How’s your HR strategy around employee engagement?

As an HR leader, your incentive to engage your workforce is significant: highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable. Employees who are committed to and invested in their workplaces are naturally less likely to seek new opportunities. And when you’re talking about A-players, employee retention has substantial business benefits.

According to Gartner, “70% of business leaders agree that employee engagement is critical to achieving business results.” At the same time, Gartner says, “The latest Gartner Global Talent Monitor finds that only 32% of employees globally report high levels of intent to stay, and only 14% report high levels of discretionary effort day to day.”

This means that an effective employee engagement strategy is essential for any HR team. If 32% of employees have a high level of intent to stay, that means that 68% have mixed feelings or are actively searching for a new job!

Let’s take a closer look at some resources to help you plan your employee engagement strategy and provide a few steps you can take right away.

Deloitte: a new model for employee engagement

In an article at Deloitte Insights titled “Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement,” Josh Bersin shares five elements and strategies that work together. The five-element framework is the result of two years of research, as well as hundreds of discussions with Deloitte clients.

The article begins, “The employee-work contract has changed, compelling business leaders to build organizations that engage employees as sensitive, passionate, creative contributors.” 

According to Bersin, power has shifted from the employer to the employee. As a result, Bersin argues that “improving employee engagement” must now shift to “building an irresistible organization.”

Deloitte’s refreshed model for engagement has five major elements and 20 underlying strategies (e.g., four strategies per element):

Source: “Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement,” Deloitte Insights

The five major elements are:

  1. Meaningful work
  2. Hands-on management
  3. Positive work environment
  4. Growth opportunity
  5. Trust in leadership

Create a voice of the employee program

While surveys are the most common method for measuring employee engagement, progressive organizations are deriving engagement analytics using data from public (e.g., social media platforms) and internal (e.g., intranet) systems.

To quote a Gartner article on employee engagement:

“Some leading organizations have taken a page from voice-of-the customer initiatives, applying these concepts and services (such as social network analysis, sentiment analysis, and social recognition and feedback channels) to gather additional insight around employee opinions, behaviors, and attitudes — and create a ‘voice of the employee.’”

In product development, a “voice of the customer” program is used to capture customer input and requirements when creating new products or product enhancements. With voice of the employee (VoE), the employees are the customers, and HR leaders must look to the “employee voice” when creating services, policies, procedures, and internal programs. 

VoE is an emerging discipline and market. MaritzCX is one vendor that provides Voice of the Employee software.

Advice for HR leaders: By creating a VoE program, you ensure that employees are heard, which results in higher employee engagement.

Reinforce your company mission statement

At some point in the coming decade, Gen Z will be comprise the majority of the workforce. More so than older generations, Gen Z wants to be part of something meaningful. They seek an employer with a shared mission and values.

As an HR leader, your first step is to ensure that your company’s mission statement and core values are clearly communicated and well-known. New employees shouldn’t have to search around to find out what it is; it should be self-evident.

Let’s use an example: outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. They’re known for passionate employees and loyal customers. Patagonia’s mission statement page has the heading “We’re in business to save our home planet.”

Their “reason for being” begins:

“At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice, and our imaginations—to do something about it.”

Their core values are:

  • Build the best product
  • Cause no unnecessary harm
  • Use business to protect nature
  • Not bound by convention

Patagonia so clearly defines their mission and values that employee engagement begins before an employee is hired. Those who apply to the company do so because of shared beliefs and values. So long as Patagonia remains true to its mission and values, employees show up on day one already “bought in.”

Some stay for life.

Advice for HR leaders: Use consistency and repetition to reinforce your mission statement and core values to both employees and the outside world. Every employee should be able to recite your mission and values by heart.

Employee engagement begins with the hiring process

In a SHRM article titled “Coach to Your Team’s Strengths to Improve Employee Engagement,” workplace expert Pi Wen Looi makes the following observation of the hiring process: “If you want to have engaged employees, you’ll need to make sure you are recruiting the right talent—a passion and value match, a culture fit, and with the right skills.” 

In the article, Bob Kelleher, who runs The Employee Engagement Group consultancy, advises HR leaders on hiring criteria. Instead of focusing too much on education and skills, carefully assess behaviors and traits, since they best reflect potential employees’ values.

Employee disengagement can stem from the fact that the employees’ values and the company’s values never matched in the first place. In the article, Kelleher is quoted as saying, “I often tell clients, ‘You don’t have an engagement issue, you have a selection issue.'” 

Advice for HR leaders: While hiring for a skills match is important, pay equal attention to “values indicators” to ensure that new hires fit well with your company’s culture, mission, and values. Decisions made during the hiring process directly impact employee engagement from day one.