As originally published in Forbes here.
Employee experience is top of mind right now — and rightly so if you want a productive, performance-driven and profitable company. We are continuing our series of articles on the three M’s of EX strategy with a conversation about engagement. Employee engagement is an employee’s interest and involvement in helping the organization reach its goals, fulfill its purpose and improve what it does every day. Let’s consider the six key moments that determine whether or not your employee is engaged.
1. Is the organization transparent about what is important and what they are trying to achieve?
An organization’s transparency around its goals, strategies, plans and results greatly determines an employee’s engagement. Goals indicate the desired results the company wishes to achieve. It is amusing to me when an owner, executive or manager talks about being goal-oriented but has not shared their goals with their team. Simply put, a company will not achieve its goals until everyone understands what is expected of them. Consider the process in your organization for letting employees know your current goals and, more specifically, how their work impacts those goals.
2. Does the organization communicate the strategies and plans to achieve its goals?
Organizations will develop strategies: broad plans to achieve goals and managers will create action plans indicating how they and their team will specifically contribute to that strategy. In both cases, employees need to know both the broad and specific plans being implemented to achieve the organization’s goals. This is critical to how an employee feels about the organization because strategies and plans usually mean change and when the organization is transparent about plans, and employees know why the organization is taking specific actions, change can be less daunting. How are you communicating your strategies and plans to your teams?
3. Does the organization share how it is doing?
You need to keep your employees updated with how the organization is doing against its goals. Results matter, and whether good or bad, every employee should feel connected to and invested in the company’s results as it pertains to their success. Keep your people up to date with all key metrics so they understand when a change of plan may be required or why celebrations occur. In my experience, if you can create a culture where results are sought out each month, everyone will be interested and involved in making them better.
4. Does the employee understand what all this information is about?
Organizations can not only communicate goals, strategies, plans and scores; they also need to ensure all employees understand what they mean. Effective communication requires understanding, so organizations and managers must realize that if employees do not know what any of the shared information means, then transparency and trust are never achieved. We recommend a best practice whereby as part of an orientation and onboarding process all new employees receive a detailed overview and education of goals, important measurements, current plans and the latest results.
5. Does the organization value the employee’s ideas, input and feedback?
Organizations must also have a process that allows employees to share their ideas, feedback and insights. An employee should be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas in any of three ways: anonymously, as part of a group or team or individually with a manager.
Employees anonymously providing feedback means they can share their thoughts honestly, safely and equitably — so they feel they are on the same level as everyone else. They are more likely to share concerns or negative aspects of their employee experience without fear of repercussions from management or the organization. While there are benefits, anonymous feedback cannot be the only way to provide feedback, as it can reinforce a climate of distrust, particularly with small organizations.
Opportunities to speak within a group or team setting are also necessary. We recommend having monthly engagement meetings where everyone is kept up to date with essential information, results and plans. People can also contribute ideas on how to improve scores or the way they work during these meetings. These ideas can then be captured and considered more closely, possibly even adding them to a plan.
The final (and possibly most important) medium for feedback is the one-on-one conversation. Managers need to set up regular and consistent check-in or performance conversations with their team members. These one-on-one conversations allow the manager to engage with an employee and show they care what that employee thinks and makes two-way communication a priority. It creates a space for managers to receive feedback about themselves, the team, the environment and work. Managers must be responsible for fostering relationships where all employees feel comfortable bringing things to their attention, as this will generate the highest feeling of trust and care at work.
One important aspect of collecting feedback is follow-up. Organizations and managers need to have a process for getting back to employees on what feedback they collected and how they will use it to improve work, the employee experience or the company’s results.
6. Does the employee make a difference at work?
For an employee to be engaged, they must believe they can make a difference or impact the organization and their work. When employees feel they can make a difference, they feel pride in what they do and are more likely to want the organization to succeed. A best practice we often recommend to managers is to have your team members at the end of each week say how and to whom they made a difference that week. While employees may be somewhat uncomfortable initially, by making this a regular exercise, people will become more comfortable with the idea that what they do matters. It is also helpful to hear how other employees are making a difference in and out of the organization to reinforce that everyone can make a difference.
Engagement is critical to your organization’s success. By understanding these key moments and how to elevate the feeling of value, care and trust in those moments, organizations and managers can elevate the employee experience and company performance.