Understanding employee engagement strategies

We've all heard about the importance of employee engagement. Engaged employees are happier, more productive, more loyal and have lower overall risks of burnout. Most companies have an idea of how to improve employee engagement via one-off initiatives. However, that's different than creating comprehensive employee engagement strategies.

An employee engagement strategy is an overarching plan for engaging employees. It combines many initiatives to create a streamlined program for long-term and sustained employee engagement.

In other words, employee engagement strategies are well-thought-out programs that outline a complete system to establish a clear idea of how to keep employees engaged for the long haul.

Creating effective employee engagement strategies

All successful employee engagement strategies start by identifying what employees care about most and uncovering what sorts of things connect employees to their company. These things are called "drivers of engagement." 

While your employees will have unique drivers of engagement, there are several common ones that exist across all industries and organization types. These things are things like: 

  • Workplace benefits
  • Work-life balance
  • Career growth opportunities
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Overall wellbeing
  • Work autonomy
  • Positive leadership
  • Inclusion and diversity

Most employee engagement strategies focus on addressing existing issues within the organization. For example, a company might develop an engagement strategy around boosting low productivity. When you identify issues and uncover the primary drivers of engagement for your company, it'll be much easier to establish and measure benchmarks around your strategy.

Benchmarking employee engagement

Before you can build an effective employee engagement strategy, you have to measure your current level of employee engagement. Doing so allows you to see where you need to improve.

One easy way to do this is via an anonymous employee satisfaction survey built around the primary drivers of employee engagement.

You might be surprised at what you find out. Generally, employee satisfaction surveys can show you exactly where engagement is high and where it's low. For example, you might find that your employees really enjoy the leadership style but are unhappy with the benefits package. You can use the insights to drive your future research and to help serve as the foundation for your employee engagement strategy.

There are a couple of ways to measure engagement surveys. You can break them up by personal characteristics (like age, gender or ethnicity) or by job characteristics (like job role, working hours and salaries). You can even do it by both. By segmenting your surveys, you'll be able to get an in-depth look at how effectively your company is engaging every employee.

The more data and details you can get, the more targeted and effective your employee engagement programs will be. For instance, you might find that a particular department feels really engaged while the other departments feel lackluster. Alternatively, you might find that you're doing a great job engaging your younger employees, but your older employees feel disenchanted.

Once you get a clear look at your current employee engagement levels, you can set goals and create initiatives around the areas where you're lacking. Then, after a few months of working on your employee engagement strategy, you can rerun the survey and compare the results.

What should be included in an employee engagement survey? 

Generally, employee engagement surveys use a Linkert scale question format where each question is simply a statement followed by a set of responses on a scale from strongly disagree > disagree > neither agree nor disagree > agree > strongly agree.

This particular format works really well for employee engagement surveys because they let employees express themselves easily and quickly. This format is also super straightforward to analyze since all the answers are in the same format.

Here are a few sample statements so you can get an idea of what employee engagement survey questions look like: 

  • I feel happy when I'm at my job.
  • I know my company's mission, and I believe in it.
  • I would tell my friends that my company is a great place to work.
  • I am proud to be an employee of my company.
  • I feel like my managers listen to me.
  • I can see myself working at this company five years from now.
  • I feel like the company keeps me informed on important events
  • This company provides me with a lot of opportunities to advance my career
  • This company gives me lots of on-the-job training.

Ultimately, you want your survey to include questions that help illuminate any potential problem spots in employee engagement. You also want to make sure that the survey is simple to complete, anonymous and that the questions and answers are all in the same format to make analyzing the data easier.

Who is responsible for creating and maintaining an employee engagement strategy? 

The HR department is critical for creating strategies and maintaining employee engagement. After all, HR directly controls many of the drivers of engagement like benefits, wellness programs, training, salary and PTO. The HR department also links leaders, departments and employees across an organization.

In most cases, the HR department will be responsible for creating standards and designing strategies around employee engagement. HR can help provide best practices  for employee experience and create benchmarks and guides for the entire organization to use. The department will likely take ownership for ironing out any issues and handling any hiccups that may arise. However, it's not all the HR department's responsibility.

While the HR department takes ownership and serves as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of employee engagement initiatives, it's the entire company's responsibility to keep employees engaged. Managers and supervisors often have more control over the day-to-day employee experience. In fact, managers can control 70% of the variations in team engagement. Additionally, studies show that employees' personalities can account for as much as 48% of the variations in engagement.

So, in short, the HR department will have a heavy hand in creating and maintaining your employee engagement strategy, but it will take the whole team signing on to ensure its enduring success.

4 employment engagement strategies ideas

There are a few common threads for creating winning employee engagement strategies.

Train and develop

For employees to feel engaged, there has to be a level of personal fulfillment in their work, and they need to feel like their employees care about their futures. Training and career development can help fulfill both these needs. By investing in your employees' advancement, you're showing them that you're committed to them now and in the future.

Communicate with your mouth and ears

Employees who feel like their company hears them are much happier and engaged overall. Of course, communication is a two-way street, and the most engaged employees work at companies where there's open communication from leadership and where they feel like they can communicate, too.

Move beyond workplace identities.

The most engaged employees are the ones with a good work-life balance. Employees want (and expect) their employers to value them as a whole person - not just as an employee. As a result, employers who prioritize work-life balance, wellness programs and encourage their employees to have hobbies outside of work will have happier and more engaged employees overall.

Use technology to improve employee engagement.

Technology is invaluable for automating tasks, communicating and simplifying the day-to-day. When employers choose accessible, easy-to-use technologies that improve the lives of their employees, they're taking a positive step towards stronger employee engagement.

Employee engagement strategy for millennials

By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. As such, companies should prioritize the things that matter most to this dominating demographic. Millennial are workers who were born between 1981-1996, and they tend to have different values than the generations before them. Specifically, they have lower levels of loyalty, prefer remote work and demand job satisfaction.

They also gain a lot of their worth from their job, and they expect to find some meaning from their position. They're highly committed to personal learning and growth and want to find companies that will support that growth. They also want to work for businesses with missions that align with their own. Work-life balance is also incredibly important to this demographic.

If you want to create an engagement strategy for millennials, you have to start by understanding what matters most to them. Then, you need to use surveys and other means to see how well you're currently serving those needs. Finally, you want to develop an engagement strategy that specifically addresses their concerns and desires.

The advantages of employee engagement strategies

Prioritizing, benchmarking and enhancing employee engagement in a strategic way brings a company immediate and lasting benefits. Employee engagement strategies boost productivity, collaboration, loyalty and help companies build resilient teams for years to come. In addition, engaged teams are magnets for attracting and retaining top talent.

However, it's not enough to just create a strategy. Companies have to be proactive about measuring their effectiveness and course-correcting when something isn't working. It'll take the whole team to get it right, but focusing on engagement creates too many benefits to ignore.

Ultimately, creating and maintaining an employee engagement strategy is a no-brainer because it sets you and your employees up for enduring collaboration, communication and success.

Sep 16, 2022

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