What’s the best way to make sure leadership development, employee engagement, or any other people initiative will fail?
Call it a program.
Programs are to employees with kryptonite is to Superman. They scream of formalized, over complicated initiatives that may or may not apply to the goals of the group, but must be followed to the letter. Things that are engrained in the culture aren’t called programs…they just happen.
Can you imagine (fill in the blank holiday) dinner at Mom’s being a program. No!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE SURE THAT EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT DOESN’T TURN INTO ANOTHER PROGRAM:
LINK ENGAGEMENT TO BUSINESS OUTCOMES
It is vital that employee engagement (or any people program) be linked DIRECTLY to a business or organizational goal Without that link, the idea of working on engagement will be akin to using the ab master that was bought at 2:30AM when watching an infomercial. It sounds like a great idea. Heck, it even has some science and data behind it. But no link to business goals = no long term engagement
MAKE ENGAGEMENT PART OF THE CONVERSATION ALL THE TIME
Look for any opportunity to discuss engagement or maybe (gasp) to engage people. Engagement should be at the forefront of senior leadership communication, part of the objective of every management training and the driving force of every new initiative regarding employees. Engagement once or twice a year is similar to the new year’s resolution phenomenon.
Don’t fall into that trap.
MAKE ENGAGEMENT EASY
Employee Engagement the program is a long hard slog. It starts with a survey that takes too long to fill out. Then there are reports and data that are hard to decipher and take months (and months) to see. Finally, there is some grandiose action that is to be taken based on said results that is supposed to target the “area of opportunity”. In between there is a little training for managers and a lot of hand wringing to get people to take surveys and turn in action plans. Why can’t engagement be easy?
• Keep the survey short
◦ Don’t have more than 20 questions. Large unfocused surveys make people believe the organization doesn’t really know what its asking for. Also, questions that are targeted on what is actionable by managers makes engagement real for everyone
• Get data back to managers and teams within a month or less from the time a survey is taken.
◦ Long periods of time between surveys doesn’t bode well for action. It also makes people think there is something to hide. Turn data around quickly to start the conversation
• Give managers constant training
◦ Set up training on a regular basis that managers can access new insight or tools about engagement regularly. Also, provide a forum for them to share ideas with each other.
• Make action plans living
◦ Put action plans into a system that can be updated and is easily accessible. Don’t put a lot of restrictions on them either. Let teams do what they think is best.
• Take action at the organizational level right away
◦ Use aggregate data to put new programs or enhance programs right away and link it to engagement. Its important for folks to see results right away.
What else can be done to shift employee engagement from a program? How can we make sure that it doesn’t turn into “have to”?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.