The very first step when engaging employees

Do your employees have clarity around why their job even exists? What lens are they looking through when viewing your organisation’s culture?

This fundamental first step when engaging employees begins, either deliberately or unwittingly, before they even start their first day with the organisation. It actually starts during the recruitment and onboarding process.

Employee engagement on the whole is made up of a range of different factors or drivers. With some drivers weighting more than others depending on the environment, team and the individuals. However, one of the key drivers of employee engagement that all organisations should be able to nail, is clarity of purpose.

I agree with Simon’s Sinik’s sentiment that organisations which provide their people something to work towards are more likely to engage employees rather than just giving them something to work on. As Simon says, “If the leader of the organisation can’t clearly articulate WHY the organisation exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?

Research shows that giving employees clarity of purpose and connection with end-goals substantially increases productivity and effectiveness – helping navigate towards success.

Employees with clarity and purpose not only approach their own tasks with more enthusiasm and dedication, they frequently go the extra mile to be helpful and courteous to their colleagues and more dedicated to the organisation. Fostering strong employee engagement and strengthening organisational culture.

After working in recruitment for a number of years, I understand the temptation of painting a picture that doesn’t accurately align with reality – just to get the ‘right’ people in the door. I also know how if feels to be sold a job or an organisation that doesn’t end up fitting the picture I was led to believe. You’re not doing the organisation any favours by getting people in the door under false pretences (or wishful thinking). And for an employee – it’s disengaging.

Checking in with employees, at any stage of the employee lifecycle, and asking a few simple questions about the lens in which they view why they do what they do, and what value they’re adding, helps managers accurately assess perception and then articulate the actual purpose of the organisation, the team and the individual.

Don’t underestimate the power of starting a meaningful conversation around clarity of, and connection to, purpose. It’s an important driver all managers should have on their employee engagement checklist.  

Engagement (or any) surveying is not enough

Asking someone a bunch of pre-determined questions on one particular day, of one particular week, in one particular month in their career journey with your organisation is a standard way of ‘measuring’ employee engagement. But how do you know you have all the right puzzle pieces?

I can think of many times in my career that a survey was administered in a time of turbulence for me or my team. It may have been the shitty time of budget cutting; or maybe a new project was just launched; or the team was disrupted in a multitude of other ways. But I knew (or at least hoped) that the survey results weren’t a true reflection of their engagement overall.

Without a deep dive, or even just a focus group ‘sanity check’, how do you know the true value of the feedback you’ve collected? If it’s been a crappy day/week/month for someone, does that reflect on their survey answers? In my experience, hell yes! You may still need to address the issues front and centre, but you definitely should check the validity of the engagement data before making any decisions about long-term action planning.

The best way to find the root cause of disengagement or even that tipping point between fully connected and just doing ok, is discussion. Using insight-encouraging questions to gain clarity, a deeper understanding of your employee’s engagement levels, is critical if you want to turn meh into good, or good into lets-smash-this-out-of-the-park.

If you’re serious about employee engagement, focus groups and deep-dives are important. Use them, or better yet – get an unbiased perspective (like me!) to run them for you.