5 practical ways to increase employee engagement

October 2014

Insync Surveys has helped hundreds of organisations to measure and improve their employee engagement. Our Employee Engagement Survey and employee Alignment and Engagement Survey both not only include the crucial measures of the extent that employees are engaged but also measure what our research has shown to be the main "drivers" of employee engagement. Drivers are a bit like levers that can be pulled to bring about positive change in employee engagement scores. Based on our regression analysis, improvements in the following drivers have been shown to have the greatest impact on improving employee engagement.

The main drivers of engagement are:

1. Senior leaders live their organisation's vision and values
2. Roles and actions are linked to the organisation's main goals
3. Build a high performance culture
4. Use the skills and talents of individuals
5. Genuinely care for and support your employees

Examples of what successful organisations have done to increase employee engagement in each of these five areas are set out below. These examples are not exhaustive. Also they won't necessarily be relevant to all organisations all the time but they can act as a useful source of inspiration and ideas.

1. Senior leaders live their organisation's vision and values

  • Ensure the organisation's vision is articulated clearly and in a way that will be inspiring and have meaning and purpose for employees beyond the desire to simply achieve a greater financial return
  • The leadership team should develop a consistent and compelling narrative as to why the vision is so important and the main things that need to occur for it to be achieved. They should regularly share that narrative with employees
  • The CEO and leadership team should regularly refer to the vision, strategy and values in organisation-wide emails, newsletters, presentations and meetings. They should also explain the link between the vision, strategy and values
  • Importantly, the CEO and leadership team need to walk the talk and be great exemplars of the values and related behaviours; they need to hold each other to account and should be open to their employees holding them to account as well
  • Review your values every few years or so to ensure they support and align with your organisation's vision, purpose and strategy; explain that alignment to employees
  • Build your values from the bottom up to ensure buy in; involve employees in defining the behaviours that make up each value
  • Ask all employees to sign up to your values symbolically after they have successfully completed their probationary period e.g. signing a flag on each of your organisation's values

2. Roles and actions are linked to the organisation's main goals

  • Where possible, set out the link between each person's role and the organisation's vision and main goals. Each of the employees of NASA in the 1960s knew how their role would help put a man on the moon
  • Leaders and line managers should continually discuss and explain the link from the main plans, projects and decisions to the organisation's vision and main goals
  • Help employees understand how their actions and the actions of others are aligned with the organisation's main goals - and how the organisation's main goals will only be achieved if they do their jobs well
  • Ensure that the organisation's incentive plans are consistent with the organisation's main goals and values - not in conflict with them. Also ensure that the incentive plans appropriately balance risk and reward. Many pre-GFC incentive plans exposed organisations (not the employees) to inappropriate risks
  • Where possible, link each function to your organisation's purpose, customer and/or stakeholder value proposition e.g. call centre operators get a real sense of fulfilment when they have the capacity and authority to solve clients' problems

3. Build a high performance culture

  • Clearly define what high performance looks like in your organisation. Build this definition from the bottom up to ensure buy in
  • Further define what high performance looks like within each division/function. Ensure the links to the broader organisational definition are clear. Again build this definition from the bottom up
  • Review recognition programs to ensure that the right behaviours are recognised and rewarded throughout your organisation
  • Ensure that continuous improvement is a part of your organisation's culture and DNA. This includes learning lessons from mistakes; ensure continuous improvement is an important component of one of your pillars to success
  • Set challenging goals to help increase performance; don't let satisfaction with good performance hold you back from achieving great performance
  • Ensure that individuals are appropriately recognised, rewarded and thanked for their contribution

4. Use individual skills and talents to their full potential

  • Identify your high potential employees and stretch them with challenging assignments, including inter-department, interstate or overseas postings
  • Actively encourage employees to come forward with new ideas, innovative suggestions and process improvements; ensure you have a process to deal well with those ideas and suggestions
  • Line managers to provide employees with opportunities to build on their existing expertise, skills and to challenge themselves. Don't under-rate on-the-job development
  • Train line managers to have authentic two way conversations with employees where they are encouraged to seek feedback on what they need from their manager to be more fulfilled and effective in their role
  • Ensure line managers have the right tools and skills to identify employee strengths and to better manage employee performance and career progression

5. Genuinely care for and support your employees

  • Explain both the "what" and "why" of decisions - the "why" is frequently missing from important communications
  • Challenge your senior leaders to build authentic relationships and do the "people stuff" well - encourage them to take the time to stop and have short conversations with every person they pass this week
  • Start a "person of the month or the quarter" recognition award for employees who have lived the values of the organisation
  • Respect individuals' differences and build an inclusive culture that allows employees to be themselves at work
  • Build a feedback system to ensure you are hearing from and listening to the concerns of junior employees
  • Build trust demonstrating consistency in words and actions. Act in an authentic way; don't try to fool your employees as they will notice and your efforts will back-fire

heading_other updates

New book: 7 Business Habits That Drive High Performance

New research: Gender-biased hiring decisions

Genuinely care - don't be fake

Taking your board from good to great

Prominent business leaders reflect on the 7 Habits