Employee engagement is a pressing issue for both small and established companies. The job market remains strong and companies are fighting over a shrinking pool of top talent. That competition means that companies need to do everything they can to keep their best employees engaged before recruiters start calling. There’s no one size fits all approach to employee engagement, but some of the most innovative companies have found unique employee engagement strategies. Here are employee engagement best practices from some of the top companies in the world.
Determine What Employee Metrics To Capture And Analyze
Human Resources functions are not normally thought of as quantitative, but employee engagement best practices are rooted in numbers. Companies that want to determine how to engage and retain top talent need to be able to process large amounts of data. You may not realize it, but you already have access to a lot of employee data: performance reviews, employee surveys, exit interviews, and other information is likely already collected at your company. You just need to figure out what data is the most useful and what problem you’re trying to solve.
Google takes employee engagement very seriously. Its internal People Analytics function dives deep into the numbers to determine what factors boost employee engagement. Google uses that data to recommend policies to improve the employee experience that are backed by hard data. In one case study, Google tried to determine whether managers were really necessary in its workforce. Researchers compared managers’ performance ratings and upward feedback to productivity metrics for those manager’s teams. They found that top managers had an outsized impact on performance and retention and used those findings to update Google’s manager training program. Any employee engagement strategy will require rigorous data collection and analysis. You don’t need the investment or analytical prowess of Google to make employee engagement work, but you do need the ability to assess large amount of data. The right data and an analytical mindset can help you design employee engagement strategies that make a lasting impact.
Encourage Feedback And Show Employees You’re Willing To Listen
Ditch the annual survey. No one enjoys participating in the first place and it’s not an effective measurement tool. Do you really want to wait a year between surveys to find out you have a pressing issue? Companies need to embrace a culture of constant dialogue and show that they act on feedback. That feedback process starts at the supervisor level and goes to the very top of the company. Supervisors need to be speaking with their subordinates at least once a month to evaluate their performance and solicit feedback. The C-suite must also be willing to have open, frank discussions with talent without the insulation of a communications professional dictating the email.
Companies like Facebook demonstrate their willingness to respond to feedback. Facebook holds a town hall every week where employees can ask CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives questions. No topic is out of bounds and any employee can pose a question. The CEO speaks directly to employees without a filter or advanced preparation. This approach serves two purposes-Zuckerberg can learn directly about what issues employees are concerned about and outline how the company is responding. This conversation happens in real time, without a filter.
Promote Diversity Throughout The Organization
Most major companies have diversity initiatives in place. These initiatives often include hiring targets to make sure that employee demographics mirror those of the broader population. While a noble goal, those diversity initiatives are sometimes confined to employee recruitment instead of employee retention. Employees, regardless of race, religion, or gender, want to feel comfortable in their work environment. This can be difficult for underrepresented minorities or those that don’t fit the “traditional” mold for certain roles. Employee engagement best practices require that companies ensure every employee feels valued and connected to the broader organization. Diversity initiatives don’t amount to much if you constantly have to backfill those positions.
Apple is closely associated with its late CEO, Steve Jobs. It’s current CEO, Tim Cook, has also made a significant impact on the company’s bottom line and its workforce. Shortly after becoming CEO, Cook developed a roadmap to building a more inclusive workforce. He hired several women for his executive team, made a commitment to proactively recruit minorities for director roles, and promoted the idea of publishing diversity metrics. His vision stemmed from a simple idea: Apple employees should look the people using Apple products. Making a public commitment to inclusion, prioritizing representation in the C-suite, and tracking progress are essential. More inclusive teams mean that everyone feels welcome and can focus on their work.
Offer Unique Perks That Other Companies Can’t
When most employees think of “compensation”, they usually focus on salary. The truth is that total benefits can be twice an employee’s salary. Companies with top notch health and retirement plans might spend even more. A total compensation package is a critical way to differentiate yourself from competitors. Think about what benefits or perks you can provide that employees can’t find anywhere else. Free food or foosball tables are nice, but focus on perks that really make a difference in the lives of employees. Those kind of perks can have a powerful, tangible impact on employee engagement.
Starbucks has historically been known as a progressive company and a tight labor market has made it even more focused on retention. The company offers educational assistance to help staff earn college degrees, stock grants for every employee, and a weekly coffee allowance. In 2018, Starbucks announced that employees would receive subsidized “backup” daycare through Care.com. The programs also included senior care in addition to childcare. This is especially important for Starbucks employees since they work on shifts that can change on short notice. Starbucks offers unique perks that improve the lives of its employees but also make it easier for those employees to work an unpredictable shift schedule. This makes Starbucks employees feel more valued and ensures that they come to work every day ready to focus on the customer, not childcare.
Promote Internal Development To Retain Top Talent
There will always be a superstar at another firm that you want to poach. That person might be the solution to your immediate problem but you’re overlooking your homegrown talent. You have plenty of superstars in your workforce; some of them just need help reaching their full potential. The best companies know that nurturing and developing internal talent is one of the most important employee engagement best practices. Investing in employees helps build deep bonds with the company. Those employees are far more likely to see your company as a place to build a career, rather than somewhere to stay for a few years.
Proctor & Gamble has for decades relied on internal talent to fuel its senior ranks. Proctor & Gamble has formal talent development programs at both the undergraduate and MBA level to create the top of this funnel. New recruits are provided frequent, intensive training to prepare them for careers rather than jobs. That training includes fundamentals of Brand Marketing, Finance, Marketing, and Operations. Proctor & Gamble makes employee recognition a top priority. Top performers are fast tracked to more senior roles and given even more specialized training. The results speak for themselves, as many of Proctor & Gamble’s previous CEO’s are homegrown talent.
Support Flexible Or Unorthodox Work Schedules
Work-life balance is a real thing. Companies paid lip service to it in the past but the tight job market now requires companies to walk the walk. The traditional 9-5 model and emphasis on face time don’t make sense anymore. The modern company is always on and always connected; employees should be able to take advantage of that too. Companies that want to boost engagement (and retention) need to let employees work their way. That means providing greater flexibility in work schedules and embracing remote working. Certain roles will require face time, but most don’t. Companies find they actually get the most out of their human capital when they don’t require everyone to be in the office.
Aetna is one company that’s already figured this out. The health insurance giant offers employees a wide range of flexible working options. Those options include:
- Share: Employees divide their time between an office location and an outside location such as their home.
- Home-Based: Employees primarily work from home and come into the office as needed.
- Client-Based: Employees primarily work at an Aetna client’s office.
- Mobile: Employees split their time between their home and other locations.
These flexible and “telework” schedules help employees work the hours that fit their schedule and come in when necessary. Like many other companies, Aetna has realized that face time isn’t necessary for most roles. The company even offers specialized training for teleworkers and their managers to keep them engaged and motivated.
Give Employees Control
That doesn’t mean giving employees equity or sales incentives, although those are good strategies as well. Giving employees control over their workspace and office environment can be a powerful motivator. Being able to personalize a workspace space gives employees a greater sense of ownership and attachment to the firm. Personalization can involve selecting furniture, color palettes, or other décor. That sense of ownership drives productivity and strengthens the connection between companies and their employees.
Pixar takes the idea of employee control and ownership to the next level. Pixar animators work on the some of the most iconic and culturally significant films in American cinema. That often requires long hours and tight deadlines. Pixar recognized that fact and gave animators the ability to do away with the traditional cubicle. Animators have the option to build their own cubicle “cabin”, complete with walls, windows, and a roof. They have total authority over the style and decoration of their cabin and can even add a second story if they’d like. Most companies don’t have the resources to offer a similar perk, but the theory stands. Giving employees the opportunity to personalize their workspace turns into a home away from home, not just an office they leave at 5pm.
Rotational programs are nothing new. Most large companies offer some form of rotational program for entry-level grads or management track employees. They typically involve cycling employees through different functional departments (Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc.) or different business lines. The idea is to expose high potential employees to the broader organization and give them opportunities to establish networks as they grow into senior roles. Rotational programs are a good idea, but what about rotating outside the company? An externship can be an even more effective way to boost employee engagement.
One company that invests heavily in externships is Bain, the global consulting firm. Recent MBA’s and college grads consult for blue chip companies on engagements that can last for weeks or even months. In many cases, those projects are randomly assigned and employees have little input on staffing. This can contribute to burnout, which is a real problem in an industry where long travel is the norm. One way to combat that issue and boost engagement is to offer high performers six-month externships. Those externships can be with companies Bain already consults for, as well as nonprofits like the World Economic Forum. Employees have the chance to consult for an organization they’re passionate about, learn new skills, and recharge. Bain gets employees who return more passionate about their work and ready to make a difference.
Give Employees An Easy Out
It’s bad enough when employees quit and leave. It’s even worse when they quit and stay. Employee burnout and disengagement cost companies productivity. Disengaged employees may not be motivated enough to look for another job and may just keep treading water until they do. This can be a real challenge for managers: these disengaged employees may be doing just enough to not get fired but aren’t working to their full potential. Companies need a solution to encourage disengaged employees to move on and pump fresh blood into the corporate ranks.
What if you just pay them to go away? That’s Amazon’s actual policy. Amazon offers any employee up to $5,000 to quit, no questions asked. Amazon inherited this policy from Zappos, which it acquired in 2009. The rationale is simple: companies shouldn’t want to retain employees who don’t want to work there. Keeping employees who would rather work at a different firm, or even a different profession, aren’t adding value to their organization. When you do the math, paying $5,000 is a bargain. That’s $5,000 instead of weeks or months of lost productivity and a longer time to hire.
Employee engagement best practices have a few things in common. They are data driven, innovative, and purpose built for specific workforces. Not all of these employee engagement strategies could or should be applied to your workplace. It’s up to you as a manager to cherry pick the strategies that will work best for your employees and discard those that won’t make an impact. You just need to build incentive programs to keep them engaged and committed to your firm. Contact CoreCentive to help launch an incentive plan that keeps employees engaged and recruiters at bay.