How can a company strategize for something as elusive as employee engagement? Although there are telltale signs when employees are disengaged, connecting employees with their jobs can seem extremely intangible. It's not a sales goal or a revenue number that you can be sure you've hit.
But it is something you can gather data on, and this is key. Employee engagement surveys provide a base for employee engagement strategy. They are a way of rendering the intangible tangible through reliable data.
That takes the guesswork out of strategy. You don't think that there's a problem with the goals for the engineering department, you know — and you have data to back it up. And from this knowledge, you can be sure you are setting forth a strategy to solve an actual problem in a way that makes sense.
What makes a successful employee engagement strategy?
An engagement strategy is more than one survey or one program. Since employee engagement is a holistic metric, your strategy needs to be holistic as well. Successful employee engagement strategies need to be:
- Tailored to your business
- Solving for actual problems
- Constantly reevaluated
Employee engagement strategy is like any other major business scheme: you have to make a plan and adjust it in accordance with what happens after you start to implement it.
This is why building your employee engagement strategy around an engagement survey makes so much sense. Surveys are a great tool to evaluate and litmus test specific aspects of your engagement strategy. They help you take the guesswork out of engagement so you can get straight to improvements.
How engagement surveys tailor engagement strategy
Engagement surveys are drivers of engagement strategy because they provide the raw data that you need to see a baseline of your company's engagement. Rather than going on a manager's gut feeling or watercooler talk, engagement surveys help you to quantify what the problems are and why they exist.
Once you've given an engagement survey (or a few!), you need to work with the survey data to inform your strategy –– not just gather the data and think the strategy will magically appear. Think of it like this: if you were a scientist studying squids, and you spent a long time gathering data on those squid, would you call it a day when all your experimental data was in?
No, of course not! All you'd have is a bunch of numbers, and no squid insights. With your engagement surveys, you have to analyze the results and pinpoint what your biggest problems are. That means taking a look at trend changes, variance by department, and context for fluctuations (such as the effects of opening a second office or implementing manager office hours).
The engagement survey is there to point an engagement strategy in the right direction, and gather feedback on how changes have impacted engagement. It gives you visibility into what the actual problems are (rather than what you might think they are). It's a starting point for you to build a strategy off of.
Solving actual problems is a multi-step process
After using your engagement survey to identify problems, it's time to start crafting solutions to build that employee engagement strategy.
Start with one problem and work all the way through its solution. Even if you have multiple problems, it's worth going through each one fully before you commit to what you will tackle first.
Most problems in your company cannot be solved with one shrewd move. Understanding how long it will take to solve a problem, and what the impact will be on your company's resources, can help you craft a more efficient strategy.
Say, for example, employees indicated on your survey they don't receive enough feedback from managers. You decide to implement a quarterly goals program. That means:
- Training managers to make and track quarterly goals with employees
- Choosing a goal-tracking system for the company
- Onboarding employees and managers to that system
- Setting up 1:1 meetings between employees and managers
- Implementing and tracking a first-quarterly goal for every employee
- Arranging check-in meetings for every employee
- Assessing progress on every goal at the start of the next quarter
- Soliciting feedback from employees and managers on how the program is going
- Making changes to improve the next round of quarterly goals
This is a great road map for implementing a real solution to an actual problem. But say your company doesn't have the budget for new goal-tracking software this quarter, or also needs to hire three more managers, or doesn't have clear OKRs for each department or position — then this is not a step to take right away. And you might not have known that if you just thought, ok we'll get managers to help employees set goals, no problem!
Only after mapping out each problem and potential solution can you see how they interlink, what bandwidth they will take up, and what is most feasible to tackle first.
Shift your engagement strategy from reactive to proactive
As you start to roll out the strategy you've crafted to improve one or more areas of your company, you need to chart their progress. To be effective, employee engagement strategies need to be flexible and respond to shifts in your company. Everything from employee turnover to new policies to new clients can change how your employees feel about your company, and how engaged they are.
Simply making a few changes will fail as a long-term engagement strategy because it assumes that your company is static and your solutions are perfect. After some time has passed and those changes have been made, you have to reevaluate, yet again. This is why building an employee engagement strategy begins and ends with that engagement survey.
Long-term strategy is about improvement and positive change, not being perfect — because perfect isn't possible. Engagement surveys are a perfect way to check in on your policies, make tweaks, get new and better feedback, and identify what works so you can replicate it. To check the efficiency of long-term strategy, be sure to do these in your engagement survey:
- Explicitly ask about programs that you've put in place
- Repeat verbatim sections that showed extremely poor responses in previous questionnaires
- Evaluate long-term changes before you have rolled out every step
This will make your employee engagement strategy dynamic and proactive, instead of simply being reactive. When you choose to implement an engagement survey program, you are starting to make that shift and continuing the surveys and strategy hand in hand gets you ahead of the curve.
Make the most of your tools
An employee engagement survey is a useful tool for companies, and having it as a cornerstone of your employee engagement strategy will help you make the most of it. After putting time and energy into crafting a survey, and having employees trust you with their thoughts, you need to use that data to its fullest potential.