Heather Foley explains why engaging people is important and how you can get it right.
If Kirsty Young were to cast me away to a desert island, I couldn’t imagine going alone. I’d be stuffing my family into a suitcase whilst her back was turned. And a business should think in much the same way. No matter how great your product is, how sleekly you provide a service, if you don’t value your people, then it may all crumble from under you.
As well as being a company’s greatest asset, people are also usually the most expensive one. It’s critical to get the most you can from your people, and a key way to achieving this is by ensuring that they are engaged.
There have been countless studies linking happiness to performance, but it’s just plain common sense that satisfied, fulfilled employees yield better results. Thus, it makes perfect business sense to focus on understanding how engaged your employees currently are and what you can do to increase their engagement.
Make it a priority
Any attempts at improving engagement will fail unless there is genuine commitment from the company’s leadership. Invest time helping those in management positions to understand the benefits of focusing on engagement and the pitfalls of not giving it any attention.
It’s counter-productive to start this type of initiative if you abandon it part-way through. It would be better to wait until everyone is genuinely committed to it.
A good place to start is an analysis of the current situation. The ideal business tool for this is an employee or engagement survey. In implementing this, there are some key areas for consideration. Take a good look at the questions you will be putting to your employees. A questionnaire needs to be applicable to your business and people and clearly focused on your objectives.
Using technology is a good way to keep costs down. Surveys can be conducted online and most employees prefer this approach. You may also find that there is a greater take-up as employees will find it easier and quicker to complete an online questionnaire. It’s also anonymous and you should be able to get the results quickly.
Identify what needs doing
When you receive the results you will need to analyse them. At a simple level, you’ll be able to analyse which issues are scoring positively and which are scoring negatively. You’ll also want to see if the scores differ across different teams or departments in the business. For example, you may find the sales team feels that communication in the company is good, whereas the finance team thinks it’s poor.
If time and funds permit, it’s worth employing expert consultants to help with the analysis, as it can become very sophisticated. Such experts should provide insights into how other companies perform and even show you advanced statistics (e.g. regression analysis) to pinpoint which issues most affect engagement, as these are not always the low-scoring questions.
Act upon it
When you have identified which areas need addressing in your business, you need to plan a clear course of action. If communication has been identified as an issue, you’ll need to explore different methods of liaising with your staff. If customer service is a problem, then it may be necessary to look at revisiting employee training. Above all, action needs to be taken to address problems. If you do nothing, people may feel demoralised that they gave their opinions, only to be ignored.
Be clear in feeding the results of the survey back to your employees. However, you also need to include details of your plan of action and any progress you’ve made so far. If you continue to do this throughout the year, you’ll notice an increase in engagement.
People feel valued when listened to and feel satisfied that, although there are issues that need addressing, an action plan is in place. It’s a guarantee that their voices have been heard and positive change is afoot.
Sadly, this is not a one-off exercise. People change, times change and needs change. To keep engagement high you need to continue measuring it and taking steps to improve it.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a company full of energised people who care deeply about what they do, and it’s only by knowing that they are valued that such employees become truly engaged.
Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, a UK-based HR consultancy.