Five Employee Engagement Ideas That Make a Difference
During my many years spent focused on internal corporate communications at a large Silicon Valley tech company, employee engagement was always on my mind. We had a large population of employees nearing retirement age with an average length of employment around 20-30 years. On top of that, most of our new hires were recent college grads, so we had an influx of Millennials and all of the challenges that came with it.
We were faced with the double-whammy challenge of employee engagement: keeping the tenured employees stimulated while engaging the Millennials in new and varied ways.
Many business leaders understand the value of prioritizing employee engagement today. But sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start to affect change, especially for smaller or newer companies with fewer resources. I want to share actionable ideas I’ve found success with, and that I believe anyone can put into practice. Let’s start with the low hanging fruit.
Make Existing Employee Engagement Programs Better by Bringing Them Into an Online Community
You can add breadth and depth to your company’s existing employee engagement programs by leveraging an internal online community. Use the community to better support each program’s objectives through more transparent leadership communications, online Q&As and public acknowledgment of goals and rewards. Programs that work well in a community include idea jam sessions, employee recognition programs, employee volunteer programs, and group fitness or health challenges.
Online groups can add more layers to the employee engagement cake by giving you a place to do things like recognize an outstanding employee volunteer each month, feature pictures from the real-life party you threw for them, and ask their co-volunteers to congratulate them on their work. Do this every month, talk about it in real life and talk about it online, and you will have a more engaged employee volunteer program (and more engaged employees as a result).
Embrace On-the-go Lifestyles and Workstyles
Admit it. You’ve been looking the other way as employees started to use their personal iPads and mobile phones at work, but these little devices are a powerful and integral part of the future of work. You’ve probably noticed that more people are working outside the office (gasp) or even making their own work hours (what?!).
The good news is that this digital transformation plays into employee engagement because employers can choose to support these new habits rather than discourage them. In order to do that, you should:
Figure out how to make your systems work with mobile | THIS. IS. HUGE. Go on and get your IT and Engineering teams fired up because this is a challenge for them. If you have systems employees need to access after-hours, encourage the use of mobile apps provided by these vendors. Of course, set up your fabulous online community to be mobile friendly.
Give employees a longer leash | I take the train to work and often have to leave early to pick up my kids from school. Then I frequently work from home in the afternoons and at night. Do I take conference calls on the train? Oh yeah. Do I hold video calls when my kids are in the next room? Yes I do, even though they’ve been known to video-bomb on occasion. I need my work and my life to be integrated, not separated. My work gets done when and where I need it to.
Recognize that autonomy is key | You hired competent professionals who are awesome at what they do. Give them the freedom to choose how to get it done. Autonomy is one of the key components of employee engagement. Don’t believe me? Watch this cool video by RS Animate and Drive called “The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.”
Erase the Line Between Leaders and Employees
Do your employees know the details of the company’s annual strategy? Do they feel comfortable chatting with the vice president they meet in the hallway? It’s highly likely there is an invisible (but very real) line between your company’s employees and its leaders. Connecting execs to employees can be a pretty big challenge. After all, company leaders tend to be the busiest people around.
Try encouraging, inspiring and assisting your executives in regular personal blog posts. They should write about what is important for the company, for employees, and for themselves in a personal voice, and encourage employee comments and feedback.
If you have leaders who refuse to blog, convince them to participate in an Ask-Me-Anything session. It can start as a yearly event or quarterly if they are up for it. Develop a list of starter questions in advance and allow employees to post or send in their own questions, then provide notes and host follow-up conversations in your community.
Keep It Real and Make It Personal. Feel Something
Every interaction you have with another employee is a chance to increase engagement. Make each conversation offline or online authentic, and strive to be positive. You can do this by simply telling your story. Write a blog in your community about a team outing or your weekend activities (as long as it’s appropriate). Take the risk and put yourself out there.
Promote blogging across the company by asking new employees to post a blog after their first week of work and actively encourage them to keep writing. While it may not directly tie to the company’s bottom line, feeling personally connected to your coworkers (even the ones you’ve never met in person) is powerful.
Finally, Never Underestimate the Power of Fun
Think of the times in your life when you felt the most fully alive (or engaged) and I bet you were experiencing the phenomenon known as fun. Fun can be a tricky dance partner, especially when you attempt to bring her to work.
My advice on this one is to look to the natural cheerleaders in your company and ask for their input. Fun for your company might be an annual cubicle decorating contest for the holidays, or getting everyone together for a Bike-to-Work day, or having a summer BBQ on the roof of your building. Figure out how fun works for your employees and make it happen.
To sum it up, employee engagement comes back to one key point: people. Bringing people together, removing barriers between people, encouraging honest and open communication, and having fun! Each of these factors increases employee engagement. And using your online community for these things can put even more power behind your engagement efforts.