Communicate Influence

Actionable steps to implementing an engagement plan

employee engagement

Here are links to other articles in our series on employee engagement and workplace culture:

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Implementing an engagement plan

To give our readers some actionable steps, let’s say that you’ve been hired as a communications director with a large company that has low employee engagement. What are the top three things you and your team will do in the next three months to increase employee engagement? 

Research before working on engagement

In my communication and business development workshops I start with the phrase ‘Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice’. I do this because there’s a real temptation to jump straight into action and hit a target, rather than get to the root of the cause.

I believe the ‘hard yards’ of any communication or employee engagement strategy are:

    • Research
    • Evaluation
    • Board buy-in

These top three factors will shape your strategy and future comms success, and would be my top priority in the first three months.

Research 

You can’t always trust the numbers, so do your own research. Look at what is being asked, how it’s being asked, and when and how often it was asked. Is it consistent and what qualitative or quantitative information do you have to support it?

Check the facts and identify why the company has a low employee engagement score. This is crucial to prioritize and develop both your tone and content when planning the communication strategy.  

Evaluate the situation

The second priority is evaluation. What do you understand about the current company culture? What are the company’s values, what’s its vision or purpose (above just making money) and how do people’s behaviours reflect this?

For the majority of companies, especially large ones, defining purpose and values is incredibly important. The purpose is simply communicating why your employee should get out of bed each morning for you.

The perfect communication example given is when President John F. Kennedy asked the janitor at NASA what he did, and the janitor replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon”.  To engage people you need to help them understand what they’re a part of, and why they are important to it.

After being able to articulate the purpose , you next need to define the values. Values determine people’s behaviours in everything they do. We recommend to clients no more than five values in total. These values should be communicated through a delivery method we call flexibility within a framework.

For this, you produce a framework of agreed values and communicate these clearly. Then you allow everyone to tell you what they believe the value means to them. This creates brilliant interactive content and enables the individual to remember and buy into the company values. To make this communication really effective, you need to praise and recognize people for upholding the company values in their everyday working life.

Board buy-in to engagement

Thirdly, you’ll need board-buy in. Why? Well, we all know that actions speak louder than words, so if your leaders can’t demonstrate the values then you are, in effect, putting lipstick on a pig.

Make sure the board want to be a part of implementing an engagement plan, that they are a part of it, and that they are willing to openly demonstrate the values in all their dealings. They should commit to a communication plan and discuss who they are, what they’re doing and how important their people are. 

There are lots more tips and advice but my best advice is be visible, engage, get out and about, be the person you’d want to know. The closer you connect with the people, the easier the communication becomes, and the higher the engagement score will go.

Employee Engagement expert Damian McAlonan

Damian McAlonan is Managing Partner with The Boost Partnership. His philosophy in creating effective change is to keep things simple, share with honest communication, and trust people to get on with it. Find out more about Damian on Linkedin, and follow him on Twitter.

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Sheelagh Caygill

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