9 Best Practices for Employee Engagement Initiatives

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A successful employee engagement initiative can make lasting and effective changes in the workplace.

Here are nine (9) best practices for your employee engagement initiatives. 

Collect data.

Conduct a regular employee engagement survey either every year or every other year. Organizations that consistently measure and track how well they are engaging employees are better able to assess areas of strength and opportunity in their workplaces to impact engagement. Most organizations that evaluate employee engagement survey employees at least every other year. If your organization is smaller, it may consider conducting a more informal benchmark for employee engagement such as interviews or one-on-one meetings.

Seek an external comparison.

Benchmark how well your workplace practices compare to other organizations. An external comparison is as important as an internal benchmark. You’ll need to know how your organization’s practices relative to engaging employees stack up against other organizations, particularly with those you are competing for talent. Market surveys, great workplace programs, and other audits can all provide helpful external benchmark information. Some organizations that conduct employee engagement surveys also provide normative comparisons.

Identify overall drivers.

Know the drivers of employee engagement at your organization. Drivers are simply those aspects that are most commonly and significantly driving employee engagement either up or down at your organization. There are many different facets of the workplace experience that influence engagement to varying degrees, but your resources and time are limited so you need to know which aspects are most important. By identifying the true drivers of engagement for your organization, you can focus your efforts on the things that matter most to your workforce and top people. A good employee engagement strategy is all about targeting the right things – not everything.

Identify individual drivers.

Many engagement initiatives fall short of identifying individual drivers of employee engagement - largely because this responsibility should fall on managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors need to find out what engages each of their employees, and particularly their top people, through observation and conversations. These insights can be gleaned through day to day interactions, performance management, and communication. However, most managers and supervisors just aren’t attuned or trained to recognize what engagement is and why it matters. Your responsibility is to ensure that they have the right skills and resources to positively impact engagement.

Keep it relatively simple.

Scoring which is difficult to understand or results that includes too many segments or breakouts of data can detract from obtaining value in the process. If you conduct engagement surveys, make sure the scoring can be easily understood by those interpreting the results. Also, keep data segments and breakouts to a minimum so that the initiative does not become about “fixing” certain people, departments, or areas of business, but rather improving the engagement of employees.

Meet and discuss engagement with your leaders.

Once a survey, feedback, and/or benchmarking initiative had been conducted to evaluate employee engagement and how you compare internally and externally, it’s important to meet and discuss the results with your leaders. This ensures that engagement is seen as part of the larger business strategy and receives support. Key tips for creating this dialogue include: create an executive summary to help them digest the information obtained, tie the results back to issues of importance to them (business strategy, etc.), back your points with data and numbers, and provide recommendations for how to improve engagement. Another way you can make the results meaningful to your leaders is by providing segments of information that are important to them – such as engagement scores by the business’ divisions. The most successful engagement projects we’ve seen are those that are conducted with leadership support and participation from initial communications and analysis of the results to action planning.

Set goals aligned with employee engagement.

Having an employee engagement-focused strategy can help you set goals for your department and organization. Common goals that impact employee engagement include increasing employee engagement scores by a certain percentage, reducing voluntary turnover, enhancing communications effectiveness, increasing development opportunities, or even impacting the bottom line. Whatever these goals may be, they should be in line with the drivers of engagement and the areas of need. In turn, you should be able to tie these goals back to the larger business strategy. Be able to address why each goal is important to the business’ direction to gain support.

Create action plans, on-going conversations, forums, and follow-up.

Once you’ve set goals to improve employee engagement, create action plans to impact those goals.  We find that there tends to be a great deal of momentum initially right after an engagement survey that can become lost over time. To ensure that your goals are met and receive the support they need to be successful, create action plans with specific timetables, roles, and accountabilities. Additionally, if employee engagement is truly an important organizational initiative, it should permeate your organization and drive the actions of HR, managers, and leaders. Many organizations have on-going conversations and forums to discuss employee engagement and keep going back to the survey data.

Implement changes.

Lastly, implementing changes in an employee engagement initiative is crucial. Your organization should follow-up on the areas needing improvement either through direct change or acknowledgement of employees’ feedback, especially prior to surveying them in the future. If you plan to ask employees for their feedback – be prepared to respond because not making changes can lead to negative effects. It’s always a good practice to make any small changes quickly and to save the larger changes for later.

Additional Resources

Employee Engagement Surveys
ERC’s services are used by many local employers to gauge their employees’ engagement, identify drivers of engagement, benchmark scores to other local organizations, and help you translate the data into real, actionable changes. Click here to learn more.

NorthCoast 99
Benchmark how your organization’s workplace practices surrounding the attraction, retention, and engagement of employees compare to other employers by applying for the NorthCoast 99 award. All applicants receive free benchmark reports just for applying. 

Supervisory/Managerial Training
Are your supervisors and managers equipped to engage employees? Give them the right skills and competencies to impact engagement. Click here to learn more.

Employers' Use of On-Site Sales Training Rises from 2010

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A 2011 survey shows that U.S. employers increased their use of on-site sales training from the previous year. The percentage of employers using on-site classroom training also slightly increased from 2010.

“Although the survey shows that employers are continuing to teach sales skills and techniques on-the job, we’re also seeing increased usage of outside training for sales professionals, including on-site classroom instruction and seminars,” says an ERC Sales Trainer & Consultant.

The Trainer & Consultant adds, “These methods of training are invaluable in helping sales professionals learn and practice different sales techniques like identifying needs, closing sales, and building relationships, and also support and compliment on-the-job sales training programs. In addition, skills coaching, delivered either one-on-one or in small groups, is another effective avenue for sales professionals to refine their skills and help ensure that on-the-job training translates into results.”

For more information on ERC On-Site Sales Training or Skills Coaching, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com

5 Secrets to a Becoming a Better Workplace

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Why do some organizations receive more qualified job applicants? Have more positive work environments? Experience lower turnover? Enjoy higher employee engagement? Develop more innovative products? Here are five (5) of their top secrets.

Secret 1: Create an open environment

Great places to work create a sense of openness in their workplaces – openness to new experiences, continuous improvement, sharing of information, and creative thought. This openness is created through transparent, direct, and honest communication at all levels of the organization. Leaders communicate information and feedback frequently and sincerely. Little information is held back from employees, and employees constantly have access to information about the organization’s performance and direction and the ability to ask questions about the organization at any time. Similarly, managers and supervisors provide frequent feedback and communicate directly and honestly with their employees. All levels of employees, particularly non-management staff, are encouraged to voice their ideas and opinions. These practices facilitate an open dialogue throughout the organization.

Secret 2: Develop and maintain trust

A strong sense of trust is prevalent at great places to work and is built on positive and constructive work relationships. Most importantly, there is a sense of trust in leaders and their ability to lead the organization successfully. Employees have faith that their leaders will sustain and grow the organization and develop a clear vision and direction for the business. To build this trust, leaders frequently engage and interact with employees, develop a history of good decisions that move the organization forward, model organizational values, and consistently “walk the talk” by delivering on promises and commitments. These leaders are individuals of integrity that inspire their followers.

There is also a strong sense of trust between employees and their managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors trust their employees to complete their tasks, accomplish goals, and make decisions independently. Similarly, employees trust that their managers and supervisors will support them and look out for their best interest. 

Secret 3: Treat employees fairly

Fairness is widespread at great places to work. Fairness, or perceptions of equity and justice, refers to when organizations make employment decisions (such as promotions, rewards, and pay) based on objective criteria – typically performance. By fairness, we are not referring to distributing these rewards to all employees equally. Nor are we referring to respectful and courteous treatment, which should be given to all employees. At great workplaces, those employees that outperform others receive rewards. Rewards are fairly distributed to those that deserve them.

Similarly, great places to work strive to provide a competitive total rewards package, including competitive and fair pay and benefits to its workforce. They monitor workplace trends and deliver a competitive package that attracts the right talent.

Secret 4: Support employees

Support is a critical part of great places to work, and provided at all levels of the organization – from leaders, managers, supervisors, and even coworkers. Support is prevalent when an organization conveys that it cares about helping employees achieve more for themselves or meet their needs – both personally and professionally. It is communicated and manifested in policies, procedures, and programs, and in how people interact and communicate with one another. People work together, help one another succeed, and support each others’ needs at supportive workplaces.

Great places to work provide flexibility in meeting personal and professional demands; on-going opportunities and interest in professional development through training, career development, and advancement opportunities; new and challenging work experiences; support for health and well-being; and appreciation for contributions and accomplishments.  These are all important ways that these organizations show their support to employees.

Secret 5: Have pride

There is a strong sense of pride and positivity prevalent at great places to work – specifically pride in one’s work, team, and the organization as a whole. Great places to work encourage taking pride in one’s work, recognizing that when employees are passionately and emotionally connected to their work, they are most engaged. These workplaces also encourage taking pride in team accomplishments, which facilitate stronger work relationships and camaraderie.  Finally, at great places to work, employees take pride in the organization as a whole and the products and services it offers to customers. They are incredibly connected to the organization’s mission and purpose.

Is your organization a great workplace?

We find that employers often underestimate their workplaces in terms of these characteristics, and encourage them to consider how their organization stacks up against these crucial aspects of the workplace. You may be surprised to find that your organization has all of this. Becoming a great place to work is more about building the right climate and culture that attracts, retains, and engages top performers, than instituting the most popular and attractive perks.


What a Manager Needs to Know to Drive Project Success

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The challenge in project success rests in the ability to deliver to the desired business goal in the desired time frame and within the available budget. These three forces:  time, cost, and quality, are often in conflict with each other. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has defined nine body of knowledge areas that when followed, would increase probability of project success. However, if you are not a full-time project manager and still want to increase your project results, follow these three project management principles:

1. Establish a Project Plan.

The project plan will tell you, your team, and your customers the:

Goals: Define the business reason for the project and how you will know it was successful at the end.
Scope: Determine the boundaries of what your project will address, and just as important, what it won’t address. 
Milestones: Work backgrounds to identify important dates for deliverables, reviews, etc. This is a very easy way to do a reality check on what it will take to meet the due dates.

2. Build a Communication Plan.

The communication plan is not only how you will communicate at the end of the project, but who should be informed and engaged throughout the project. At the minimum you should be able to identify the:

Who: Identify the key stakeholders, the departments, customers, or processes that will be impacted by your project
What: Create the message, which could be different for each audience – some want to be updated while others require more detail.  
When and How: Identify the best time and format.  The rule of thumb is to communicate your message at least three times, and I would add, in at least two different formats (email, phone, in-person).  Leverage communication channels that are already in place like staff meetings, monthly newsletters, weekly email blasts, websites, etc.

3. Define Change Management Processes.

Change is a constant. On any project the scope will alter as more information is gathered.  Define a process and procedure for identifying project changes, approvals, and documentation requirements. The more complex the work, the more important this becomes. 

These are just a few principles to keep in mind to ensure success on your projects. The more you can learn about project management and the underlying principles, the better equipped you will be to lead your organization in the future.

Are Your Supervisors Prepared for These 5 Challenges?

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The following is a complimentary audit and assessment consisting of key questions your organization should ask to determine if your supervisors and managers have the appropriate skills and competencies to combat the most common management pitfalls. Additionally, tips we frequently recommend to organizations in addressing these pitfalls are summarized.

Challenge 1: Exposing the organization to liabilities

Organizations are exposed to liabilities when their supervisors and managers are not knowledgeable of employment law or understand how to apply legal guidelines. For example, supervisors and managers may make selection decisions based on non-job related criteria or subjective biases, ask inappropriate interview questions, not document performance, misapply wage and hour law (not recording overtime worked, not providing necessary breaks, etc.), or fail to handle employee issues with consistency.

Key questions include:

  • Are supervisors and managers knowledgeable of employment laws and do they successfully apply these legal guidelines in the workplace?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask appropriate interview questions, if they are responsible for hiring duties?
  • Do supervisors and managers participate in making legal selection decisions, based on job-related factors and qualifications and not based on any protected criteria (such as gender, race, national origin, religion, etc.)?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand wage and hour law (FLSA) and how it affects the pay of their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers discipline or handle issues of employee conduct with consistency?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the basics of managing employee leave, particularly FMLA?

Challenge 2: Failing to document and manage performance

Performance management is a common struggle for many supervisors and managers. Oftentimes, we find that the supervisors and managers are not doing enough to support the employee in achieving their performance expectations and standards and not providing regular feedback, counseling, and coaching. In addition, correctly documenting performance is commonly overlooked.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers generally have a high performance work team, or do their employees struggle in reaching certain performance standards or goals?
  • Are employees aware of what is expected of them in terms of performance?  Do supervisors and managers communicate these expectations to employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers take the performance review process seriously? Do they understand its importance and how to prepare for and deliver a performance review?
  • Do supervisors and managers document any and all incidents of poor performance? (note: this is also a potential liability)
  • Do supervisors and managers guide performance through regular feedback and coaching?
  • Do supervisors and managers support performance with development and training if needed?
  • Do supervisors and managers have conversations with employees about their career aspirations and developmental interests? Do they follow-up on insights obtained in these conversations?
  • Do supervisors and managers continually challenge and empower their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers make themselves available to answer employee questions about projects, assignments, and tasks?
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize and thank employees for their contributions when they do a good job?
  • Do supervisors and managers criticize more than they praise? Is there an imbalance of negative and positive feedback, and is this justified?

Challenge 3: Poorly communicating

Inadequate communication manifests itself in a number of problems including poor supervisor-employee work relationships, frequent misunderstandings of job tasks or policies/procedures, and unclear expectations. These issues often surface from poor listening, relationship building, clarifying, and feedback skills and lead to frequent supervisory problems.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers establish rapport and positive relationships with employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers engage in frequent methods of in-person communication?
  • Do supervisors and managers actively listen to employees’ concerns, problems, and questions?
  • Do supervisors and managers clarify points and issues, trying to better understand work problems employees have?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask for employees’ viewpoints and opinions?
  • Do supervisors and managers exhibit effective non-verbal communication with employees? Do their words match their body language?
  • Do employees often feel confused when completing work assignments, or do misunderstandings frequently occur?
  • Do employees receive enough performance feedback from supervisors and managers? Do they understand where they excel and where they need to improve?
  • Is the feedback provided by supervisors and managers constructive and well-targeted at behaviors needing changed?

Challenge 4: Failing to resolve conflict

Many managers fail to resolve conflicts between employees and coworkers or may perpetuate too much conflict in their groups. It’s common for supervisors and managers to avoid conflict altogether. In addition, they may not do enough to prevent conflict.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers work to accurately define and identify key workplace conflicts or are problems frequently incorrectly identified? 
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize the causes of conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand and costs of conflict on your business and recognize its effects on productivity?
  • Do conflicts generally go unresolved by supervisors and managers, or do supervisors and managers create different strategies to manage and resolve conflict, ensuring that it has a limited effect on performance?
  • Do supervisors and managers frequently collaborate and strive for “win-win” approaches to conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers try to prevent conflict by encouraging positive coworker relationships, encouraging recognition of individual differences, and addressing work problems quickly before they escalate?
  • Do supervisors try to adapt to different personalities and styles in order to maximize their effectiveness?

Challenge 5: Not understanding their role

Typically promoted from individual contributor roles, supervisors and managers find themselves not understanding the new requirements and expectations of their role, or encountering common challenges like micromanaging, distrusting employees, treating employees poorly, or not making time for them. 

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers frequently encounter challenges on the job, in dealing with employee issues and problems?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand how their role is different than that of their previous role as an individual contributor? Do they understand its importance in driving results through others?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the responsibilities of their role and how to carry them out?
  • Do supervisors and managers make time for employees, balancing task completion and building supportive relationships?
  • Do supervisors and managers show trust and confidence in employees?
  • Are employees excessively directed and micromanaged?
  • Are employees treated with respect and courtesy? 

Addressing Management Challenges

If your supervisors don’t have the right competencies in place, there are a number of ways to develop them. In our experience, these are the most common and effective ways to build supervisory and management skills:

  • Supervisory and managerial training
    Training is one of the best and most common ways to develop supervisors’ and managers’ abilities. Consider registering them to attend ERC’s Supervisory Series, an affordable training program that develops their skills in all of these critical managerial areas including communication, conflict resolution, performance management, and employment law. This program can also be delivered on-site and customized to your organization’s needs. 
  • Skills coaching and mentoring
    Sometimes a more personalized and customized approach is necessary to develop skills and solve specific managerial and supervisory issues, particularly when training has already been conducted. This can be facilitated either through mentorship of leaders internally or skills coaching with an external consultant
  • Management literature and educational materials
    Articles and learning aids are another great way for supervisors and managers to develop their capabilities and can be great follow-up resources for after training to help transfer skills learned back to the workplace. Checklists and forms that guide behaviors learned in training can help them stay better organized on the job. These can be created in-house or training programs may have them available.  

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

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