How to create an effective action plan for employee engagement
When it comes to creating high levels of employee engagement, people tend to make the process needlessly complex. Obviously creating an engaged workforce won’t happen overnight, but there are a number of fairly simple steps you can take in order to start having an impact.
The following steps are not a magic ‘cure-all’ solution for employee engagement – each organisation will require its own unique approach – but they should provide you with a solid framework to begin creating engagement throughout your business.
Find out fundamental wants and needs
Before you can engage people, you first need to understand them. I mean truly understand them – what motivates them, what demotivates them, how they like to communicate, what they really want from their work, and so on. If you don’t have a grasp of these elements you could potentially waste a lot of time and effort on engagement activities that are not actually answering the needs of your employees.
There is a simple way to gain such an understanding of your staff: Talk to them. It may sound too simple to be true, but it is probably the single most effective way to get to know your staff – if you ask your employees the right questions, they will provide you with all the information you require to start giving them what they need.
Focus on leadership
When it comes to setting the overall tone and culture within an organisation, nobody has more power to achieve this than senior leaders. Leaders are the visionaries, the champions, and their attitude and actions will ultimately filter down throughout the rest of the organisation.
The process of engaging employees therefore needs to start at the top. Leaders need to be visible, sharing and demonstrating the values of the business in everything they do. If a leader appears engaged, the rest of the business is much more likely to reflect this. If, on the other hand, they are not visible and approachable, and are not good role models for their workforce, they could potentially have a negative impact on engagement.
Develop line managers
Encourage engagement at team level is the key here, and equipping line managers with the necessary skills and behaviours to engage their teams is the best way to accomplish this. It all comes down to people management skills, and this is where L&D can really play an integral part. Managers need to be confident in coaching, mentoring, supporting, and understanding how to develop their team members’ potential, and that confidence and ability can, for the most part, be imparted through targeted learning.
Obviously a manager’s ability to create an engaged team should be taken into account during the hiring process, but it is also up to organisations to commit the necessary time and money into their development once they are in their roles. By enabling them to help embed engagement across every team in the business, the initial investment in those line managers will be far outstripped by the lasting impact they are able to have on the organisation.
Clarify individual roles and responsibilities
On an individual level, the best way to encourage people to feel engaged is to give them the skills, knowledge and clarity required for them to do their job effectively and autonomously. Nothing makes someone disengage quicker (or be less likely to engage in the first place) than having only a vague idea of what is expected of them, how their role contributes to the team and the business, and where their responsibility stops and starts. All these elements need crystal clear clarification from the earliest opportunity.
Again, this links back to developing line managers in the right way, but it also comes down to having the right processes in place to make sure employees are given the relevant information when joining the business or starting a new role.
More than a buzzword
Employee engagement has become something of a buzzword in the HR world, but it really can be a powerful thing if implemented and measured correctly. The ‘secret’ is to gain a genuine understanding of your employees and what they actually want. Once you have this understanding, it all comes down to planning and executing a fully rounded engagement strategy by developing and enabling people at leadership, line management, and individual level as appropriate.