Engaging Employees – Through Team-Based Goals and Action Plans
The goal of an employee engagement survey should always be to take meaningful action from the results. But sometimes “how you get there” may need to shift and adapt to the organization’s current conditions, future needs and appetite.
We know from both experience and research that employee engagement matters to a company’s bottom line. Whereas disengagement fosters lower productivity and higher employee turnover, engagement has the opposite effect. Engaged employees work harder and are more committed to their organization’s strategy and future health. Savvy companies keep a close eye on how engaged their employees are by monitoring engagement frequently through surveys and other measures of employee satisfaction (retention, discretionary effort, productivity and manager observation).
We also know that far too few companies have learned how to fully implement the actions suggested by their employee engagement survey results…and this despite their commitment to make meaningful changes as a result of the findings. There is a serious lack of follow-up.
Sometimes, however, there is a quasi-legitimate excuse for stalling the follow-up plan—a crisis or major change affecting the organization that necessarily puts everything on hold. It could be a sudden downturn in the economy, an unexpected loss of a key leader, a new competitive offering that makes yours obsolete, or a pending merger. Is there a way to move forward to engage employees without a huge investment of time and money?
One way to take advantage of the engagement survey results is to funnel the findings back to the relevant leaders and managers. Instead of launching company-wide engagement initiatives, the improvements can be handled on a smaller and more localized scale. Here is how this more focused approach to implementing employee engagement survey results can work:
- Analyze the results team by team and sort the data by manager so you have a clear idea of which teams are more engaged (and by how much) than others.
- Meet with the managers of low-scoring teams to report the findings and look at ways to improve. There could be multiple reasons for the disengagement from mis-management (lack of clear expectations, lack of trust, poorly managed performance, poorly assigned roles, lack of accountability, etc.) to systems and procedures that do not support people as a valuable resource. Work together to design an action plan to address the identified issues and set up a follow-up schedule to check on progress. You may even plan a re-take of the survey after six months to check in with the team workers to see that the progress is making a difference to them.
- Meet with the managers of high-scoring teams to ask them to identify best practices. Work with them to come up with the critical few factors they consider most important. Share these findings company-wide.
- Meet with the managers who scored in the middle. Share best practices with them and pair them up with the high-scoring managers so they can be coached to improve their employees’ engagement.
- In all cases, the employee engagement survey results should be shared by managers with their teams. Team members should be encouraged to offer their own ideas for improvement. They will then be part of the action plan and will see that steps are being taken as promised.
Does this plan sound like a “cop out” for corporate leadership? Not if they do it right. Their goal is still higher levels of employee engagement and performance. There will still be meaningful actions to be taken. But those actions will be targeted to the teams that need the most help and will leverage best practices across the teams so all can truly benefit. In other words, managers are empowered to make the difference. Action is at the team level rather than at the organization-wide level.