All too often, organizational leaders hope to cross employee engagement off the list. After all, things are going well! There’s a great platform in place. People are using the social stream and there were some good nominations for the annual award. Employee engagement? Check!
But an engagement program is a living thing, made up by the hundreds or thousands of employees who show up every day, emotions and all. And the engagement program is only as good as their day-to-day experience. Take the focus off and you risk breaking the connection you have made between individuals, their aspirations, and your business goals.It’s not always easy. When other priorities get in the way, or when market conditions make success harder to attain, it is easy to let other things take precedence.
I understand what a challenge it can be. Here at our company, I chair our recognition and engagement committee. Every member of the group takes on extra work each month to keep our program relevant and alive. We organize celebrations, seek out recognition opportunities, and all pitch in for our annual community service event – HOPE Week. We communicate to the rest of the organization frequently and keep our brand values at the front of all of our efforts. It takes energy, creativity, and the willingness to contribute to a great company culture.
Here are a few things we've learned that really make the difference:
• Every program needs a champion. Not just someone who is assigned the task of engaging employees, but someone who really understands why it’s important. • Divide and conquer. No matter how great your champion is, employees from every department and every level have something different to contribute. Involving a broad section of your organization gives credibility and perspective, and drives ownership of the program into the work community. • Leaders must walk the walk. Senior leaders must participate for the program to be seen as authentic and valued. • If you want people to know about the program, you have to tell them! Frequent, fun communications help everyone understand how and why to get involved and use the tools or platform you provide. • Check and double-check. Monitoring participation and other recognition metrics will help you adapt the program where and when needed. • It’s never done. Whatever you do, don’t cross engagement off the list! Companies with the best engagement cultures work at it constantly, like the priority it is.
With engagement, there is no finish line. But the strong social and emotional foundation you lay makes it well worth the effort, and will show itself in profitability, customer service scores, and employee retention, among many other benefits. So, when you hit your goals, keep going. The entire organization will reap the rewards.
As Vice President of Travel & Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel.