Employee Engagement - Beyond fun & games

A Hay Group study indicates that a highly engaged employee is 87% less likely to leave your company than a disengaged employee. So, while it is clear as to ‘why’ employees need to be engaged, in this piece let’s focus on ‘how’ to effectively engage them.


Many organizations undertake tactical Employee Engagement (EE) but not necessarily strategic EE. No wonder that the latest Deloitte NHRD study reported that only 22% executives in India rate their organizations as ‘excellent’ at building a differentiated employee experience. So, while birthday celebrations, family day, R&R, team outings and such can fall within the realm of EE tactics but the EE strategy needs to extend beyond the usual & sporadic fun and games and become part of the sustained long-term organizational strategy at the DNA, culture, policy and vision level. Following are 5 strategic EE trends that I recon will find increased traction in 2017-18:

The Big Picture: Most organizations fumble in engaging the employee for the tool of engagement is not seamlessly blended into the fabric of the organization and so stands-out seeming artificial. Your EE theme for the year cannot be ‘work-life-balance’ (WLB) if majority of payed leaves for majority of the employees have lapsed since the workload dint allow them to take those leaves! Some of the more successful EE initiatives are the ones that translate the Vision, Values and (intended) culture of the organization into engagement.

Decathlon executives front-ending the business in the boardroom and the ones interacting with the customers on the shop floor have one thing in common – passion for sports, fitness and outdoors. This passion is nurtured by promoting, rewarding, recognizing and supporting the employees for their passion and ensuring that the organization lives this passion – not flying but cycling to an outdoorsy corporate retreat, stand-up meetings, stand-up work stations and job interviews over a 5Mile run are just some of the usual occurrences at Decathlon.

Career Plan: Data from exit interviews across organizations, industries and geographies suggests that mismatched expectation with regards to career progression isamongst the top-5 culprits when it comes to loss of top-talent.

A leading design & digital media agency client of ours approached us with the challenge that some of their top-performing executives across levels were increasingly jumping ship to go entrepreneurial and even top-grade appraisals were not reversing these trends. We (in consulting with the leadership) devised a ‘be an intrapreneur’ EE campaign. Over 3 months executives from across levels pitched their new business concepts within the purview of design and digital. 8 such entries were shortlisted and 2 winning entries were fast-tracked to be coached, incubated and funded internally to become SBUs. The overall employee morale and retention is at an all-time high today.

You want an engaged employee? Customize individual career plans basis the skill, interest and performance of the executive and not a one size fit all plan.

Digital HR:Today most forward looking organizations understand the limitation of emails for employee communication and engagement. A variety of Apps and tools (For e.g.: Slack, Workplace by Facebook &Microsoft Teams) now are enabling a more engaging, experiential, insightful, measurable and collaborativesolution than email ever had the outlook for. Workplace by FB (May, 2017 report) has signed 800+ clients in India making India one of its top 5 clients globally. Early adopters include the likes of Airtel, MakeMyTrip and Godrej. Insights, real-time, many-to-many, less-evasive, big-data and transparency are key asks now from any enterprise communication app.

Point is that if you are still sending an employee engagement campaign poster on email to your GM and wondering why she has not responded and if she has opened the damn mail at all then it is time to rethink your employee communication strategy. IBM, Adidas, GE and Ford are just some of the many examples of organizations that have prioritized tech and digital as an integral part of their employee experience and engagement strategy.

Challenge Them:In a coaching session with this VP (Enterprise Sales) of a leading consumer products company, he felt the need to be coached in public-speaking and media interaction skills as he was to soon transition into the role of ‘Global Head Corporate Communications’within his company and that would require him to be the face and voice of the brand in national and international media and industry fora. And that while he was excited about it he wanted to make sure that he is not just good but great at it! He had worked with the company for 12 years and had started with the company as a senior clerk in the book-keeping department. He said that his journey and growth has been exciting and is a result of the company culture that challengesall employees to go beyond their comfort zone and upskill constantly. And when people do that, the organization makes sure that they are rewarded in multiple ways. Also, not that he is a special case, with salary increments well below the industry average, the company has still managed to keep employee attrition at less than 15% by adopting the ‘keep them challenged’ strategy across all levels.

One of the best ways to engage the employee is to keep things fresh, exciting and challenging. For the employee it in some way stimulates the excitement of a ‘new job’ without having to switch companies. Most commonsense relationship advice for marriages is similar as well, right?

Seek and act upon theirfeedback: Polls, entry &exit interviews, coaching, counseling, posts on the internal communication platforms and good old by the watercooler conversations need to all be utilized to gain insights w.r.t employee morale and trends. Not only will these insights fine-tune your EE strategy but these ‘dialogue stimulants’by themselves are potent EE tools. As an employee when you see your recommendations influencing, impacting or shaping the EE & Culture (in any way) you feel that much more motivated, responsible involved and engaged.

This piece is not an exhaustive list of EE tools available to you, but is representative of the trends that are shaping EE to stay relevant to the wide and diverse breadth of talent in your workforce today. By the end of it what is important is that you look at every EE initiative in your organization under two lenses:

Is it in keeping with and is it highlighting / reinforcing an important aspect(s) of our vision / values and / or culture?

Can we implement it (without it becoming distracting, counter-productive and an irritant) such that it motivates the employee to interact & engage with it?

As long as your EE initiatives can successfully pass through the above two sieves, you are good to engage!

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