Helping your team members unlock their full potential can be both challenging and rewarding. One of the most challenging (and important) parts of the process is engaging them in their work so they can consistently perform well.
To be effective, employee engagement strategies and programs need to be data-driven and continuously improved, but they need to go beyond those annual massive employee engagement surveys that many organizations rely on. While employee engagement surveys are useful tools, they are not enough on their own.
The goal is to create lasting programs that satisfy employee needs and improve engagement sustainably. Maximizing the benefits of engagement surveys requires continuous measurement and the development of strategies involving incremental actions based on employee feedback and the universal needs employees have for engaging at work.
To implement an employee engagement program effectively, there are four simple steps organizations should follow:
- Frequently remind leaders that their main duty is to motivate and inspire employees.
- Identify the common needs employees have for flourishing at work.
- Get regular feedback (in small manageable bits) on how well direct supervisors are meeting the common needs people have for being engaged at work.
- Help managers quickly respond to feedback by aligning feedback with training in small bits.
In this article, I’ll dive into this four-step process for successfully implementing an employee engagement program.
What Are Employee Engagement Programs?
Employee engagement initiatives and programs are broad-based approaches aimed at improving the employee experience and performance by providing opportunities for growth, development, and involvement. They help organizations meet the needs of employees and motivate them by connecting their work to the organization’s goals and values and removing obstacles to success.
While it may be surprising, studies have shown that people are willing to forgo financial rewards to be part of an organization that aligns with their personal values. Effective employee engagement programs help organizations leverage this preference to increase engagement and alignment with core values.
Engaging and aligning employees with core values has many benefits for an organization, including increased retention, improved recruitment, a stronger competitive advantage, more effective collaboration, and a more harmonious work environment. However, these benefits can only be realized if organizations commit to making engagement a continuous journey of improvement.
Below are four essential steps that organizations can take to successfully implement an employee engagement program and ensure that engagement is an ongoing process.
How To Develop and Implement an Effective Employee Engagement Program
Here are four simple steps that can be easily implemented to swiftly, significantly, and sustainably boost employee engagement in your organization.
1. Frequently remind leaders that their main duty is to motivate and inspire employees.
Employee engagement is not just an HR initiative, but a year-round focus for everyone in the organization. Leaders need to be reminded regularly that their main role is to inspire excellence and engagement in their teams.
This encourages them to prioritize engagement-boosting activities and create an environment that removes barriers to engagement and supports employees’ professional and personal growth.
Action Plan: Every leader should have a printed document that serves as a reminder of their fundamental role. The document could read as follows:
My primary job is to inspire greatness in my team by serving as a coach who helps people to be happy, great human beings, who do great work.
Leaders are advised to create a calendar event to prompt them to review this document several times daily for at least a month. With each reading, they’re more inclined to undertake actions that highlight the best in their team members. As a result, team members will feel more valued and cared for.
2. Identify the common needs employees have for flourishing at work.
The second step in fostering an environment for employees to thrive involves identifying the 14 universal needs that are crucial for individuals to thrive at work. These needs, backed by decades of research, strongly correlate with employee engagement and retention.
Action Plan: Identify the common needs employees have for engaging at work. Now that you’re familiar with these 14 universal needs, you can focus on the distinct individual needs crucial for employee success. These are typically best identified through one-on-one conversations conducted by their immediate supervisors.
3. Get regular feedback (in small manageable bits) on how well direct supervisors are meeting the common needs people have for being engaged at work.
After identifying the universal needs that enable employees to thrive at work, it’s essential for managers to regularly gather feedback from their team members on how well these needs are being met. While comprehensive engagement surveys have their place, they’re typically not the best initial step in consistently promoting high levels of employee engagement.
Instead of broad cultural changes, it’s often easier to support supervisors in addressing employees’ needs. Starting with a concise survey targeting one of the 14 universal needs can have a significant impact. This approach allows employees to see their feedback being acted upon quickly.
Action Plan: Start with a concise survey of one or two questions, targeting a single element of the 14 universal needs crucial for employees to thrive. The survey should be open for a short duration of two to three days. Although not all employees may respond to each survey, the promptness in addressing the collected feedback is critically important.
4. Help managers quickly respond to feedback by aligning feedback with training in small bits.
The key to quickly and consistently improving employee engagement is to promptly act on employee feedback, targeting one of the universal needs tied to engagement and retention. Ideally, supervisors should take steps to address the identified need within three to five days after a survey. While this might seem challenging, there’s a simple trick that can facilitate a swift response to feedback.
Action Plan: Instead of waiting for employee feedback and then spending time formulating a plan to address issues, it’s best to have a training video that addresses the need specifically ready beforehand. This training should help managers meet their employees’ needs more consistently, even before a survey is conducted.
For instance, if you’re planning to distribute a survey on appreciation, you should already have a brief training video prepared. This training should focus on a simple method for expressing appreciation more effectively. In this way, managers can watch and implement the training as soon as they receive feedback from their team members.
This strategy is highly effective and efficient for several reasons:
- Supervisors are more open to learning
- It facilitates action
- There is minimal disruption
- Immediate action is visible to employees
Building trust can greatly boost engagement and retention. This is supported by Gallup’s research, which shows that engagement nearly triples when employees strongly agree with the statement: “My organization acts upon the results of surveys I complete.”
Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.
Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.
He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.