Building and sustaining a culture of high performance requires an engaged workforce. According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics in 2013, “a highly engaged workforce can increase innovation, productivity, and bottom-line performance while reducing costs related to hiring and retention in highly competitive talent markets.” The evidence is clear and compelling: transformational leaders who develop strategies to engage their employees will outperform those who don’t.
When developing an employee engagement strategy, most organizations conduct an annual employee survey to collect insights into engagement drivers and barriers. Then, senior management convenes a meeting to discuss the results and develop an action plan to address the findings. More enlightened executives then review progress against the plan at regular intervals and hold leaders accountable for results.
While this approach may incrementally improve engagement, we believe that directly interacting with people first-hand to collaboratively solve specific business challenges (e.g., increase service levels by 30%) is more effective than conversing broadly about engagement barriers and drivers. This additional step of inviting people directly into a participative, human centered design process increases the odds of improving engagement indicators since they know their particular mission best and what they and their teams need to deliver more than what is asked for. As such, they, not senior managers and leaders gathered in a conference room, will have the best ideas to create a better workplace experience that benefits them, their teams, and the performance of the mission.
As employee engagement is inherently local, Growth Matters recommends piloting human centered engagement approaches to solve specific business problems with low-risk divisions (i.e., units with relatively higher engagement scores) before moving on to more challenging departments. We find that developing an enterprise employee engagement strategy is more effective and relevant when built from a grass-roots level foundation that a series of pilot interventions can provide. With the baseline engagement strategy initially shaped by the employee survey findings, input gathered directly from people to address critical business challenges builds critical buy-in that will make the enterprise engagement strategy tangible and “stick” throughout the organization.
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