The idea of employee engagement has been around for some time but as the nature of work changes so do the implications for engagement.
Employee expectations and demands are changing. People are putting an increasingly high premium on a positive work environment and flexibility. They want jobs which give them a sense of purpose and opportunities for growth, and they expect their employers to be good corporate citizens. When selecting an employer these considerations are sometimes seen as more important than compensation and benefits.
The idea of a job for life has long since died. Employees change jobs more frequently than they once did which increases the pressure on employers to provide streamlined promotion opportunities and give employees tools to manage their own careers.
At the same time social media provides people with opportunities to assess an organisation’s employer brand and attractiveness as an employer. If it doesn’t measure up it will lose the war for talent. So the pressure is on. If companies are to compete successfully in attracting, engaging and retaining their people they will need to focus on driving meaning, purpose, and passion and, above all, on listening to their people. And listening means more than the annual survey. Competing with the best means adopting an “always-on”approach.
Fortunately, a new generation of always-on survey tools and feedback systems is already available. They enable organisations to monitor closely their organisation’s “pulse”, provide insight into what’s working and what’s not working, and help them identify potential problems. Some companies have already embraced this new approach; others are managing the transition from the annual survey to always-on step-by-step, focusing on regular pulse surveys until the idea of continual two-way dialogue is properly embedded.
Always-on does not automatically lead to better quality feedback and higher levels of engagement. Careful design is essential so that the feedback can be used to monitor alignment with strategic priorities and goals and as a driver of continual improvement. The platform should provide employees with the opportunity to give a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback so that a rich blend of numerical scores, opinions and suggestions is generated. It needs to guarantee anonymity so that employees can share their views openly and freely, without fear of censure. At the same time it should allow people to identify themselves if they want, so that colleagues and managers can follow up ideas and suggestions. Above all we should not forget that feedback is of limited value unless it is acted upon. It needs to drive action and continual improvement. Therefore, the best platforms should incorporate an action planning component which enables teams to records actions, encourage them to share best practice and enable management to track improvement team by team over time.
Leading companies work hard to attract, engage and retain top talent and they employ a wide range of approaches and tools to help them. They continuously re-visit the question why their employees should commit to working for them and what they can do to make the workplace more attractive. Gathering, analysing and acting on feedback is a key part of that process and makes a big contribution to the development of the employer brand and business success. Indeed one of our own clients, Mitchells and Butlers, has recently been recognised at the National HR Distinction Awards as the “Overall Best Place to Work”.