How to integrate employee engagement in your HR strategy
Most of the time we think of HR as the function that takes care of employee concerns, needs and benefits, a function that welcomes new employees and delivers trainings.
However, HR has a much more strategic function within a company and should be involved in the strategic planning process to ensure its profitability. Being inherently cross-functional, the HR function has a high degree of authority in terms of managing the employees who will ultimately execute that strategy.
An employee engagement strategy is essential to your long-term business success and can only be efficiently implemented if your HR executive is involved in the planning and decision-making process.
Involve your HR function in business planning processes
A first step into integrating employee engagement in your HR strategy is to look at your HR function as the key to gaining alignment throughout the organization and include it in the process from the beginning. Your strategy should be resource-based, internal client minded as well as external client focused.
Of the organizations participating in APQC’s Open Standards Research, 77% indicate that employee feedback and surveys are key aspects of the organizational HR planning process. (Source)
Which of the following are inputs into your HR planning process?
Organizational long-term objectives
Organization mission statement
Senior management directive
Internal and external analysis
Corporate and unit strategies
HR customer satisfaction surveys
The same research shows that employee satisfaction and the growth of key staff members are the most common employee- or HR-related metrics factored into leadership compensation. Employee satisfaction is usually measured through employee satisfaction, engagement or culture surveys, while staff development is measured by the number of promotions and developmental opportunities completed.
Which of the following people/HR metrics are built into the compensation plan for the leadership team at your business entity?
Employee satisfaction (climate/culture survey)
Growth of key staff (promotions, developmental opportunities provided)
No people metrics built into compensation plans for leadership
Attrition/retention of key staff
Staff training completed in comparison to learning goals
Number of available positions filled internally
Commercial Group is a business services specialist that successfully managed to engage more than 97% of its employees. How? In a very sustainable way. The company cut its impact on the environment, started giving back to the community and encouraged a healthy lifestyle amongst its employees. Its much-admired Green Angels programme led to a growth of 50% in business objective since 2006 and a much bigger engagement rate. (Source)
GE developed a series of Sustainability Programs that empower employees to live better lives and to give back. Their “Health Ahead” program offers GE employees and their families a series of tools and resources to live a healthy and educated lifestyle. Read more examples here.
Key action points
Train your HR. You don’t go into a battle without the best armor you can find.
Use the information gathered in your employee engagement efforts by translating it into action plans and process-improvement initiatives.
Always have a follow-up survey to serve as the basis of your next strategy.
Make sure the right people get the right information. Your senior leadership should always be on top of your results and your strategy so that they can reinforce it.
Calculate improvements in business outcome to further your company’s investment in employee engagement programs.
Employee engagement levels can also reflect on the most likely management successors.
Balance financial incentives and rewards with non-financial ones. Often times, non-financial recognition has better results in engaging and retaining employees.
Get senior leader buy-in if you want your engagement initiatives to succeed.
Design your employee engagement program to develop employee’s strengths and increase their well-being, not only to get data.
Integrate growth opportunities with your engagement efforts.
The importance of values
Value-based companies are more successful. Organizations featured in Best Company to Work for or Firms of Endearment out-perform their competitors by 300-400%. As Richard Barrett puts it:
“The difference between the best companies to work for and other companies is (that) they care about the needs of their employees – they care about what their employees value.”
Equipping employees with a sense of purpose is critical to creating the emotional bond between your employees and their work, and thus boosting their engagement. The best values provide a framework for achieving the mission using methods consistent with the Why of your band, so that employees have a framework that helps them in planning, decision making, and execution of both daily and big picture tasks. Browse the definitive guide to employee engagement by SnackNation for some powerful examples of company values.
Value-based management, or VBM, focuses on better decision making on all levels within a company, calling on managers to use value-based metrics. This approach has the great advantage of ensuring a balance between short-term decisions and long-term decisions, aligning the company direction with its key value drivers.
In VBM, the value of a company is determined by its discounted future cash flows. Value is created only when companies invest capital at returns that exceed the cost of that capital. Companies can use VBM concepts to make both major strategic and everyday operating decisions.
When executed in the right way, it is an approach to management that aligns a company’s overall objectives, analytical techniques, and management processes to focus management decision making on the key drivers of value.
Our next priority is to ensure that the strategies and programs you’ve set out to implement will be accurately tracked and measured. Any result you get will not be relevant unless you have a set of data to compare it with and a follow-up strategy.
Employee engagement is usually measured through online surveys, paper-based surveys, focus groups, one-on-one meetings or other tech tools. All of these instruments measure the percentage of Engaged, Disengaged and Actively Disengaged employees.
Gallup sets a list of behaviors that engaged employees display in a company:
Consistently high levels of performance
Natural innovation and a drive for efficiency
Intentional building of supportive efficiency
Clear understanding about the desired outcomes for their roles
Emotional commitment to what they do
High energy enthusiasm
Commitment to their organization, work group and job
This commitment to the company makes it a natural behavior to offer their discretionary effort and time for the greater good of a project or team.
Disengaged workers, on the other hand, will stop at what’s required of them and never go further than that. They view their job as a necessity, dosing their energy and effort only to receive a paycheck. It’s easy to recognize someone as being disengaged with their work because that person will lack passion, dedication and creativity for their job, giving only their minimal effort.
Actively Disengaged employees really damage a workplace. We can truly say that they are unhappy. That unhappiness is manifested through words, actions and attitudes. Either they’re undermining others, constantly expressing frustration or acting out, these employees have a negative effect on the workplace itself. (Source)
APQC’s Open Standards Research shows that the most common measurement instrument is the annual survey. Its results are communicated to senior leaders and top managers responsible for key employee areas as talent management, compensation and benefits for action and process improvement. The areas surveyed are usually work satisfaction, advocacy, retention, pride and development. (Source)
Gallup’s G12 feedback system is probably the most well-known survey instrument, containing a set of 12 questions rated from 1-5:
1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment that I need in order to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important?
9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the past six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This past year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
Quantum Workplace, a leader in building science-based tools to measure and manage employee engagement, loyalty and retention, has also developed a survey to assess employee engagement. This survey asks employees to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 their responses to these statements:
1. Management provides good leadership and guidance during difficult economic conditions.
2. My job is mentally stimulating.
3. I understand how my work contributes to my company’s performance.
4. There are future opportunities for growth at my company.
5. My company affords me the opportunity to develop my skills.
6. I receive recognition and reward for my contributions.
7. There is open, honest communication between employees and managers.
8. I see professional growth and career opportunities for myself in this organization.
9. I know how I fit into the organization’s future plans.
10. Considering the value I bring to the organization, I am paid fairly.
There are perhaps hundreds of tools and surveys developed by companies and consulting firms around the world. Whether you choose to develop your own solution or simply adapt an existing one, it’s important to focus on the unique culture within your company and fit that strategy to your employee persona.
Embrace digital solutions
According to this study, 88% of surveyed HR Directors use online surveys to measure employee engagement.
Digital has become our second nature and there is no use in going against it. For HR managers this is a great benefit, allowing them to find their heads under all the paperwork and reports.
Online tools allow for bigger flexibility in collecting and storing information. You can access it anytime, from all types of devices and you can reach employees regardless of absences, holidays or meetings.
Analyzing this information is considerably easier, since you have a machine aggregate and scrutinize all the data, giving you detailed reports and action steps.
Another advantage to digital solutions is that they can be customized for different types of companies, allowing different access and authority levels.
Employee engagement should be a key element in your HR strategy. Furthermore, your HR function overall should be involved in your business planning process to ensure that your no.1 resource is able to deliver on that strategy.
Senior leadership is an important enabler of your engagement strategy so you need to get their buy-in.
Whatever program you choose to run, remember to always track and measure engagement metrics in order to constantly adapt and follow-up on that plan.
Paula is a content strategist with a big passion for life and the pursuit of happiness. When she's not creating an eBook or tweeting the latest trends, she's probably petting a cat or watching a movie.
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