Tips for HR to drive employee engagement in an organisation

Know your workforce and communicate well with them, writes the CEO of Aon Hewitt Middle East Markus Wiesner

Over the years, managers’ roles in engaging employees have become solidified as employees ask for more than assurance of a monthly paycheck. One of the biggest challenges facing HR is driving engagement by working through, and with, managers. HR managers should overcome the inevitable challenge and effectively build key imperatives in order to build engagement within the organisation.

Focus on the business outcomes of engagement:

Proactive HR professionals need to make sure that they understand the business fundamentals and outcomes that matter by demonstrating the business value of engagement and developing engagement objectives that managers would relate to. For example:

o Develop a detailed insight into the key business processes and performance measures and speak to key managers to understand this
o Set engagement objectives before a survey launch and set up an annual ‘people strategy’ to discuss the business approach with key managers, its likely impact on employees, the risks, key employee segments and what is required
o Compile data to link engagement scores to business outcomes and qualitative data such as stories from employees
o Keep engagement on a steady course even when the organisation is engulfed by unexpected waves e.g. changes in economy, loss of key customers, mergers or acquisitions

Know the workforce

CEOs and HR professionals should not rely only on market data to make investment decisions. HR professionals need to have the insight and knowledge to engage senior management through:

o Knowing who the key employees’ segments are, looking at their engagement levels and challenges and considering the statistical and the qualitative data
o Identifying problems before they arise by proactively speaking to different employees, and more importantly, identify pockets of good practices and positive engagement that will save HR from being the organisational ‘doomsayer’

Communicate well with leaders and managers

HR professionals need to communicate with the people and the organisation with imagination and an eye to the future. However, worryingly, Aon Hewitt research shows that a high proportion of managers strongly believe they cannot influence the action plan to improve engagement in future years as budgets and strategic plans are determined by the executive team.

While the engagement survey is the ‘scientific’ part of the process, it is best to craft a narrative that speaks to business priorities while bringing the employee voice to the forefront and engaging managers by:

o Continuous monitoring of the HR communication
o Developing a communication plan to cover all planned HR programs and initiatives
o Avoiding the temptation to go it alone and engage managers in key annual people planning milestones
o Engaging key managers on their units’ unique challenges while keeping them aware and raising their understanding of the business challenges overall

Develop management strength

It is best to create programmes that develop leaders’ and managers’ strength on people management to lay the foundations for high employee engagement. Communication fosters awareness, motivation and desire in managers to engage people, but more is needed to develop the skills for effective people management by:

o Assessing managers’ strengths on engagement and helping them understand the relationship between their own and their teams’ engagement levels
o Reviewing recruitment, selection, development and reward processes for managers. Ensuring that leadership and management development programmes address employee engagement capability
o Create forums where managers can safely discuss their achievements and challenges for raising employee engagement
o Encourage experienced and capable managers to serve as coaches to less experienced ones
o Celebrate the accomplishments of managers who achieve breakthrough results on people management

To start with…

Employee engagement is the cornerstone of HR strategy and a key indicator of HR programmes’ effectiveness. While managers are a key link to the engagement process, it is the HR function that should drive it forward. No one HR practice or programme is the key to employee engagement. It is only by building solid foundations, planning carefully and executing mindfully that HR can master the art and science that is employee engagement.