By Chris Atkinson, HR Consultant, Organizational Strategy, CPS HR Consulting
HR is an important part of the equation when it comes to facilitating the employee engagement survey process and creating a culture of engagement. At one point in my career, I worked at a software organization in HR where we actively worked to re-vitalize the employee engagement survey process and create a culture of engagement. We were able to accomplish a few key steps that began to move the organization towards that goal. We all learned valuable lessons through the endeavor. Notably, there are three things HR should keep in mind when trying to create a culture of engagement: champion engagement, facilitate the process and identify organization-wide issues and lead action.
Champion engagement: HR must take the lead in creating the business case for employee engagement. This involves gaining senior leaders’ buy-in for the engagement survey process. This is critical to the process because senior leaders have a large role in translating the importance of creating an engaged workforce down to the line level managers. Due to the greater level of interaction, the line level managers have some of the strongest influence on creating engaged line-level workers. However, if no one at the top of the organization understands why engagement is important, this trickle-down effect will never happen. Employee engagement can’t be seen as just “another HR thing” to be effective. Employees also want to hear directly from senior leadership as well about the importance of creating an engaged workforce. One example of how we did this at the software firm I worked at was to create a three-minute video of the CEO talking about the importance of the engagement survey and why creating an engaged workforce was integral to our overall business strategy.
Facilitate the process: HR must have a clearly outlined process for pre-survey, mid-survey, and post-survey activities. Not just from the technical survey administration standpoint, but from a communication and action planning standpoint. One key thing that we did was to craft a communication plan for the senior leadership team and for HR. We prepared email templates to communicate the importance of the survey process that senior leaders would edit and send to their employees during each of the pre-survey, mid-survey, and post-survey activities. You must make it easy for busy leaders to promote the engagement survey.
Identify organization-wide issues and lead action: HR as the survey process owner has the responsibility to help the senior leadership team decide what to focus on across the organization. As part of creating a culture of engagement, it is important to identify areas of the survey that can be addressed from an organizational standpoint. This is important for a few reasons. First, to create a culture of engagement, it’s helpful to create some consistency in how that culture of engagement is being built. If every different part of the organization was doing something completely different to promote engagement, there could be mixed messages sent to employees about what is important. While it is still important for different parts of the organization to address specific issues that are inhibiting engagement, it is important for all parts of the organization to be working together towards at least one common aspect that can promote engagement. Second, having a single issue that is addressed across the entire organization gives employees something to point toward as proof that the organization listened to what they had to say in the survey. This will subsequently promote more survey participation in later years of the survey. Communicating what is being done to address engagement also increases levels of engagement because employees feel they are being heard. At the software company I worked at, one year we identified training and development as a key area for improvement based on survey responses. As a result, we decided to take a number of actions. We created a development plan toolkit that all employees were required to complete in which they set goals around career development areas. We also had training on the importance of the toolkit and how to use it as well as training for managers on how to support their employees in this process. We also had a weeklong event that included courses on how to develop in your career and Q&A panels comprised of senior leaders who shared how they advanced in their careers. Finally, we had an internal career fair where employees from departments across the organization had tables where other employees could come up and talk with them about their department.
By making a high level of employee engagement part of the company strategy, we realized not only improved engagement, but also a higher level of employee retention, and increased productivity. It didn’t happen overnight, but by all accounts, it’s a successful portion of the company strategy.