Employee engagement has become one of the biggest factors in the management practices of organisations that are seeking to improve their performance and productivity. Since the 1990s, study after study has revealed that making the effort in employee engagement practices yields measurable results.
As the research has developed, the terms within employee engagement have become nuanced. Job satisfaction, which some companies measure, is not the same as engagement, which looks more at the passion or bond that employees have for their work and employer. Both are relevant, so it is important to decide which employee engagement strategy examples and models will work for the mutual benefit of the workforce and the company.
Developing an employee engagement strategy
If your organisation has turned its attention to staff engagement to secure benefits for it and its workforce, an employee engagement strategy will be required to act as a framework for your employee engagement ideas and action points. This should be designed to:
- Set out the objectives of the strategy, based on the aspects of relevant employee engagement theory
- Establish a 'baseline' within the workforce in terms of engagement, motivation and satisfaction
- Plan out a set of activities and actions to increase engagement with the workforce
- Measure outcomes, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The details behind employee engagement strategies can be difficult to ascertain when dealing with soft measures such as positive attitudes and connections. While there are challenges, all of the research emphasises the importance of people analytics. They may not be perfect, but committing to a variety of methods (such as online surveys, focus groups and team discussions) gives more accurate results - which can then be used to refine the strategy further.
Staff engagement strategies: research counts
An effective engagement strategy requires two pieces of research: one on engagement models; and one on the characteristics of the workforce. These will provide vital data to inform employee engagement strategy ideas and content.
There are many definitions of employee engagement, and so there are just as many solutions and engagement strategies available to organisations. Business leaders should look at the research available - from models on job satisfaction through to those on individual psychology - and retrieve what is relevant to prepare strategies to raise levels of employee engagement.
Of course, each organisation's workforce will be unique, which is why it is so important to understand its characteristics. Hard data can be retrieved from employee engagement survey results on job satisfaction, motivation, working relationships and what is meaningful to people in their jobs and careers.
The influence of the wider environment
No business strategy operates in a vacuum; it adapts to changing circumstances within and outside the organisation. Research by Alfes at el in a UK services sector company found that the wider organisational climate is an important factor in employee engagement strategies and the positive behaviours that employers want (The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Volume 23, Issue 2, 2013).
In 2020, some emerging factors have affected current thinking on employee engagement tools and techniques:
#1 The social technology culture
Whether this is good or bad, our desire to access information easily is here to stay, and this has implications for how companies engage with their employees. According to a snapshot undertaken by the Office for National Statistics in May 2019 in the UK, use a smartphone to get online when out and about. Tools such as an employee engagement app can be used to engage with employees in a way that is familiar to them.
#2 A multi-generational workforce
With people working for longer, organisations face an increasing challenge of motivating employees from different generations. Each generation is motivated by different things so a more sophisticated and all inclusive employee listening strategy is needed to make sure that sections of the workforce are not left behind.
#3 Wellbeing and engagement
Research done by the likes of Shuck and Reio (Employee Engagement and Well-Being: A Moderation Model and Implications for Practice, Vol 21 Issue 1 2014, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies) suggest that highly engaged employees also have a better sense of wellbeing, both of which are influenced by the psychological culture in the workplace.
The best employee engagement strategy plan is tailored
Using information about the organisation, the workforce and the business environment allows you to prepare a bespoke engagement strategy. An article on effective strategies on the website of Engage For Success, a voluntary employee engagement movement in the UK, suggests that organisations need to produce initiatives to improve employee engagement that focus on individuals and teams.
This level of detail allows an action plan derived from the strategy to have varying priorities. For example, analysis may suggest that the top issue is that employees like their jobs but don't really understand how they contribute to their employer's success. A prioritised action point could therefore revolve around messaging on the company's key objectives, followed by team meetings to discuss how people contribute to organisational success.
Technology in engagement strategy
If people are so attached to going online and using social media, there should be a way for their employers to use this attachment in the 'inform and engage' elements of their strategies. While face-to-face working relationships are still very important, delivering on part of a company's strategy will be much quicker if online routes are made available. This is why an employee engagement communications strategy is so important. Technology like an employee engagement platform will assist in the speed of communications in a way that resonates with a high proportion of the workforce.
An equally vital part of HR strategies to raise levels of employee engagement also involves accurate measurement of engagement levels before and after the action plan is carried out. In using the right IT, the opportunities to get things right and adapt where required will increase. Using technology to gather people metrics and evaluate throughout the strategy will ensure that what is being done is the right fit for that particular organisation's situation and needs. Strategies to implement employee engagement improvements have to be that sophisticated to improve performance and get bottom line results.