10 Ways to Take a New Look at Employee Engagement

Only one light bulb among many is lit to indicate there's a new way to look at employee engagement

Some organizations take a simple, bird’s eye view of their employee engagement survey results. They look at overall scores, weaknesses, and strengths and then decide to work on a couple weak areas. This is a fine place to start, but if your approach is feeling stale and has little result, it’s time to take on more advanced data analysis.

  1. Conduct a drivers’ analysis.

What are drivers?
Engagement drivers are survey items that are actionable, as opposed to engagement outcome items, which purely diagnose the level of engagement. Drivers are survey items that affect, or drive, the overall level of engagement. All drivers impact engagement; however, some make a larger impact on engagement than others. This varies from organization to organization and even varies from year to year, from department to department, and from person to person within an organization.

What’s a drivers’ analysis?
A driver’s analysis will identify which survey items have the biggest impact on engagement in your organization.

For example, take these drivers:

  1. I see professional growth and career development opportunities for myself in this organization.
  1. If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized.

Through a drivers’ analysis, you might discover that those who rate driver #1 high are highly likely to be highly engaged overall. You might also discover that there is a lower correlation between high ratings on driver #2 and overall engagement level.

Your best strategy is to understand what’s driving engagement in your organization, identify weak areas within your top drivers, and implement programs targeted at improving those drivers.

Why you shouldn’t just focus on low-rated items.
A natural response to survey results is to look at your lowest performing items and work on improving them. However, what if your lowest performing items don’t show a very high correlation with overall engagement? You could be wasting efforts to receive little result.

  1. Segment your results.

Undoubtedly, your organization is not exactly the same from location to location, department to department, or team to team. Different types of employees experience your workplace differently, due to a variety of factors, such as who their manager is, what kind of work they’re doing, and who they interact with. This is why it’s important to dig deeper than aggregate organizational survey results and segment your results based on demographics that make sense to your organization.

By segmenting your results, you might discover some areas are more engaged than others. Use these differences to your advantage as you determine your follow-up plan.

Take advantage of your strengths.
What areas of your organization are the most engaged? Where are they seeing the most success? Once you’ve identified this in your analysis, go have some conversations. What are your engaged workgroups doing differently? Can these strategies be applied to your less engaged groups?

Apply a segmented drivers’ analysis.
You can apply the same drivers’ analysis to targeted demographics like department, location, age group, etc. You might discover that one department is more driven by recognition than another or that your younger employees are more driven by professional development opportunities. Use this insight to develop targeted plans for improvement.

Hone and tailor follow up.
Segmenting your results allows you to develop a tailored and more strategic follow-up plan. Engagement isn’t one-size-fits-all. To really increase engagement, you need to understand your people, their workplace experiences, and what drives them to work for you. When you can customize your employee follow-up and new initiatives to targeted employee groups, you’ll be more successful in increasing engagement organization-wide.

Quick Tip:
Segmenting your results doesn’t have to mean extra work on your part. Make it easy; build demographics into your tool. A savvy survey tool and reporting system can do the extra analysis for you. When you input employee demographics on the front end, digging deeper in your reports can happen online with just a couple clicks.

  1. Combine multiple surveys into one.

Who ever said your engagement survey should only be an engagement survey? Broaden your scope to tackle more survey topics at once or to include other topics you’d like to compare to engagement.

What other surveys does your organization conduct over the course of the year? If none, what other non-engagement topics would you want to collect feedback on? You could combine these questions on one survey and leverage a savvy survey system with built-in demographics, so only the right people see the right survey items.

Here are some examples:

  • Benefits satisfaction questions
  • Opinions on the latest organizational changes or strategies
  • Safety assessment
  • Sales effectiveness questions
  • Opinion on company strengths
  • Other job role or department-specific questions
  1. Ask additional questions to tie to engagement.

One popular topic our clients choose to add items on is manager follow-up. Adding a couple questions about whether or not the employee’s boss followed up after the last survey can give you the ability to analyze engagement among those whose managers followed up and those who didn’t.

  1. Make Employees Accountable and Part of the Process.

Who is responsible for employee engagement in your organization? Most will answer HR and leadership; some will also include managers. But one important group is rarely held accountable: employees.

Involve employees.
Employees have to bring themselves to the table. They have to accept that there’s an unwritten agreement between them and the organization, and each entity has to deliver on its end of the deal. The employee has to choose to be engaged, and the organization has to foster the choice that the employee continues to make every day.

Here are a few ways employees can participate:

  • Completing your engagement survey (obvious, but important!)
  • Leading a focus group
  • Participating in focus groups
  • Sharing open and honest feedback on an ongoing basis
  • Bringing new ideas to their managers or leadership
  • Serving on an engagement committee
  • Helping with projects and new initiatives brought on by employee feedback

Show them their score!

Confidential Self-Stat Report
Nothing holds an employee accountable like a report on their engagement level. We can let employees know how they measured and prompt them with targeted follow-up they can do to put engagement into their own hands.

This report gives an employee a quick snapshot of their engagement and action steps they can take to become more engaged. It features:

  • Individual engagement score
  • Description of employee’s level of engagement
  • Employee’s engagement strengths (areas they scored highest)
  • Employee’s engagement weaknesses (areas they scored lowest)
  • Quick impact recommendations based on results
  1. Involve Your Managers.

Managers play a critical role in employee engagement, both in impacting employees’ experience and understanding the unique challenges and opportunities of their teams. It is important to equip your managers with the tools they need to impact engagement from the bottom up.

Give managers access to their team’s results and drivers.
One way to segment, analyze, and act on results is to look at the results of individual departments or teams within departments. Presenting organization-wide results is important, but take the next step and empower managers to look at results within their teams. As part of this process, managers should address results with their individual teams and work with their employees to dig deeper and brainstorm ways to improve engagement on their team.

Provide managers with guidelines on appropriate steps for follow up.
Most often, managers will look to you for guidance on how to follow up with employees. Since there’s opportunity for managers to become defensive, you want to make sure they understand how to handle employee feedback appropriately and continue conversations with their teams.

A recent study showed that employees whose managers didn’t follow up showed a DECREASE IN ENGAGEMENT by 6 points the following year.

  1. Hold managers accountable.

If you’re taking engagement seriously as a core competency of your organization, your managers need to share in this skill and responsibility. One surefire way to gain their involvement is to hold them accountable. Here are some ideas:

  • Make employee engagement a Key Performance Indicator for managers: Some organizations use this as part of manager performance reviews and as a determinant of eligibility for raises or bonuses.
  • Leverage a tool to monitor follow-up: Some employee engagement reporting suites support manager follow-up and give you the ability to view how many managers have taken steps, such as reviewing results with their team and creating an action plan.
  • Ask employees: Some organizations make use of a quick one-question survey that asks employees whether or not their manager followed up. Based on feedback, leadership will then take action to see that non-acting managers follow up with their teams.
  • Prove follow -up works: Add a couple questions to your annual survey regarding whether or not managers followed up the previous year. Our research shows that employees whose managers don’t follow up become less engaged between survey administrations.
  1. Go Above and Beyond Action Planning.

So you’re involving managers in the action planning process. They have access to their reports. They’re meeting with their teams to share results and make plans. And now they’re ready to take action. But are they equipped to make improvements?

Provide managers with resources and development.
Most managers have made their way to their position because they are experts in a specific skill set, not because they are experts at managing and engaging employees.

Take action planning a step further and provide managers with resources to support their next steps. Ideally, for each driver item on your survey (each item that a manager’s team might choose to work on), you should have related resources, such as articles, books, or videos that can provide managers the insight they need to move forward.

You can’t expect your managers to improve things like recognition, trust, or goal alignment without help. Providing managers with resources on the areas they’re working on can help ensure they are successful in their efforts to improve their teams.

Quick Tip:
Don’t have time to create custom content for your managers? The right tool will do this for you. Look for a survey partner that has manager resources built into the action-planning tool.

  1. Celebrate and Communicate Engagement Success.

How often is employee engagement part of your workplace’s conversation? When you make it a topic of ongoing discussion, employee engagement can become a sustainable, business-driving part of your culture. One way to do this is to incorporate it into your internal communications, such as your newsletter or Intranet

Keep engagement top of mind
Here are some story ideas:

  • Team Success Story: Write a success story about a specific team, department, or location. What are they doing to improve engagement?
  • Survey Item Spotlight: Provide detailed results on a specific survey item and include a related tip or best practice.
  • Dear Leader: Highlight an employee comment from your survey and let a leader write a response.
  • Mini-Poll: Publish a mini-poll to collect additional insight from employees.
  • Engagement News: Write a news-style article reporting what your engagement committee or leadership team is up to and what decisions and action have taken place.
  • Tips for Employees: Highlight tips for employees on how to discuss issues with their manager, build relationships with coworkers, etc.
  1. Take a Holistic Approach.

Stop thinking engagement is just a survey project. For organizations that want to make their workplace a “great place to work,” employee engagement is an ongoing strategic initiative.

Think big and think broad
A holistic approach to engagement involves HR, leadership, managers, and employees, consciously making it a priority and part of discussions all year round. It also leverages tools outside of the regular survey to help increase and understand engagement.

Here are a few examples:

  • 360-Turnover Analysis: Understanding why employees leave can help you improve engagement, resulting in higher retention.
  • Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Feeling valued is a key driver of engagement. Give employees a platform where they can engage and recognize each other’s good work.
  • Goal Tracking: Leverage an online goal-tracking system to help with goal alignment across your organization.
  • Leadership-360: Need to work on manager effectiveness? A leadership-360 can provide leaders with more pointed feedback for improvement.
  • Linkage Analysis: Link engagement to other business outcomes, so your internal and external stakeholders can better understand why engagement is so important.

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