Purpose, wellbeing and recognition are major influencers of employee engagement, so don’t leave it to a quarterly or annual survey to find out what your people really need.
Most people want their work to matter. Salary has some influence on an employee’s decision to take on a role, though for many people what keeps them motivated and committed is job satisfaction – the value they get from an organisation.
That’s why the employee value proposition (EVP) is no longer simply about talent (or human assets) an organisation requires to support its corporate value proposition. Now organisations need to deliver more value in return.
Value in EVPs
EVPs that deliver value both ways are a “key component in the war for talent, competitiveness and future success”, notes a KPMG December 2018 report titled Future of HR 2019: Embracing Bold Change.
Only 55 per cent of the HR leaders KPMG surveyed said EVPs were perceived as a valuable HR capability, and 19 per cent said EVPs were a primary initiative over the next year or two. One way to improve EVPs is to cultivate the employee experience so it continues to be more attractive than anything a competitor offers, says the report.
However, the research revealed a disconnect between leadership and HR. While 85 per cent of HR leaders believed their capabilities around employee experience and engagement were valuable, only a few said management boards were looking to HR to address employee experience (12 per cent) and employee engagement (24 per cent). This demands the question, who is responsible for engagement?
“The top-down approach to engagement is flawed,” says Ian Hutchinson, principal of employee engagement consultancy Lifebydesign.
“The problem I’ve seen is organisations diligently do their engagement research, but it only allows broad brush initiatives. Your top guns could be motivated by very different drivers from your other employees.”
He recommends taking a bottom-up approach, to create a culture of self-leadership.
Clarity and control
Self-leadership is a core concept of the job demands-resources theory proposed by psychologists Arnold B Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti, where engagement in work is improved when workers face tough challenges and have sufficient resources available to deal with these challenges.
Get it right and employees will ask for more feedback, support and resources – and even more challenges, says Hutchinson.
“Managers can sponsor self-leadership by giving employees tools to help them become clearer on what motivates and engages them in their work. That clarity creates the win-win, and fundamentally, clarity creates control.”
He says organisations spend around 80 per cent of their time and effort on researching engagement, but only 20 per cent is dedicated to actually implementing decent strategies.
“Don’t wait six or 12 months. Have a couple of quick-win initiatives in place.”
Participating by choice
Engagement is an outcome of culture, and not a process, says Naomi Simson, chief marketing officer and co-founder of The Big Red Group (and a shark on Shark Tank).
“Culture can come from the leadership team, but people need to choose to participate. You don’t make a culture by putting a billiard table in the staff room,” she says.
“People want worthwhile, productive and challenging careers where they learn and develop. They want to be noticed and have a voice. Then they go home feeling like a winner.”
Open, transparent communication has always been a core part of the ‘one team’ ethos at Simson’s companies, which are all focused on delivering life-enhancing experiences. By ‘open’, Simson means frank, two-way conversations, because she believes you can’t expect people to fully participate and engage if you tell them only half of the story.
“We say to people, ‘You want to know the performance of the business, what we’re spending those funds on… this is how it all works.’ The outcome of trust and transparency is that our people know why they want to be here and that they belong.”
Another way to build engagement is to give people permission to try something new, says Simson.
“Let them fail fast, and keep the communication going so they can share what they learned.”
The Big Red Group has multiple communication channels to support collaboration, engagement and recognition. The peer-to-peer recognition platform initially built for employees of one of its businesses, RedBalloon, has evolved into its own business: Redii. It offers a live view of people engaging with an organisation’s culture and values, recognising their peers’ achievements, ideas and helpfulness.
The act of recognition is important in itself, says Simson, and when rewards are offered, they are more valuable when they are personalised.
Simson’s stance is supported by findings in the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which identified a new wave of programs that “are delivered more continuously, aligned more closely with individual preferences, and based more fully on an employee’s whole contribution – to the team and organisation”.
Performance management was found to be more continuous in 76 per cent of organisations surveyed for the report, 91 per cent still conduct performance and salary reviews only once a year or even less often.
“I don’t want any surprises in performance reviews to how people contributed to my team,” says Simson.
“HR performance reviews are hardly conducive to celebrating people’s successes. So when I hear boards ask, ‘Why do we need recognition?’, or HR managers say, ‘I’ll get recognition one day,’ I roll my eyes because those are just excuses for why they’re not committed to their people. You’ll never get the outcome unless you absolutely make a stand for your people.
“The number one way to get people to feel part of a team is success. Success breeds success, and when people feel successful they want to play, and they want to play hard.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 edition of HRM Magazine.
AHRI:ASSIST’s ‘Motivation and Engagement‘ is a useful resource to help you create effective employee engagement.