Employee engagement is an often-discussed subject in businesses across the world, but it can be very difficult to deliver it within workforces that are large and/or working across a number of locations. As employee engagement itself is a complex phenomenon, employee engagement best practices demand that organisations combine flexible communications channels, a tailored employee engagement strategy and a limited number of key priorities to deliver engagement initiatives to large numbers of people.
There is a lot of research on best practices for employee engagement, based on a variety of models ranging from Kahn's dimensions of employee engagement to job design. However, there are a number of fundamental employee engagement factors that are mentioned time and time again:
making sure that employees understand what they are working towards
encouraging the alignment of employee values with company values
giving employees real opportunities to have their say and influence the way things are done.
The challenge lies in delivering these 3 'V's of best practice to diverse and often hard to reach workforces. Digital solutions such as an employee engagement app can overcome many practical barriers - such as employees being on different shifts or in different locations - and support the right combination of employee engagement practices within companies.
Using Vision in Employee Engagement Practices
Communicating organisational vision to employees is the foundation upon which other best HR practices for employee engagement can be built. When employees are located across different sites or have little contact with a company's Head Office, they often feel disconnected from the overall purpose of the organisation. It is essential to combat this in order to increase employee engagement.
There is evidence to suggest that a shared vision sets a clear direction of travel for employees. Engage For Success, a key UK voluntary organisation that supports employee engagement practices, states that a best practices employee engagement plan involves sharing an understanding of the organisation's purpose and objectives.
Employee engagement best practices require communicating of the company's vision well, followed by managers setting individual and team goals that link employees' daily tasks to strategic aims.
One way to start this type of employee engagement is to ensure that the company's vision statement has the power to motivate employees to make that additional effort. An effective vision statement has a clear alignment to the company's culture and is born from the company's values and goals.
Values in Best Employee Engagement Practices
Best practice in employee engagement involves leaders demonstrating the organisation's values to motivate and empower their workers. According to the Chartered Management Institute, the keys to employee engagement are communications, trust and empowerment.
If business leaders live the values, their employees will follow. Organisations can communicate and engage with employees on values in a number of ways:
- Publishing the company's values in a variety of ways - in recruitment materials, on the company intranet and via employee discussion boards
- Encouraging managers to emphasise values during employee probationary periods to lay the foundations on how to engage employees from the start
- Issuing posters or charts (hard copy and digital) that create a visual representation of the company's values
- Broadcasting videos and podcasts made by senior managers that put the values front and centre
- Using values for the basis of the organisation's performance management and recognition systems.
How Voice Creates the Best Employee Engagement Practices
ACAS notes in its guidance on employee engagement that effective employee voice is one of the key 'ingredients' in achieving a productive and motivated workforce. It argues - not unreasonably - that the staff who are actually doing the work know best what works and what doesn't. Best practice involves the capturing of that expertise, preferably through an easy route such as an employee engagement survey, to improve and innovate.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development defines employee voice as 'the ability of employees to express their views, opinions, concerns and suggestions, and for those to influence decisions at work' in its 18 September 2017 report 'Have your say: alternative forms of workplace voice'. The second part of that definition is the part that sometimes falls by the wayside. Organisations that listen but don't act are not fully committing to best practice employee engagement.
In addition, employee voice also taps into psychological states such as positivity, energy and personal investment. Giving employees a say will increase sense of self-worth, leading to more confident decision making and appropriate risk taking to reap higher rewards.
Trade unions can play an important role in increasing employee voice, but other avenues are often needed to get the full picture from employees. For example, the growth of social technology is offering companies additional user-friendly two-way routes for effective communication. A great employee engagement platform can deliver best practice in employee voice as follows:
- Safe and confidential paths for employees to raise concerns, including making complaints and whistleblowing
- Using those paths to encourage a culture where employees feel confident to speak up
- Creating a space for suggestions and ideas, which in turn are assessed and celebrated
- Giving employers easy routes to feed back and demonstrate that they are acting on employee contributions.
Employee Engagement Best Practices: Measures Matter
The final element of a best practice employee engagement strategy is evaluation. Without a clear system of monitoring and measurement, there is no way to know that the company's employee engagement objectives are being met. Again, technology can remove many of the headaches associated with employee engagement evaluation.
Human resources analytics are growing in importance, and digital options reduce the need to arrange large numbers of group meetings to receive feedback and gauge success. A good array of analytics should include dashboards, reports and polls. For example, an employee engagement survey best practices tool will provide data on the results that the initiatives on vision, values and voice have yielded.
By investing in reliable evaluation methods, companies can review the results of their efforts and flex their priorities in light of that feedback to increase their employee engagement levels. After all, an effective strategy is not static; it always requires careful attention and review to optimise employee engagement and motivation.