When looking at the often complex, ambiguous and potentially confusing subject of employee engagement, it’s not unusual to dive into the how before thinking about the why. There are six fundamental building blocks that have to be in place for employee engagement to work sustainably.
1. Getting the board on board
The business case for employee engagement is clear. While engagement and culture is considered the number one global business issue (Deloitte), and engaged companies are recognised as growing profits up to three times faster (Corporate Leadership Council), according to Gallup, only 13% of employees do more than turn up on time and meet minimum expectations. For an employee engagement strategy to be truly successful, it has to be an agenda item that is supported by the board, the company owner, or the people at the top.
2. Culture and values
Company culture is at the heart of competitive advantage. It sets the tone for everything that happens within an organisation, defining how your people behave, how your teams interact – driving the business towards success. In small businesses this happens naturally, and then it becomes diluted as they grow. Martin Kuczmarski, chief operating officer at Soho House & Co, explains in The People Formula by Jane Sunley: “It’s so important to create a strong and recognisable culture. This is not about printed collateral and so on; it’s about keeping the message simple. It’s about making sure that everyone, from the highest level down, ‘lives it’ on a continuous basis.”
Defining your company values isn’t easy. The key is to keep it simple and memorable. It’s not enough just to tell everyone what these values are; everyone has to live them every day, especially the leadership. And of course, recruit according to these values to ensure your business has the right people driving this culture forward.
Talent has gone digital – even great-grandparents are skyping, texting, tweeting and checking into Facebook. Yet the HR world hasn’t followed suit. Research shows that investing in digitising and socialising HR is critical – employees expect it and the business needs it. Talent management is about attracting, identifying, engaging, developing, progressing and retaining your people; making use of their skills and knowledge in the best way for both individual and organisation. A talent management system will therefore help to do this by digitising the processes and bringing about a bottom-up approach.
For a big-picture approach, you’ll need access to clear analytics to be able to plan and deliver your people strategy. If you haven’t introduced people analytics to your organisation, or you are a business that isn’t getting the results you need, it is worthwhile taking things back to basics without trying to ‘boil an ocean’.
4. Employer brand
In the same way you invest in your external consumer brand, the employer brand needs some attention so that people know what you’re about as an employer and why they’d want to choose you as their place of work.
Your employer brand not only creates competitive advantage for your business in the marketplace, it also plays a key part in attracting, engaging, developing and retaining the best talent. You need this for your market reputation to attract people who can perform well with you. In the same way you work out your customer offer, you’ll need to work out your people promise – and deliver on it.
Your people promise essentially tells prospective employees what to expect if they work for your business. It encompasses your mission, values, culture, benefits and development opportunities. Once a business understands what it offers and what it might want to add to create the desired employer brand, it can formulate a clear plan to communicate and deliver on the promise.
In the same way that your culture and values are the glue that sticks everything together, clear communication must also run as a thread through all that you do.
Good internal communication is difficult to achieve and maintain, though it becomes considerably easier if everyone understands their obligation towards good communications, knows how to do it and how to play their part. For communication to work, it needs to be open, two-way, ongoing and, most of all, honest. Be clear about expectations and accountability. Ensure that frameworks and mechanisms for great communication are firmly in place so that people know where to find what they need, when they need it.
6. Health and wealth
Workplace health and wellbeing used to be mainly about the physical – the avoidance of injuries at work and the like. Then people started introducing a more holistic approach with free fruit, nutritional advice, gym memberships and so on. Your approach should go beyond these good, though fragmented, interventions to encompassing physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing and life skills.
If you’re sceptical, consider that the number of UK work days lost to stress has increased by 24% over the last six years. Yet just 39% of UK managers believe that senior management are committed to employee health (Simply Health UK).
Done well, there is an inextricable link between health and wellbeing and employee engagement. It stands to reason that if a person is healthy in all aspects, they will be firing on all cylinders when it comes to work. High engagement and low wellbeing equals burnout; low engagement and high wellbeing equals disconnect – a balance has to be struck.
Once you’ve got the building blocks firmly in place, you can start to look at the other stuff…
If you would like to receive a copy of the report, Engage, Enable, Empower, or further information on any of the points listed, contact us