Creating an Employee Engagement Plan (that actually works)

Engaging employees has become a priority for HR departments and HR leaders in recent years. The trend started 5-10 years ago when employers started to understand the millennial generation valued more than just money. It was around that time that employers began offering non-traditional and unique benefits and placed a heavy emphasis on engaging their workforce.

Employees, particularly younger millennials and to a certain extent, Gen X’ers value being valued. So what does it mean to have employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a company culture that involves employees in the decision-making process and also considers employees when making decisions.

Employers fail to create this environment when they don’t have a plan for how to engage employees and create a culture of involvement, respect, and shared goals.

Creating an actual plan is critical to program success. Here are the must-have components of a company engagement plan.

1: Hire (and train) Exceptional Leadership that Value Employee Engagement

Getting the right people in leadership positions is crucial to developing an employee engagement plan. Organizations should start the planning process by selecting and more importantly, developing better leaders.

This task isn’t as simple as it sounds. To do this, employers must use metric-based interview materials and ask situational questions. Situational interview questions are important because you get a better representation of what the candidate will do on the job.

For example:

Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a difficult colleague

Describe a situation where you’ve received difficult or critical feedback

Describe a situation where you showed your team you valued them

Questions like these will illicit a better candidate preview than traditional interview questions. In addition to situational questions, have current employees interview the senior candidate. Otherwise known as 360 degree interviewing, this technique will show employees their opinion matters, which is a critical component in creating a culture that fosters employee engagement.

As a last must-have for the hiring process, hire senior leadership that values employee engagement. It’s easy to get buy in to a plan when they already value its merits.

After you’ve hired senior leadership you have to train them to value the engagement process. If it’s not important to you, it won’t be important to your staff or in this case, your leadership team. Provide ongoing training, support, and recommendations for ways to increase engagement amongst their team.

2. Gather Metrics

After you’ve assembled your team, you need to get metrics on your current engagement levels. How can you increase employee engagement if you don’t know what your baseline is? Simple surveys are a great way for people to give feedback that employees wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable giving you face-to-face.

Ask candid questions about their motivation, how much they enjoy their job, and if their values align with company actions. Don’t be offended at what you read. Remember, this is a starting point prior to your engagement initiatives. Take the feedback and build your plan based on your findings.

After you’ve collected your feedback via surveys, hold focus groups based on the outcomes of your surveys. If people don’t feel their feedback is valued, hold a focus group to find out how it would be best for the company to do that.

Focus groups should be focused on solutions to problems, not the problems themselves. Ask opened ended questions and have someone present to take notes or obtain permission to record the session.

3. Create an Action Plan

Here is where you put pen to paper. Take the feedback you received from gathering metrics and develop an action plan for each point brought to light. Make sure you include positives and negatives in your plan.

When addressing negative feedback, take the recommendations obtained from your focus groups and put them into action. The most common areas for improvement as it relates to employee engagement are as follows:

Employees Don’t Feel Appreciated

Lack of appreciation is one of the most common causes of employee non-engagement. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest areas to fix. In it’s simplest form, employees don’t feel appreciated when they feel their work goes unnoticed.

Saying ‘ thank you’ to your employees goes a long way and requires very little effort and cost. Some organizations have started ‘kudos’ boards for internal recognition. This is a public way to say thank you that goes even farther than a simple and individual thank you.

Employees Don’t Feel Like Their Opinion Matters

How many times have you felt this way about your own employer? You work hard but still feel your voice isn’t important. Or you have a good idea and no one takes it seriously. If you find this to be an issue at your workplace, you’re not alone. More than 70% of employers face this problem at some point. The best way to fix this issue is to include employees in the decision making process.

While not possible all the time, you can seek input to major decisions by forming voluntary employee committees and input groups. People that want to get involved can and it gives them a safe space to do so. For those employees who don’t have the time or desire to join a group, creating an employee suggestion box or other means of collecting suggestions without the time commitment of a committee is a great way to generate suggestions to better the organization.

A word of caution here – if you allow employees to participate in the decision and suggestion-making process, ensure that you have the capacity to take their feedback seriously. You’ll undermine your efforts if you never listen to proposed suggestions.

Employees Aren’t Provided with Financial Incentives

Engagement and motivation are very closely related. If employees aren’t motivated to do well, very rarely will they be engaged. Consider offering financial incentives when employees meet certain production or sales milestones. When the employee meets these goals, offer the incentive AND publically recognize the employee.

Public recognition matched with monetary incentive is one of the best ways to simultaneously increase engagement and motivation.

Lastly, don’t forget to amplify the positive feedback you receive. All companies can do better. If you’re told you’re doing right, build up or increase funding for the areas you’ve received compliments on. That in of itself is listening to employee feedback, which fosters an increase in employee engagement.

Thank you for reading our article on how to create an engagement plan!

Each company is different but with proper planning, creating an employee engagement plan will ensure your company is keeping up with the increasing demand for an engaged workforce. 

Kimberly Marek