Employee Engagement

How to Talk to Employees and Managers About Your Engagement Strategy

September 10, 2019
November 7, 2023
Adam Rosenfield
Lattice Team

With the unemployment rate at an all-time low, the market for talent has never been tighter. This scarcity of talent and subsequent disengagement means that unmotivated employees can quickly become ex-employees if their frustrations are not properly understood. With a full 67% of employees reporting being disengaged in their workplace and 85% of employees saying they’re open or actively looking for new opportunities, an engagement strategy should definitely be a priority. 

Many companies understand organizational engagement is truly a long-term strategy, But HR and leadership have a tendency to communicate in a way that may be convoluted for employees and managers to totally sold on the idea. That disconnect may keep your engagement initiatives from fully getting off the ground.

For any employee engagement initiative to be successful, you’ll need to convince employees and managers of what’s in it for them. These tips could help you break through and get buy-in from everyone across your organization. 

Tell managers that employee engagement is a business need.

For managers, all decisions come down to three letters: ROI. A manager wants to know, “How does any company engagement initiative affect my bottom line?” In this case, you need to understand from the manager’s perspective what metrics are most important when it comes to a new employee engagement strategy. For some managers, the bottom line might be overall productivity. For others, it is a matter of dollars and cents. 

Once you understand which metrics matter most to your managers, frame your strategy in those terms — either through a presentation during a monthly manager meeting or in a roll-out email. Here are some data-driven ways to frame a few common metrics:

  • Managing costs: Employee turnover is incredibly expensive. Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual salary
  • Improved productivity: A 2016 Gallup survey shows that engaged employees are 17% more productive. If your goal is to increase your team’s output and efficiency, engagement programs will help.
  • Improving customer ratings: In a 2012 Gallup meta-analysis, researchers found that — looking at the difference “between engaged and actively disengaged work units” — the most engaged units scored 10% higher customer ratings.
  • Reducing safety and quality defects incidents: In the same Gallup meta-analysis, researchers found that more engaged employees reported 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer defects.

Help managers see HR as a partner.

Managers are a key part of engagement success. “Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores,” according to Gallup’s State of the Manager report, so if you’re seeing low engagement scores, it could be due to your managers. And if you’re trying to execute programs to improve scores, managers are going to weigh down or buoy your next round of results. 

When rolling out engagement initiatives, it is invaluable for you to present HR as a partner for success. As you talk to your managers about engagement strategies, you’re going to have to act in a consultative role by working together with them to develop initiatives that align with the results of the engagement surveys.

Leading People, your role is to help managers understand that they are the key to a successful implementation of the engagement strategy, as all engagement is driven locally. HR can help show its value as a business partner to managers by:

  • Providing training and direction on how they can act on a specific survey result
  • Coaching on specific engagement strategies within their teams
  • Alerting managers to sudden dips in a happiness score that may come up in real-time pulse surveys and developing corrective action in conjunction with managers on how to correct it. 

Keep the employee feedback loop open

Being heard matters for employees- a 2018 Salesforce study showed that employees who felt their voice was heard were 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. So you want to make sure employees understand that your engagement plan is your way of helping them feel heard. And, the more options to provide for feedback, the better. 

Once you’ve built out a plan based on results from an employee survey, it may be difficult or even unreasonable to meet one by one to judge the effectiveness of an engagement strategy. Your best bet as an HR person to get this continuous feedback is through pulse surveys or happiness scores. This is an immediate way to gauge how engagement initiatives are going.

If they aren’t going so well, pulse surveys can also help you test out ideas on how to fix the issue. To the employee, it shows their feedback has an impact on the organization and they are appreciated as an individual. 

You can also encourage managers to bring those engagement initiatives up in their 1:1s with employees, reinforcing that this isn’t just an executive-level top-down plan. Your managers will also know the best way to help contextualize these programs to the needs and interests of their team members.

It’s all about the right communication.

Being able to gauge how a manager might react to an engagement initiative versus being able to effectively communicate it to an individual employee is key to long-term success. So much of the people-management function of human resources is understanding how to communicate with particular groups of people within a group. Sending the right message to the right people will only help enhance your effectiveness in your company.