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How to engage employees successfully

Matt Manners

Although there are many ways to run an engagement programme, there is one common denominator in those that succeed – the leadership must believe that engaged employees are good for the organisation.

This question is like asking, someone “What is the meaning of life?” There will be a different answer from everyone you ask.

Having reviewed some of the best and worst employee engagement programmes across the world, I have tried to distill some key truths.

What it isn’t

  1. An annual employee engagement Survey – this is an oxymoron. How is doing anything just once a year engaging?
  2. A ‘warm and cuddly’ initiative that can start and stop – Engagement is business critical not fluff. It delivers competitive advantage and must be continuous like all other critical activities.  

Where to begin

  1. Listening – whilst knocking the survey above, surveys do have their place but on a regular basis. Listening is a vital first step to engagement – Thinking you know best is a recipe for disaster
  2. Involving, not telling – Having listened, prove you’ve listened and that you value the feedback by involving employees in making improvements to the business.

How will it succeed?

  1. Communicating your purpose – Getting your staff to connect to the purpose of the business is vital. It’s something they want and will value
  2. Connecting it to business value– So many employee engagement metrics exist in isolation of actual business results – or the impact on people.  Connect engagement to business performance so the boardroom listens and invests. Will a CEO care if employee advocacy is up if it doesn’t lead to an improvement in key business metrics like customer advocacy or revenue?
  3. Ensure that every line manager gets people engaged – Programmes that don’t have the buy-in of line managers rarely succeed because messages get confused. Employees buy-in one at a time and line managers can provide the transparency needed for employees to connect to a common purpose and feel part of an engaged and energised team.
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