Employee engagement has been circling the world of work for a quarter of a century. It received increased attention as we entered the new millennium and it remains a key item on the agenda of many organizations.
Yet, for all the time and attention, many organizations have failed to see significant increases in employee engagement.
Has your organization's level of employee engagement flat lined? Does it need to be rejuvenated? Here are twelve ways to refresh employee engagement over the next year. You could apply one a month or choose one and focus on it for a year. You can also use this post as a springboard to create your own pathway to refreshing the staleness of employee engagement.
1. Mine and mind your anecdotes
Most organizations fail to get as much as they can from the open-ended comments employee are invited to write on engagement surveys. Sometimes the negative comments, although very much noticed, are ignored in sharing the engagement results with employees. Make your employee engagement data collection more transparent and share all comments, not to brag or disparage, but to stimulate conversations about what it is like to work in your organization and how it is not the same for all employees.
2. Focus like a laser beam
Stop using employee engagement as a generic overall measure of satisfaction. Do we really want employee engagement just for its own sake or do we want it to bolster results, wellbeing, meaning, or progress? Take employee engagement and focus it on just one key result. Use all the forces of engagement to improve employee safety, enhance performance management, or reduce absenteeism. Make a tough choice and declare just one specific result you want to achieve from engagement.
Encourage your managers to seek out the disengaged. Stop acting as if disengagement is a punishable offence and turn it into a trigger for a conversation. This conversation may result in learning and change. Just because someone is disengaged, it does not mean they will remain disengaged.
I personally like working with skeptics because they have sound, critical minds and want to see evidence of the benefits of engagement. When you change a skeptic's mind about engagement, you can see engaging changes ripple through the organization. I avoid cynics because they are often locked into a very negative and pessimistic point of view. You distinguish a skeptic from a cynic because a cynic is a person or employee who refuses to be skeptical of their own cynicism.
4. Feel the truth
John Kotter, a writer and expert on change management, began his book The Heart of Change by stating:
The single most important message in this book is very simple. People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.
So stop analyzing the engagement survey for data and insights and start showing truths about work and your organization that will influence employees' emotions and promote positive change.
5. Replace addition with subtraction
One of the frequent measures of engagement is employee discretionary effort. Yet how much discretionary effort can you demonstrate if you are beyond capacity with tasks, processes, and projects. Refuse to add anything in the name of engagement. Rather in the name of engagement, determine what you can subtract or eliminate. We are too quick to think of engagement as something we need to add rather than considering what we can remove that creates breathing space, more capacity, and increased engagement.
6. Make engagement strong
Ensure everyone at work knows their strengths and knows how to apply their strengths to their work. Then take a week or a month and have each person make an effort to fully leverage their top personal strength in the name of engagement.
7. Lights, Camera, Engagement
Watch short videos on engagement for information, education, and inspiration. Post a new video on your intranet every week. Encourage employees to have lunch and learns by watching two or three videos and discussing the implications or actions from each video for your workplace.
8. Start an engagement book club
We can learn a lot about engagement by reading books on the topic and starting a book club or community to share insights. Here are a couple of my favorite books to get you started. A wonderful book on the fusion of management and leadership is Henry Mintzberg's, Simply Managing. To learn how to infuse progress and setbacks into your engagement efforts read The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
9. Take employees on a field trip
Visit another workplace with high levels of engagement. Don't just have leaders or HR go. Get employees to see and experience firsthand what is going on elsewhere and become champions to bring the best of engagement back to your workplace.
10. Spread engagement into employees lives
I think work-life balance is passé. We need to help employees learn to infuse engagement into other elements of their life and well-being. We can make a big difference for our children when we fully engage in parenting. Or we can take the skills of engagement such as vigor, absorption, and dedication and apply them to enrich and enliven our sport, hobby or other interest.
11. Gather and share stories
We have an over reliance on data and analytics in engagement. It leads us down the path of drivers and levers and levels of significance. But that is not the full story. Every stat should have a story and stories have their own power to engage and influence. Help your employees to gather and tell stories of engagement and more importantly set the stage so they can live the story of engagement.
12. Change your champions
Why is engagement so often housed or championed in HR, Organizational Learning and Development or Internal communications? Shake things up for the next year. Put finance, operations, safety, or marketing in charge of employee engagement. Break down the functional silos of engagement so that employee engagement becomes everybody's business.
Now go out and engage!
Rejuvenate employee engagement where you work with one or more of the twelve ways listed above. As you refresh employee engagement, engage along with me for the best is yet to be.
Your turn: What have you done to refresh employee engagement in your workplace?