Maybe you’ve heard stats about employee engagement and realized that companies in the top quartile of engagement are 21% more profitable. It makes a lot of sense, of course. Engaged employees feel more tied to the mission and are more productive, therefore driving profit up. Happy employees = productive employees, or at least that’s the consensus. So how can a company transform their organization and have more engaged workers?
There are multiple platforms and tools that you can use to help this transformation, and you should consider the many options to make the engagement program easier to manage. For this post, I want to focus on the process behind the tool to help you put an engagement platform in place to reach that next level.
Phase 1 – Establish a Baseline
Before an organization can put any program into place, there must be an understanding of where you are today, a baseline. You should get the right people in the room and talk about gaps, alignments and misalignments with current employee engagement. What assumptions exist? Talk through what currently works and what doesn’t, what could be better if you improve engagement, and is there anything that could be worse? WHY is this important to employees, to the company? Some examples of things to measure can include time to complete tasks, safety measures, or retention, to name just a few. Engaged employees can influence many aspects of a company, so it’s important to identify what is important to your company. Once you get a baseline understanding of the problems that exist, you can put a strategy in place to incrementally improve that baseline number.
Phase 2 – Pick the Platform
The platforms we recommend to clients are not open lines of 24/7 communication. Those don’t work for employee engagement. They can work for collaboration or very specific interactions within and between teams, but what we’re talking about is creating good disruption – something that allows your leaders to get in front of the employees on a regular basis. Something that employees expect to see, but not something that is always on. It’s time limited to encourage participation.
The platform should be a good fit that makes sense for the company. There isn’t just one tool or platform I would recommend for everyone. What I do recommend for everyone, however, is having a strategy for using that tool or platform. It isn’t just an app that you download and hope it increases engagement scores. You must have a reason for everyone to use it. You have to drive awareness and adoption before you can truly affect engagement.
Something else to note – employees are afraid to speak up and say something – so anonymity does play an important role in getting this to work effectively. Anonymity helps in enabling the transformation to begin. However, it may not be necessary a year from now if your program works and your culture supports clear, open communication and feedback. Does the tool you’re evaluating support this?
Typically, when you engage with a new platform you sign an annual agreement, which is good because it gives you time to implement a well-planned strategy. Improving employee engagement is not something you can do in a short amount of time. A year is the minimum in which you might see incremental improvement. The real secret is you should be invested in the program, and realize that you never really “complete” the project. You can’t just throw a new tool into the mix and sit back with your fingers crossed. For the program to be successful, it truly needs to become a part of your culture.
Phase 3 – Baby Steps
Once you have a platform in place, you can develop a plan that allows you to start implementing the program on a smaller scale for a few months. Start by driving awareness and adoption of the tool before getting to hot topics that can be sensitive for employees. Here is where you can experiment with different teams, or different departments. These will be small-scale, tactical experiments where you will see what works, what doesn’t, and record and analyze all of it. Some fun awareness and adoption activities can be getting to know other employees with baby pictures or fun facts, or company history trivia. Also, use this adoption phase to prove those assumptions you had in Step 1; for example, do “our employees like the company softball tournament each summer?”
Phase 4 – Putting the Plan in Place
Now you know the baseline, what you are trying to solve, and you’ve gained awareness and adoption of the tool. Let’s scale that up and develop engagement campaigns that have a purpose with overarching goals. These campaigns can last an hour, weeks, or months, but they should be focused on the heart of the matter – how to get employees to step up and solve problems, instead of just taking orders for management and executives.
Once the plan is in place, you aren’t done. The most important piece of any platform-enabled transformation is continuous organizational improvement. So, you solved a certain set of issues – great! Now start over and get to the next set of issues. This must happen from the front line all the way up to executives. This is a full organizational culture shift. It can be managed with different “heroes” throughout the organization that champions the initiatives, but it should be a cycle that everyone in the corporation expects and works together to manage. Leaders in the organization should pledge to use this platform to drive transformation and include employees to solve the problems that everyone faces together.
Often, disengagement and misalignment exist when fear develops among employees through misinformation or no information. The show Undercover Boss is a good example. People are scared to speak up and act out of fear. Many times, this fear manifests itself into not sharing information. On the show, the people feel comfortable sharing with a peer how they have solved simple issues without the help of management. The boss is then amazed at the front line worker’s solutions and ends up implementing across the company. You don’t need a TV show to solve problems, you need employees to feel comfortable and empowered to suggest and implement solutions.