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How to create a successful employee engagement strategy

Sustained high employee engagement requires more than sporadic initiatives. Positive effects quickly fade if a robust employee engagement plan does not support your workers. In this article, you'll learn how to build a strategy that guarantees success.

When you first hear about the benefits of high employee engagement rates, you'll want to take immediate action. While we support enthusiasm for employee engagement, we recommend a strategic approach to avoid frustration.

Our advice: take a breath before you run out to quickly organise a big team event or spontaneously create an internal newsletter. A thorough employee engagement strategy takes time. The party decorations can wait.

Why does employee engagement need a strategy?

Well-intentioned one-off measures such as a fitness programme for employees or a time management workshop can increase employee engagement in the moment, but they're often not very effective in the long term if the strategy is missing.

This is partly because employees are individuals and can be motivated differently. If engagement activities fall into only one category (for example, wellness and lifestyle offers only), you're not addressing your entire workforce.

Consider all six engagement factors in your strategy.

Employees with little interest in wellness who would rather advance in their field or increase their salary will likely not value or even notice a new gym membership, but they will pay attention to career coaching. 

A solid employee engagement strategy, therefore, takes into account all six engagement factors, the wishes of employees and the current status quo, and plans appropriate measures from there. This is the only way to reach all your employees.

A Mindmap with six engagement factors

The 5 steps to developing a successful employee engagement strategy

  1. Establish the status quo
  2. Interpret the results and define measures
  3. Define roles and responsibilities 
  4. Implement engagement measures
  5. Continuous improvement

Step 1: establish the status quo

Before you plan any new initiatives, you should understand where you currently stand regarding employee engagement. You can use the six engagement factors as a guide to map the status quo in these dimensions.

There are several ways to do this: 

  • 1-1 discussions with individual employees and managers 
  • An anonymous employee survey 
  • Analysis of data (for example, turnover rate, number of internal promotions and salary levels compared to the rest of the industry).

It's best to combine these approaches. However, if time is short, it makes sense to focus on 1-1 interviews. Even a structured interview with five or six employees from different departments can give a good overview of the status quo in the company. An excellent starting point for an employee survey is the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey.

Try to forget your own assumptions about the current state of employee engagement and approach the question with an open mind: "How are our employees doing in the company, how connected do they feel, and what open wishes and needs do they have?"

Step 2: interpret the results and define measures

The insights gathered in step one should form the basis for an in-depth analysis. Look at the survey results: Do you see patterns? Could it be that different challenges have the same core issue?

It's often necessary to examine the problems in more detail, for example, using the "5 Whys" method. Here is an example:

"The employees don't feel connected to the company's mission."

Why? (1) 

"They don't understand the real purpose."

Why? (2)

"They don't see how the products they make improve and support their customers' daily lives."

Why? (3) 

"The employees without direct customer contact don't receive such information."

Why? (4) 

"There is a lack of structure for sharing this information."

Why? (5) 

"No communication tools have been implemented to help share such information."

The "5 Whys" example above results in a concrete action point: the implementation of tools for internal and leadership communication. To help you determine action points from your own questioning, we've assembled a selection of actions by category for you to draw inspiration from.

Record your findings and ideas in a table like this:

A table showing the problems of the employees with possible measures and priority

The important things are...

  • Prioritise, i.e. don't try to implement everything at once. Focus on a few measures first, ideally, those that solve several problems simultaneously (like problems one and three in the example above).
  • Weigh up the costs and benefits of each measure. 
  • Make the results measurable, i.e. use data such as the eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) to see whether your new engagement initiatives are really helping to achieve the defined goals.

Step 3: define roles and responsibilities

Now that you've established the strategy, it's time for the concrete details. First, determine who has primary responsibility for employee engagement. Larger organisations often create specific roles, such as Chief Engagement Officer or Employee Engagement Manager. In smaller organisations, employee engagement usually involves the head of HR, the communications or marketing department, senior management, or their assistant.

The person responsible should maintain a close dialogue with all managers and continuously work on employee engagement principles, challenges, and goals. Define clear responsibilities for each action. Record an overview of who is responsible for which area.

A table showing the responsibilities of the employees

Step 4: implement engagement measures

After carefully planning and allocating responsibilities, it's time to implement the measures. Communicate the initiatives effectively and transparently to all stakeholders. Ensure everyone knows what needs to be done and why it's important. Monitor progress and be ready to make adjustments if necessary to maximise the effectiveness of your strategy.

4 tips for implementing your employee engagement measures:

  1. Communication: inform your staff clearly and early about the upcoming changes. Explain the purpose of the measures and how they fit into the company's overall strategy. Open communication helps to overcome resistance and gain support for the new initiatives.
  2. Involve employees: try to involve employees in the implementation process as much as possible. This can be done through working groups, workshops, or feedback sessions. Involving employees promotes a sense of ownership and increases acceptance of the measures.
  3. Gradual introduction: depending on the scope and nature of the measure, it may make sense to introduce it gradually. For example, if you have decided to introduce an intranet, the HR and marketing departments could use it before other departments gain access. This gives staff time to adjust and allows you to consider early feedback and make changes before full implementation.
  4. Leaders as role models: managers are crucial in implementing engagement measures. They must not only support the measures but lead by example. When leaders model new initiatives, it increases the credibility of the changes and encourages employee participation.

Step 5: continuous improvement

An effective strategy is dynamic. Once you have implemented the first initiatives, measuring their impact is essential. You can do this by going through step one again. Here, hopefully, your progress and new opportunities for improvement will become clear. Adjust your plan according to the latest information.

The employee engagement strategy follows a typical 'plan, implement, review, act' cycle: it's not a one-off project but requires constant adjustments.

Conclusion: this is why an employee engagement strategy is essential

Developing an employee engagement strategy is an investment in your organisation's future success. It is an ongoing, dynamic process that involves understanding, planning, implementing, and measuring appropriate actions.

It's not just about short-term one-off actions but about sustainably increasing employee engagement. With the right approach, you can improve the work environment, increase employee satisfaction, and ultimately increase productivity and the success of your business.

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