So what's the right employee engagement strategy to dramatically increase engagement in your organization?
Well let's first talk about the wrong strategy...
Usually, someone from HR has to convince the CEO to spend money on an employee survey. And when the results come back, the data is hoarded by the senior leadership and a committee is formed to brainstorm ways to improve engagement. The committee might implement things like an employee appreciation day, an awards program, launch new employee resource groups (ERGs) and perhaps even a tweak to the benefits.
But the problem with this brainstorm-at-the-top approach is that over 70% of the variance in engagement correlates to the manager (source: Gallup Business Journal, April 8, 2015). In other words, who your boss is counts more than anything. Front line leaders are the regulators of engagement.
So all those top down ideas don't matter if you've still got the same boss, and if your boss hasn't changed her behaviors.
The right employee engagement strategy instead of being top down, is from the bottom up.
First, if you want to improve something, measure it. So you do need to conduct an employee engagement survey.
Second, make sure each manager gets her own score report. What is the engagement score for her team? How does it compare with the average score throughout the company?
Third, have managers share their results with their own teams. This is not an HR meeting, nothing fancy or formal. Grab a pizza, get in a conference room and do it over a long lunch.
The manager is the facilitator in this meeting, not the problem solver.
She should ask, "What areas did we do well in? What should we focus on for improvement?" Managers shouldn't try to improve every domain they are scored on; when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Instead, pick just one or two areas to target for improvement in each six month time period.
Managers need to elicit ideas. For example, "OK, we're going to target communication over the next two quarters since that's our lowest score. What can we do better to improve communication?"
Because the front line workers are the ones who completed the survey, they are the only ones who can tell you what needs to change. The answers can't come from above.
After team members seem to have contributed all the ideas they can, the manager-facilitator should ask the Magic Engagement Question:
What would have to happen in order for you to score this topic a '5′ (or Strongly Agree) the next time we are given this survey?
That final question will likely cut to the real issue that is on everyone's mind and enable them to offer their most targeted solutions.
Company leaders should never assume they have all the answers. The best employee engagement strategy is one where the organization surveys the employees at least annually, the results are shared with every manager, and in turn, each manager creates an action plan with her team members.