How to improve employee engagement: A complete guide to a sustainable employee engagement action plan

Barnali Nandi Mazumder
7 min read
Sustaining employee engagement for organizational success.

The modern workplace has undergone many changes in the last few decades. Managers no longer have complete and irrevocable control over individuals or teams anymore. The new narrative portrays the employee as the hero of the story which has given rise to employee-centric or employee-first workplaces where employees have a say in all their matters unlike before.

Of course, this transformation is still undergoing as change is never constant. Not all workplaces throughout the world have adopted the new change with open arms. Rather, most of these changes leading to employee-centric workplaces have either been forced or out of lack of option. The best example to explain this is the pandemic obviously.

The majority of the offices throughout the world did not believe in remote working or did not have work-from-home policies earlier but the pandemic changed that completely. In fact, experts say that the pandemic acted as a catalyst in making organizations more flexible and empathetic than before.

But it’s not fair to wait for another pandemic before Mr. Bing can shape a full-fledged employee-centric organization where employee engagement is an important goal.

Employee engagement isn’t just asking HR to plan a team lunch or team outing on a weekend where employees leave their families behind to meet their colleagues before meeting them again on Monday. Defining employee engagement by limiting it to forced team activities is the biggest misconception that many bosses like Mr. Bing have.

What is employee engagement if not team activities?

Engagement goes beyond team activities.

Well, employee engagement is a very broad term and it has multiple facets. Of course, it includes team activities to strengthen team bonding but there are other emotional, personal aspects to it. To define employee engagement loosely, it is the combination of satisfaction, wellness, happiness, and motivation that employees feel while working in an organization.

The challenge with this definition is that everyone’s idea of achieving satisfaction, wellness, happiness, and motivation in their organization varies. If you are looking to understand employee engagement in-depth, you can look it up here.

Coming back, for an organization, the main point of employee engagement is to improve the productivity of the workforce. Leaders try to come up with different ways to achieve this. This is because higher productivity leads to weeding out the industry's competitors.

This can be achieved when the top performers as well as the mediocre performers align with the company goal, fit in the company culture, and are driven to grow in all aspects with the company as well as personally.

These are the factors that determine growth and innovation in an organization. So, we can say that the above-mentioned factors are dependent on each other. When an employee grows, the company grows too. But creating the right environment for the employees, making it easy for them to grow and innovate in the organization is not an easy feat.

In fact, retaining top talent is a major problem that most leaders face, irrespective of their experience. And this is where employee engagement as a strategy comes into play.

Is sustainable employee engagement possible?

Leaders and HRs must come together to make sure that their employee engagement is a continuous process, helping everyone in the company grow. Employee engagement cannot be a one-time event but should be ingrained in the company culture and policies.

To be specific, employee engagement is an experience that has to be continuously drawn out from the employees in a seamless fashion. Employee engagement should be sustainable in the sense that it should become a part of the organization’s very ecosystem.

The best way to understand this is by referring to Towers Watson’s 2012 Global Workforce Study where they point out the importance of sustainable employee engagement strategies in organizations. Towers Watson mentions in the study that the steps that an organization takes at the beginning of a year begin to fall short in a couple of months because they were limited to activities or events solely.

He suggests that to improve the engagement in an organization in a sustainable manner, leaders must understand three factors. These three factors that determine the sustainability of employee engagement in an organization are as follows:

  • Engaged: This refers to how engaged are employees while committed to achieving organizational goals and objectives, whether they feel an emotional connection with the organization and will recommend it as a good workplace, and their willingness to walk the extra mile in difficult times.
  • Enabled: The organizational environment must support all its employees in multiple right ways so that they can work productively. Employees must have the right resources at their disposal to work effectively and meet the challenges with the right support system from the leaders and peers.
  • Energized: The organization must promote the holistic well-being of its employees so that they can lead balanced lives without feeling burnt out. Recognition by the leaders and managers along with a positive social network are important aspects of how energetic employees feel in an organization.

Towers Watson used nine survey questions to understand how the three factors of being engaged, enabled, and energized impacted employees and then divided them into the following categories:

  • Highly engaged
  • Unsupported
  • Detached
  • Disengaged

Dividing employees into these categories helps leaders narrow down the core issues in the organization and identify the employees struggling with the current environment or culture.

How to enforce a sustainable employee engagement strategy?

As we mentioned before, company culture and policies definitely play an important role in establishing sustainable employee engagement in an organization. But these aren’t all. Every single aspect of an organization plays a role in shaping a sustainable employee engagement strategy in an organization.

The thing is when leaders do not dig deep before making changes in their organizations, they often end up being disastrous. Strategy requires thorough research in respect to the particular organization and workforce in view because every organization and employee has different needs and objectives.

Take a look at the following points while coming up with a sustainable employee engagement plan for your organization:

Focus on management style

Leaders play an important role in an employee’s work life. When we talk about leaders we mean leaders at every stage. It could mean immediate reporting managers or managing directors. And everyone’s leadership and management styles are different. It’s not wrong when they say people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.

Due to this, organizations must invest in training their leaders to constantly upscale their managerial and leadership skills by conducting empathy training sessions for leaders or evaluating managerial effectiveness through one-on-one discussions with team members at regular intervals.

Act on employee feedback

We all need feedback to keep improving ourselves. This is true for all employees, irrespective of their experience level. A fresher will need close mentoring because they still need to learn the industry practices while those with a couple of years in their pockets might look for directions or brainstorming sessions.

While most diligent leaders try to follow these steps from time to time, it’s easy to miss out. The other side to this is that leaders aren’t always right and need constant feedback from their team members too. However, this becomes quite difficult in some organizations perhaps due to the company culture or poor inter-team relationships.

This is when anonymous feedback comes into play. Employees find it easier to share unfiltered feedback only when they are certain of their anonymity. Employee engagement tools like CultureMonkey help this by encouraging leaders to initiate private conversations with their employees when an issue is brought to light.

Additional collaborators can be added to the discussion as they try to solve the issue when required. When employees know they are being heard, it becomes easier for them to be a part of the organization and become highly engaged.

Personalize engagement actions

From the above points, we know that both leaders and employers vary from one another. Neither do their leadership styles match nor do their working style. As every single person is their unique sample, so they must be dealt with uniquely too.

Personalize engagement for individual employees

Smaller organizations or startups do not often have hierarchical administrations. In some cases, the founder of a company has to oversee every department which can often lead to overlaps and miscommunication due to the sheer volume of work. In such situations, leaders need a little guidance.

Employee engagement platforms like CultureMonkey helps leaders by sending them detailed and personalized engagement actions every month. So, instead of implementing one action plan for everyone in the organization, CultureMonkey helps leaders take charge and work on their action plan as per their specific issues.

CultureMonkey’s personalized action reports help each leader or manager understand themselves as well as their team’s performance over time. The platform also helps identify every manager’s impactful action and then recommends the same to leaders or managers of other teams thus improving the overall performance of the organization.

These are a few steps to keep in mind while rolling out your new sustainable employee engagement strategy. It is important to point out here that employee engagement platforms do make a leader’s job easier. The goal is to approach the subject from every direction so that a holistic strategy comes into place.

Remember that employees are your true assets. A company is nothing but a small ecosystem with varied flora and fauna and the objective is to keep thriving by celebrating the differences.

Barnali Nandi Mazumder

Barnali Nandi Mazumder