Employees are engaged when they, at a fundamental level, (a) are valued for their contribution (b) are learning and growing, manifested in their progress in their careers, and doing meaningful, increasingly larger and more complex assignments where they feel somewhat challenged (but not overwhelmed) (c) are aligned with the company’s value systems, and (d) adequately recognized and rewarded, all in an environment that fosters meritocracy, dialogue, transparency, safety, and objectivity.
If companies ensure to tick all these boxes, and then some, they will have higher engagement, which does not mean fun at work and happier employees by the way, but higher productivity, better retention, and improved performance in all indicators.
How do we measure engagement then?
- Employee pulse surveys are just one of the various ways to understand how employees are feeling. Org-wide surveys, followed by short surveys on specific concern areas can be explored. Without action planning and sustained program and interventions based on the results, surveys per se are meaningless.
- On-the-spot surveys during team meetings are increasingly becoming popular where people respond and see the results immediately. Companies may think of ways to consolidate such results or use other digital tools to understand engagement levels better and more in real time.
- Companies should apply AI-based tools to understand the chatter on internal and external discussion boards and social media apps like Yammer, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor, etc.
- Participation in surveys like great places or best employers to work for, if done with genuine intent of gauging the employee pulse, in contrast to just winning by any means, will also be helpful.
Many traditional R&R programs are only “seemingly” effective in improving employee engagement levels, because there may not be much effort toward gathering empirical evidence within a company or research across a cohort of companies to vouch for their effectiveness.
Often these R&R programs are just a few checks in the tick boxes of the HR function’s job description and KPIs. Some of the most common ones take the form of the following and with their pros and cons.
|1||Long Service Awards||Recognize loyaltyMilestone event, photo op||May not incentivize loyaltyDuration of milestones rewarded may not be aligned with current reality of long serviceNot many employees attend the ceremony so hardly a recognition|
|2||Employee of the month (or any other period like quarter or year)||Recognition within departmentBullet points for resumesBooster for the recipient||Criteria may not be known in advance so employees cannot work towards itNot always aligned with overall performance level that is assessed annually, which can be difficult to explain|
|3||Spot award / Pat on the back||More a reward than recognitionFeel good in the short term||Problematic if not aligned with overall performance levelMay not have any monetary reward associatedVery subjective and discretionary, cannot spur performance in others|
|4||Company Value based winners||Creates role models for othersValues are taken seriously||Not always aligned with overall performance or potential scoresCriteria are not always known in advanceDifficult for broader audience to understand and emulate|
|5||Company’s strategic priority based awards||May be changed to give more thrust to different priorities every yearFeels more relevant for the period||Criteria are not always decided in advanceDifficult to get benchmark on what monetary value or trophies to give as these change every years|
|6||Leadership competency based awards||May be more permanent (similar to value based)Imperfect alternative to lack of annual competency based ratingAligned with other incentives or practices (like hiring, performance management)||Too subjective and hence cannot be aspired forSometimes reserved for only senior levels (though leadership competencies are required at all levels)|
|7||Best Manager Awards||Can be good proxy for reverse feedback ratings||Cannot be given to enough managers with very similar scoresJust a popular awardNo link to real performance improvement in the teamManager who is always nice and has a big team more likely to be shortlistedFinal validation by top management may further make it more political and subjective|
|8||Special awards like Chairman Awards||Good as an exclusive award above all elseIn a conglomerate setting, often salutary to drive right group wide behavior||Very opaque and discretionaryExclusivity combined with opaqueness make employees cynical about it|
There are some other less prevalent mechanisms that may be arguably more effective in achieving higher engagement levels
- Participation in ESOP, especially at levels not normally eligible – This definitely confirms that company values the employee and wants her to stay for long term.
- Managers or heads of function head can publicly give kudos on social media platforms like LinkedIn using own handle or company handle.
However, nothing can beat other common sense levers like faster promotion, job rotation, nomination for key assignments or companywide projects, global mobility, leadership development programs, better bonus, and salary increment.
PS: This article represents his professional views solely in a personal capacity, not of his current or previous employers, partners, and clients.