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Employee engagement strategy: key questions to answer

Published 4th January 2017 by Melissa Farrington

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is not about attitudes towards work, emotional commitment or satisfaction.

The key thing to understand is that employees need something tangible to be engaged with. It’s not enough to engage them ‘with work’ or ‘with the organisation.’

So what should you engage people with and how should you go about it? Well, the answer to this question is an employee engagement strategy.

Below we’ve come up with three intermediate questions that will help you start thinking about an engagement strategy for your organisation.

Employee engagement strategy: three questions to start you off

Question 1: What is currently important to the organisation/senior leaders and has the political will behind it to get sufficient buy-in for an engagement programme?

This question is about organisational priorities and finding an area the organisation thinks is important enough to be the driving force behind an engagement initiative.

Imagine you’re a manufacturing firm: your products might be of lower quality than a competitor, causing you to lose market share. There’s an organisational imperative to improve product quality.

Part of this could be buying better raw materials. But you won’t create better products just by improving the raw materials.

The key thing to understand is that employees need something tangible to be engaged with.

There’s the human side: how can staff contribute to creating the very best products on the market? This sounds like a great opportunity for an engagement strategy because the goal is clear and backed by the organisation.

Question 2: How can you make it clear to employees a) why it’s important and b) what action they need to take?

If you’re trying to drum up enthusiasm for taking action (which is what engagement essentially is), people must get why the organisation is focusing on this particular area. There has to be a need, not just a want.

You need to share pertinent information, so in the example of the manufacturing organisation, it must be clear what the consequences of poor products on the market will be. Not just a loss in sales but all the human elements, such as unsatisfied customers or potential redundancies.

You also need to understand your audience so you can engage them in the right way. In our manufacturing company above, for example, design staff may look aghast when you point out how a design flaw is costing the business money, but this may not resonate with the customer service team.

Finally, you must make it clear what everyone can do to move the dial, because once you’ve engaged them with the problem, you then need to identify and highlight the levers they can pull to impact results.

Question 3: How can you measure whether the initiative has been a success?

If an initiative is serious enough to get senior leader attention, there must be a way to measure it to show that progress has been made. If you can prove the success of an engagement programme, you’re more likely to get the budget in future.

There are two crucial steps here: first is establishing the success criteria from the outset.

In the manufacturing example above, core metrics could be to sell more products, reduce the number of complaints and increase market share.

In each team you’ll have more specific goals, such as improving design features or providing better customer service to improve the overall product.

And don’t forget: it’s much better to underpromise and overdeliver when discussing what will be achieved.

Ultimately, coming up with an engagement strategy isn’t rocket science but you need to be clear what the organisation is trying to achieve, how each person contributes and how you can get their buy-in, and what success looks like for the project.