensuring participants understand who will receive the feedback and how, and that the process in itself is not a guarantee for change
  • directing conversation towards constructive brainstorming not negative blamestorming
  • transcribing comments in a way that does not identify or compromise participants

Step 3: Action planning for improvement

High performance organisations ensure it is the leadership team, not just HR, who owns engagement. These organisations use action planning workshops to seek leaders’ buy-in and endorsement of resulting actions. Properly structured action planning workshops facilitate discussion and actionable outcomes by:

  • focusing leaders on the current state of the organisation, through the analysis of their own mindsets, the survey data and the focus group summaries
  • identifying the desired future state and the steps needed to get there
  • prioritising and allocating project ownership of the actions required
  • providing a framework for documenting accountabilities and outcomes and communicating results.

Step 4: Communicate, communicate… and then communicate some more

The three steps outlined above will only be successful if supported by targeted organisational communications along the improvement journey. Employees should be:

  • debriefed on the results of the survey as close to the completion of the survey as possible; this shows them how their comments have aligned with the rest of the organisation and that their comments have been heard
  • informed of the process and timelines of the focus groups and action planning workshops, whether they have attended or not
  • advised of the actions through targeted internal marketing campaigns; projects and initiatives that are branded with phases such as “We heard you” will increase the alignment of these actions with what employees expressed in the initial survey.

Those organisations who have conducted all of these four steps will generally have a greater employee engagement and buy-in to the resulting actions and future surveys than those that have not.

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