Four Enablers of Employee Engagement (H/T Glassdoor)


The truth hurts. And it’s really inconvenient, especially when employees have so much to say. And so much they want to hear from leaders. Here’s the convenient part: it’s really clear what it takes to truly engage employees. Today’s Glassdoor webinar, “Four Enablers of Employee Engagement,” provides a good summary for taking action. No blinding “aha’s,” but a pragmatic view of what leaders need to understand and do to gain trust, attract and inspire the best talent. Here are the four and what I think you can do to move from “I get it” to “let’s do something about it.”

Key Enabler #1 – Strategic Narrative

For people to care about where they work they have to know where they’re being led and why. And to appreciate the destination they need to understand where the company is coming from and where they are today.

What you can do:

Close the “posters” gap, and tame the communication barrage. You know those nice framed Vision and Mission posters? Are those statements relevant, credible, ever referred to by executives? If not, take them down and engage a team in discovering and articulating the true purpose and potential of the organization. No corporate speak, please. If the vision and mission are alive and well, create a line of sight for people between the big picture and what’s happening today and their role in getting there. Not just once a year – consistently and frequently. How? With a messaging framework of no more than five key themes that everything execs talk map to. Create an individual communication platform for each member of the leadership team. Use channels that prioritize the urgency and relevance of the story, without overwhelming people. (Everything is not an all company email!) (It’s also not a one way street. See #3 below.)

Key Enabler #2 – Engage Managers

It’s true that people join companies but leave managers. Why? Because the manager has the most to do with the employee’s day to day experience. Is my role clear? Do I have what I need to do my best work? Is my manager coaching me, advocating for me?

What you can do:

Developing great managers happens at the intersection of performance management, learning, and leadership development, and so requires a coordinated enterprise talent strategy, and the time and resources to implement it. In the meantime, mine the engagement data you already have to see where the sore points and bright spots are in the organization – is the southeast district or IT team happier with their managers than the SoCal district or sales team? Find out why, with follow up surveys and, better yet, interviews and focus groups to dig deeper – and create solutions. (See #3 below.) If you don’t have any data at hand, do simple pulse surveys or work with HR business partners to gain insights.

Key Enabler #3 – Employee Voice

To me, all roads lead to and from here. People want to contribute, they have ideas and they want to be heard. They also want to hear from each other, as much if not more than from their leaders. (It’s how they live outside the office – before making a purchase they check reviews on Amazon or TripAdvisor, and share their own views with others.) And not just once a year in the formal engagement survey (whose results never seem to be acted on…)

What you can do:

Make it social, easy to share. Audit your communications channels and adapt them to enable commenting, sharing. Create new channels that are interactive — Q&As with execs, polling, social networks where real collaboration and conversation can happen on the hottest topics. (Hearing crickets on your Jive or Chatter platform? There’s not enough urgency there, not enough real work happening there, not enough execs active there. Topic for another time…)

Get your execs out and about. (See #2 above.) One the highest returns on leaders’ time is listening to what’s on employees’ minds, what’s in the way, asking them to help solve and being candid about can and won’t happen and why. This builds trust and confidence, keys to true engagement.

Key Enabler #4 – Integrity

I would call this walking the talk. Making the gap between what you say and what you do as small as possible. This is about culture and values that people can count on. And it relates to #1 – is what we’re saying believable? Do we tolerate behavior that’s inconsistent with our values?

What you can do:

Shine a light on formally stated values. Are they still relevant? How do we know? Make revisiting the values part of an upcoming change management process – M&A, global expansion, new leadership are all times when people wonder what’s changing and what’s staying the same, and common ground is especially important. Employees at the company more than three years since the values were introduced are usually not nearly as connected to them unless the company is doing a stellar job embedding them in onboarding, manager and leader behavior and the strategic narrative. (Connect the ethics and compliance dots with values, too, so the dreaded compliance learning modules aren’t coming out of left field.) Tie living the values to your recognition program.

As you can see, all four enablers rely on each other for real impact, and it can feel overwhelming to tackle. Just START SOMEWHERE. Start where you have some influence, some allies, while working toward engagement nirvana. Success begets success, small becomes large. Learn as you go. Ask for help. Everyone’s trying to get from the “why” and the “what” to the “how.”