Here are five key lessons learned on how to develop a plan for Employee Engagement. These are based on helping lead a global Fortune 50 corporation’s employee engagement efforts for eight years. During that time, we went from 1 out of 2 of our 90,000+ employees being engaged to more than 4 out 5. We also saw higher performance and successfully weathered “The Great Recession.”
Employee engagement must be:
1. Considered strategic. This allows it to remain a priority to invest time, money, and resources into it even in challenging market conditions. Employee engagement was one of the top tier strategic metrics for our Fortune 50’s People key performance indicator (KPI). We knew we could instruct employees to reach certain goals but not maximize performance without their heads (ideas), hearts (commitment), hands (physical work), and habits (consistency). That’s full engagement!
2. Directly aligned with the organization’s values. The Employee Opinion Survey (EOS) we used to measure engagement directly supported our value of Excellence by supporting the fact that ‘employees had the right to express their good-faith opinions about how we could improve our own performance and the performance of the company.’ And, ‘we actively listen, respond, encourage teamwork and make decisions based on facts and data.’ Since values are the behavioral blueprint for any organization, it’s important that organizations clearly connect the dots between desired organizational values-based behaviors and engagement.
3. Relentlessly executed. It required sponsorship and accountable at the highest levels. One of the factors in our CEO’s executive compensation was employee engagement. Our results were also reported to the outside Board of Directors. Engagement was not an event or ‘season’ in our business year; it required deliberate efforts every day.
4. Effectively integrated. We discovered 12 key people-related processes that informed, taught, and reinforced desired behaviors and had to be both effectively designed, monitored, and then executed by each leader. Too often organizations skip, go out of sequence, or don’t effectively execute these processes. The result is mixed signals, clarity corrosion, and waste. Employee engagement can’t survive as a stand-alone initiative. It’s an outcome of many integrated processes and supporting behaviors.
5. Must be maintained during challenging economic times. When the Great Recession hit, our company sales dropped by more than 35%. Tough decisions had to be made including: wage freezes, layoffs, permanent cuts, temporary shutdowns, and other austerity measures. But, we didn’t stop our engagement efforts. In fact, our CEO wanted to make sure employees had an opportunity to respectfully express their opinions and feelings during all the dramatic changes, so our EOS was not cut. Our engagement did not decline during this unprecedented period. In fact, employees acknowledged more open communication, visibility of leadership and values-based decisions during this challenging time-frame. This helped us respond and rebound more quickly when business turned around.
Are your employee engagement initiatives:
- A need to do or a want to do? (Strategic value)
- Helping drive more specific values-based behaviors? (Alignment)
- Driving personal accountability? (Performance requirement)
- Not standing alone? (Integration)
- Able to be sustained in challenging economic times? (Sustainability)
Tomorrow – Lessons learned on Change on An Employee Engagement Journey