The 3 Paths to Engage your People (Part 3)

Welcome back to the third and last part of my mini-blog series about the key paths to people engagement. In blog 1 I talked about “Promoting Your Purpose”: getting senior leadership to create a compelling narrative or story about the values of the organisation entwined with where the business is going and getting out there and spreading the word at every opportunity. If you missed it, you can catch up here:

Then last time, in part 2, I focused on the overlooked part of the Engagement Strategy; the people managers on the front line. We looked at how, through developing their effectiveness, their emotional intelligence and how they can positively stretch their people, they can translate the senior leadership narrative into daily motivating actions. Again, here is a link to this blog:

The 3 paths to Engage your People:

  1. Promote your Purpose
  2. Develop your Managers
  3. Seek and Embrace Feedback

So this time we are going to connect the top to bottom narrative and people activities into a virtuous circle by understand the multiple ways that you can listen to your people and use this vault of experience to further engage. Let’s get started…

Seek and Embrace Feedback

Have you ever had a time when you feel that another person is not trying to listen or understand you when you have something important to say?

  • When buying an electrical item or car from a salesman?
  • When dealing with an automated telephone system when phoning a call centre?
  • Or trying to get an appointment at the doctor when it is convenient for you not them?

How do you feel when this happens? Frustrated? Ignored? Like you don’t matter to them? Like they only care about their agenda?

So think about your organisation. Are you listening to your people enough? And I mean REALLY listening, not just going through the motions?

Here are some tangible things you can do to get people’s voices heard and feeling that their opinion matters:

1)  Use Technology: Think 2016, not 2006!

Our lives these days are all about offering out our opinion. Social media is full of opinion: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Radio and TV phone-ins are now tweet-ins with hashtags. We can offer more of our opinions out to more people in the world than ever before.

So out of work we can easily give 10, 20, 50 opinions a day. How many touchpoints do you have internally to do this? If it is just one survey a year and a comments box with paper and pens (paper and pens!?!?!?) then think again.

Technology needs to be used to gather this opinion as people want to give it here and now, not wait until October for the survey or have to walk to reception to fill in a form.  This can be through your LMS system, using any online chat systems you have or simply creating an easy-to-remember e-mail address people can write to (which costs virtually nothing to set up).

Matching behaviours outside of work with inside is a way of increasing engagement – it makes work feel a bit more like “me”.

2)  Not more surveys: Focused, smarter and targeted surveys

Traditionally annual or census surveys in organisations have many questions to gather opinion in a wide range of engagement areas. This feedback is sought and is used to create activities to enhance engagement across the business for the next year.

However, more and more organisations are starting to create a pulse survey programme where they “check-in” with employees on a little-and-often basis. This approach has the benefit of targeting questions around recent activities in the business and also people feel they are having more of a conversation with their employers rather than a sterile once-a-year chance to feed back. It also means the business can target resulting actions directly to recent “hot topics” and a sense of immediacy of action is seen by employees which then motivates further as they feel they are being listened to and there is dialogue.

For example, if you have recently had a period of change then asking about feelings about the change can really help reassure that the uncertainty has passed and that you are concerned about this. Any pitfalls from this change can be quickly noticed and acted upon to make the change stick more often. This means that the annual census survey does not need to have as many questions on this area, if any.

In addition, if you always score highly on certain questions in the annual survey then why are you still asking these questions? Is it just to make you feel better? Always ask questions where you believe there is a need for action. This way you can keep surveys shorter and lessen the risk of “survey fatigue”.

Remember, just like twitter polls and social media, people like giving their opinion little and often. There is still a need for the broader annual census survey linking into business strategy but human nature likes being asked for their opinions as and when events happen not at the end of the year.

3)  Mine your feedback data well

Rarely are we so lucky in HR to get such rich data as the results of annual census surveys, pulse surveys and employee feedback. To get inside the heads of our people is fantastic!

However, I have seen in the past this great wealth of data being superficially looked at for 3 or 4 key metrics where we can make an action plan and easily present to the Board. Even worse, the activity is merely that a summary is collated for the CSR shareholder report with the excited exclamation that the overall score says we have “3.2% more engaged people than last year”…

This is where current HR technology can help. This wealth of data is a great initial place to start if you are looking to get into HR Analytics for the first time. Why? Because this is rich data that has a high degree of purity. And also, most surveys report against an organisation structure so you can organise your data by teams.

Why is this important? Because with analytics you could import your performance or sales data by team and see if there is a correlation between engagement and performance and then understand what are the three or four key drivers to high team performance in your organisation using Predictive Analytics. You may be surprised that you have missed the underlying drivers of real engagement by using only to top-line survey results.

If there is one place you should be using analytics now, it’s with your feedback and survey data to truly step change your engagement!

4)  Take real actions

So you now are asking for feedback little and often, are using a focused census survey and using analytics to understand the fundamentals about your people’s engagement. The last step is to ensure you regularly take actions that are evolution and not revolution and make sure they stick. Why?

a)  Regular actions – This sense of immediacy is one of the best ways to demonstrate the causal link between giving feedback and seeing some change. This really engages because you, as an employee, see that your voice matters!

b)  Evolution and not revolution – People like their workplace improving but also have a sense of comfort and safety when they understand the culture in which they work. If you come out with a 15-point plan to improve things this can sometimes have an adverse effect on engagement and can alienate people. It is better to change one or two things with a compelling narrative and then let those embed before commencing more.

c)  Make sure changes stick – How many times have you seen an organisation launch an initiative for it only to fizzle out after a while when it is not flavour of the month anymore? It is better to change less but make sure there are activities in place to make sure it is “sticky change”. Constant failed engagement initiatives are worse than doing nothing, so always ensure engagement initiatives are sticky!

So, in summary, the 3rd path to Engage your People is to Seek and Embrace Feedback by using technology to get continuous feedback flowing, using smarter and targeted surveys around real events, get the most out of this rich data with analytics and make sure you take action that is sustainable and can be easily linked to back to feedback received.

This is the end of my mini-blog series. I hope you liked it. Any comments would be gratefully received as improving engagement is a never-ending journey and I would love to hear your experiences.

To close, here is a summary of the 3 paths to Engage your People:

1)  Promote your Purpose

  • Identify your true company values & visibly bringing them to life in everything that you do

  • Identify your Company’s “story” and ensure, as a minimum, all people managers have heard and know the narrative

  • Get out into your business and having a dialogue with your people

2)  Develop your Managers

  • Unlock your people managers’ potential by giving them the awareness and tools to be more personally effective

  • Give people managers the tools and techniques to give the skills and knowledge needed and then develop their team further

  • Give stretching goals with an understandable narrative, ensuring people managers are there to support and encourage to success

3)  Seek and Embrace Feedback

  • Use technology to create a flow of continuous feedback

  • Crease smarter and more focused census and pulse surveys

  • Mine your rich data well with analytics

  • Take evolutionary actions often that are “sticky”

Thank you for reading!

Anthony Ryland