Employee Engagement Strategy Blue Print


Employee Engagement

– Let’s get the definition right. Employee Satisfaction is often mistaken as Employee Engagement. An employee’s job satisfaction, focus and happiness is equated with Employee Satisfaction whereas Employee Engagement is a measure of emotional connection of an employee with the brand. As head of the business, now question yourself – Are your employees engaged?

To create an environment that values and supports employee engagement and promotes a healthy organization by developing internal programs and initiatives for employees.

Data from Research Reports shows – We first need to get complete understanding of the concept, problem statement, pain areas before we jump into finding the best strategy. As they say, “Knowing where the problem is winning half the battle”.

Knowing is winning half of the battle - Quote

Taking an indirect approach – before we get to drive employee engagement what we need to look at is the potential reasons for low employee engagement. This insight will help us attend to the immediate need and that is disengagement and then work towards building and managing engagement as far as long term cultural drive is concerned.

Here are the top 8 drivers of disengagement (this is industry data, may or may not be exact disengagement drivers for a specific brand in a specific industry):

  • Management Issues:
    1. Employees find management unethical – Actions of senior leaders are not aligned with organization’s mission and values
    2. The leaders of this organization don’t really know what they are doing
  • Manager doesn’t values/recognize an employee’s talents and contribution
  • An employees’ ideas and opinions don’t count
  • Manager doesn’t set purpose and direction (goals and expectations)
  • Manager doesn’t lay emphasis on cooperation and teamwork among members of my workgroup. It doesn’t really feels like everybody is on the same team in this organization.
  • Manager doesn’t give freedom/autonomy to do my job effectively
  • Manager doesn’t give constructive feedback
  • Favouritism

Per the research reports, looks like in the whole industry, across domains, managers are the leading cause if not the overall cause for employee disengagement.

Time for Goal Setting: Now when we know what employee engagement is and what are those disengagement drivers that we are up against, time to set some goals. Three major goals we are aiming to achieve:

  1. Goal Alignment – Successfully engage employees to where they’re motivated and inspired to go above and beyond – Strong Foundation depends an employee’s understanding and connection to company goals (Role Clarity, Purpose and Direction, Career or Performance Management)
  2. Work Environment – Build an environment that enables them to be productive in multiple ways – his/her commitment to co-workers (Teamwork and Cooperation, Respect for Peers/Management)
  3. Organizational Values – Create a work experience by caring for their social well-being – having the positive mindset (Personal Expression, Values, Empowerment/ Autonomy, Feedback)

Plan of Action:
How about giving a name to the whole initiative (if you haven’t already in your organization)? How about – “Company’s name Culture Club”. Action items for this Culture Club:

  • You need to know your audience first and their pain areas, before you attempt to adopt all best practices out there to engage them. To start with send a survey (or a series of surveys) to understand concerns on different parameters. Send me a note for a sample survey document. This Sample Survey is made keeping goals into consideration.
  • With Survey Results in hand, and to attend concerns under each of the goals create a step by step process with action items, set timelines and ownership.

  2. Company’s output and profitability depend on making its most valuable asset, its employees, perform up to their full potential. Businesses where every employee understands how their role contribute to company’s overall strategic objective get increased profit margins, fast and effective strategy execution and better employee engagement resulting in reduced turnover.

    Goal alignment depends on the line of business in a specific industry vertical. Alignment typically means, goals should be mutually agreeable for business and employees both parties to be happy. To start with, clearly communicate strategic business objectives across your entire company. Basic skeleton of the communication should base on:

    1. Purpose: Employees need to know why the company exist and aligned to give their passionate support. POA:-
      • Release Vision and Mission Statements
      • Set Goals/Objective – Decisions / actions need to be consistent with the vision
    2. Clarity of structure: Different functions almost mostly are interdependent to achieve their goals. Make sure the alignment is clear and everyone understands individual and combined goals. This will ensure employees not only focus on their own job and give their best but also very well recognize the importance of working as a team.
      • Everyone’s job responsibilities and performance objectives need to support and be aligned with company’s Vision/Short/and Long term business objectives. For example, a sales executive’s compensation and growth path to become a sales manager should be aligned with company’s revenue growth.
    3. Clarity of How Organization Measure Performance – For employees to be focussed, they need to know what is measured, how it is measured and why it is being measured. POA:-
      • Release a Performance Management Plan (PMP) – could be a scoring system based on the role with certain set criteria.
      • Set-up a rewards and recognition system and communicate regularly how they are doing in-line with the overall goal. For example, a monthly R&R should convey how they are doing against the overall yearly goal of the organization.

    1. TRUST IN LEADERSHIP – Arranging Formal Real Talk Sessions (RTS) – Arrange RTS (or call it) Skip Level Meetings either by the department head or senior HR. One of the best practice that is not followed in most of the growing organizations and the reasons are, departments haeds have too much on their plate, they pass this on to their next level managers in the name of empowering them. Skip Level meetings not only improves trust in leadership but also make higher-ups be aware of the pulse of the floor before it is too late in certain scenarios. Plan of Action (PoA) for this:
      • Frequency – 1st Month of joining, and then every quarter | As needed for critical issues
      • Rationale – (1) To create a forum that is not influenced, nor enforced by management (2) To encourage more open communication among employees (3) To discuss issues related to the way our organization operates (4) To address issues related to the management (5) To build capacity for healthy discussion
      • The sessions will serve three core functions: (1) assure confidentiality, (2) create a mechanism for open communication, and (3) enhance relationships among employees and the Management
      • Topics – (1) Pulse Check (2)Performance (3) Succession planning (Ideas for improving turn over in the organization) (4) Open Topics
      • With the MoM in hand after each RTS – department head should meet respective team’s Manager.

      Results of these sessions need to be documented with follow-on action items.

    2. TRUST IN MANAGER and knowing the sign of disengagement early on – Managing By Walking Around (MBWA) is a well-known management practice. MBWA stresses upon the importance of interpersonal connection, constructive criticism, open feedback and appreciation. POA: –
      • One-on-one between the Manager and the Employee
      • Frequency – Most of the companies have half-yearly review system. Don’t wait till the sixth month to have a one-on-one with your team members. Depending upon the size of the reportees a manager has, try and catch up once in a month. Else as often as possible or as needed for critical cases
      • Nature of discussion should be –
        • more inquisitive rather than intrusive – Manager’s need to ask questions regarding work the job profile of the employee – little bit about target numbers, processes or accounts/projects they are working on
        • more of listening and watching to learn an employees’ motivation and their levels of satisfaction
        • to share organizational goals and ask about their personal goals to co-relate and match them for mutual success.
        • Manager needs to be prepared with some good credible news, positive initiative, recent successes to kill (if they come across any) pessimism and/or negativity
        • Keep it Fun – Manager needs to keep it a Fun Session to show employees that work should be fun and that as manager s/he enjoys it too. If the session is with a low performer/wrong doer, don’t be critical about the performance (this MBWA is not a performance review meeting), MBWA was not to catch the employee doing something incorrectly.
        • Appreciate Success – create a kind of small award/token of appreciation.

        These are informal sessions between manager and employee to develop inter-personal contact and to build respect and performance in the workplace. No need of documentation unless required.

    3. FUN PLACE TO WORK: Work life of any individual is almost 8-10 hours out of 24 hours in a day. That is a significant time spent at work place from a day’s life, and if this time is not well-spent/fun it might work counter-productive for any organization. Fun at work has many advantages – employees if are having fun while working, they are going to enjoy what they do, resulting in they working harder, maintain their calm in a situation of crisis, help each other and get better connected with the brand. PoA –
      • create a dedicated Fun Committee
      • members of Fun Committee should be a mix of all departments and from all levels
      • create a weekly or monthly programs/calendar to organize fun activities/events
      • get budgets approved in advance for logistics to be clear to drive Fun events.
    4. LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT – According to Quantum Workplace report – Coaching Employees for High Performance – Employee coaching, both from a manager or peer, is HR’s biggest asset for employee learning and development.

      HRs biggest asset for building emloyee learning

      Source – Quantum Work Place – Coaching Employees for High Performance

      POA: –

      • Create a weekly calendar (1 hour every Friday, second half) for every team member to give a session/presentation on the latest on the skill/industry/anything else work related that can add value to their peer’s knowledge
      • Manager to prepare and share with the team any best practices atleast once a month to improve team’s soft of hard skills.
      • Every such session, should have action items for the team members to measure the learning they had.

      All of the above is apart from the Training calendar company has set for employees.


  5. Whatever your organization’s unique values are, here are some basics, every organization should promote among its people.

    1. REWARDS AND RECOGNITION: Very important to improve employee morale. In most cases, rewards and recognition carry more value than the remuneration part for employees to be considered engaged. The R&R framework can include and is not limited to the below list:

      1. Tenure Awards: or Service Milestone awards are the very basis of any recognition strategy and offer organizations the chance to express gratitude to everyone for their loyalty and contribution. Per a report, millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Most of the companies have Tenure/Service Milestone awards starting from 5th year. A proactive approach is required here and recognizing and awarding right from the first year would go a long way.
      2. Monthly and/or Quarterly Performance Awards: Based on the size and the strength of the company you can have Monthly or Quarterly Rewards and Recognition event. Things to consider for such an event:
        • Address by the Branch Head / HR Head – a brief talk about – how important everyone is for the success of all | Bring out something unusual that has happened in that month/quarter which is either in line with organization’s values (recognize the employee) or against to stress on what is unacceptable
        • Get managers to talk about the person who wins an award. Any recognition is meaningful and carries the punch when it’s personalized. Coming from managers or peers recognizing a person with specific examples and sincere appreciation, adds a personal touch and sense of genuinity in the whole effort. It not only motivates them to continue carrying positive behaviour but also spread the positivism around.
        • Pick up the action items from the last such event and update employees

      3. Now that we are at it and rewards and recognition is one of the important pillars of employee engagement program, sometimes rewarding employees for good behaviour can backfire, leading to a drop-in motivation and productivity.
        There are two school of thoughts here. One says, practice of rewarding an employee should be based on identifying folks who went above and beyond, not for fulfilling a basic job expectation. Other say, rewarding good behavior encourages the non-followers come inline.

        For instance, there are awards like Attendance Awards. Some might argue, coming to work on time and not late, getting back early/on-time from breaks not late, leaving on-time not early are some of the behaviours that need not be awarded as that’s very basic behaviour any employee should carry. Study done by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ian Larkin – The Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field, suggests that Attendance awards have the opposite effect.

        Here is my take:

        • We can’t decide awards are good or bad. It all depends on how they’re implemented. Managers should manage the program closely ensuring that the system is not abused and that the programs aren’t nurturing unintended adverse effects.
        • Awards also should align with the culture / business requirement of the company where generally the clash comes in. It also depends on managerial style while dealing with employees. One manager would just expect employees to deliver their numbers and wouldn’t care whether it is achieved sitting at his workstation for good 9 hours or less or whether the work is done from home or from office. Whereas there are managers who would want team members to stick to their seat, monitor their breaks etc.
        • Awards, whether are given for going that extra mile or for encouraging good behaviour should have good mix of monetary /gifts and recognitions. It is seen that sometimes the monetary awards —may lead to a higher likelihood of employees “gaming” the system.
    2. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The reason to care is not about the company but about the individual’s own emotions. Unless you connect the cause with people’s emotional chord, you won’t find success and better participation coming your way from your CSR initiative.
      The call to action is more of a request to make everyone remember their individual beliefs rather than having them to act to help or donate money. Stir the belief system triggered by emotions, actions will automatically follow.

      Apply a simple 7 Questions Message Strategy to make your CSR successful.

      • Who are you talking to? People who were raised to believe it is their duty and privilege to help others.
      • What’s the basic point? Act on what you believe, being whole heartedly available for help. A help can be by donating money or time.
      • What’s the core of the program? Believe
      • Why should you care? Because I believe it is my duty to help others. It’s who I am.
      • Why should I believe you? This CSR Program
        • provides a platform that you believe in
        • has a cause that supports your belief
        • is an easy way to act on your belief
      • How should I feel? You should feel inspired. You are the one who is in touch with the core values and beliefs of your higher, better self.
      • What do you want me to do? Just think of what you believe in, and then act on your beliefs.

    3. COMMUNICATION – Last but the most important aspect. Before and after every activity – Employee Satisfaction Survey, Real Talk Session, Skip Level meeting – a communication must be sent about the goal of the activity/session and after the session about the action items if any to attend to concerns, appreciate the participation, timelines and ownership if any from any party and follow-ups if required, etc.

      You want to promote trust, you need to keep the communication lines up and running without a miss. One miss and you allow speculations to come in about the seriousness of the whole Employee Engagement Program.

Closing Thoughts:

Grass is not greener on the other side, its green where you water it. You now have a plan of action (PoA) well laid-out. All you need is to form a core team, set time-bound goals, create processes, implement and measure every bit of it. Any strategy is as good as its execution. All of the above if implemented and run consistently, can not only directly add value to the bottom line ($$) but give an organization a competitive edge. It will reduce turn-over, attract the cream of the niche human capital in the market, and make you the BEST PLACE TO WORK.


What do you think? What are the roadblocks you come up against within your organization? What cultural changes would solve them?

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