Employee Engagement - Effective Methods

We discussed, in the earlier chapters, how to engage with employees emotionally through appropriate leadership. Here we are investigating the effectiveness of different communication methods which contribute towards that goal.

There are 3 ways to engage with employees, each of which has its own strengths.

  • Informative Engagement − One-way information.

  • Reciprocal Engagement − Two-way information.

  • Dynamic Engagement − Real-time and intelligent use of information.

Let us break these down a bit further to understand what effect each one can have and why they are all needed.

Informative Engagement

This is naturally the most traditional method, being the one-way information about company benefits and the present/future situations for employees.

This is done through –

  • Paper documents
  • Electronic documents
  • Verbal education

The emotional response from this process is relatively low, as it does not require the employee to fully digest the information or more importantly, understand its meaning in the context of their lives. It is a one-way information which will usually is speed-read and then filed away. But this information typically carries long-term important content, particularly as reference material for when it suddenly becomes high priority, such as a Healthcare benefit in a time of illness. Hence its monetary value to the employee can be high, but the emotional engagement value can be low for employee retention.

Whilst this is a required part of the communication process, a risk of relying solely on Informative Engagement is that lazy managers might limit themselves to this with the feeling they are “doing it right”, when in fact they are just paying “lip service” to disengaged staff. This can be a road to ruin, both for themselves, their business and for the future mindset of the employee, who having never been exposed to good leadership could become predisposed to disengagement; a vicious circle.

Therefore, to support the content meaningfully and raise the emotional value of that content, reciprocal engagement must be in place.

Reciprocal Engagement

This is a natural environment for companies that genuinely mean well for their staff. Most of the profitable companies are in this zone as they want to retain their staff and will ensure they provide enough conversation and open-door policies for all aspects of employment to feel they’re providing a positive workplace.

Reciprocal Engagement

Particularly for large companies, the latter half of the 20th Century majored strongly on this with even greater emphasis put on it now. There are many business support companies that run a two-way communication and training sessions for staff, covering topics such as −

  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Buddying and Mentoring
  • Open Floor Suggestions
  • Feedback Surveys and Polls
  • Management Tutoring
  • Skills Development Courses
  • NLP Training

Whilst this can be very successful for global firms down to micro boutique businesses, it is often only effective for a few days or weeks before the old habits creep back in. If the leaders and managers don’t live the principles fully, then the chances are that the staff won’t live them either. Regular sessions and reminders work well, but the need for their frequency reflects the lack of deep long-term cultural change that is needed.

Still, it works to a point, but it is not going far enough to addressing the real primal needs of individuals, the need to feel positive emotions from the inside. As we have discovered previously, this needs personalization and relevance to the life of each employee, which leads us on to dynamic engagement.

Dynamic Engagement

An excellent manager will primarily have leadership attributes that they instinctively want to pass on to their staff. Once those staff have progressed within the company, they will provide the same leadership to their teams and so on as the company grows through time.

To achieve this, the leaders need to fully understand how their team members work and what drives them personally. They must do more than communicate benefits or ask for feedback on what the company could be doing better. If they know the specific personal and professional goals of each of their team members, then they can respond with relevant and timely information that helps the employee to achieve those goals.

As mentioned in reciprocal engagement, this is not always possible, particularly if the leader has a very large team, they simply don’t have time to do their main job whilst seeking to understand every nuance of their employees. This is where technology can help.

Until now, technology has been limited to factors as explained in Informative Engagement and Reciprocal Engagement above. But now we are in an era where real time information can be integrated with personal preferences. With the growth of Social Networking Tools and “Big Data”, we can start to automate the process of specific and individualized engagement. It will always need human interaction to apply the wisdom of understanding and building relationships, but the gathering of user habits and preferences is quite normal now.

For example −

  • We often see online forms pre-populated for us.

  • We receive targeted online advertisements that are relevant to our web browsing.

  • We can see a breakdown of our spending habits through online banking.

The same is becoming prevalent in the workplace and we have the data to work with the staff to make their lives easier and simpler. Techniques are appearing that combine employee preferences with their actual benefits and future development Programs.

Bear in mind that people of the Millennial Mindset are becoming more inclined to interact with their always-on mobile devices outside of normal working hours. It is clear that where relevant data is used in an automated way, that can be very powerful for improving efficiency and reducing the need for decision making processes.

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