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Culture Amp

The employee experience platform

When asked to create initiatives that foster employee engagement, where do you start?

Likely what comes to mind is implementing a recognition software platform, allocating bonuses, or handing out prizes. And many CHROs see a common go-to initiative that concerns them above all others: free lunches. These things can cost a lot (and taste delicious), but do they make a difference?

In 2019, we surveyed over 1,000,000 employees and found that what was most highly correlated with engagement was not free lunch. Instead, what we found most important was whether or not a person believed their current employer gave them opportunities to contribute to their personal development.

The second most crucial aspect to employees was leadership. Specifically, whether employees had confidence in their leaders and that they demonstrated people were important to the company’s success.

Recently, we hosted a webinar focused on new perspectives that can help you build workplace engagement on a budget. We shared how you can respond to lower-than-desired engagement scores without spending a fortune. In this article, we summarize the webinar and examine how to build meaningful engagement without breaking the bank. 

Two considerations for a new perspective on engagement

1. Employee engagement doesn’t have to cost a fortune

A tension that we hear a lot from customers is that there isn’t always a budget for expensive initiatives. While sometimes those big expensive projects can pay off, it’s often the low-cost or no-cost actions that can have a bigger impact on how your employees feel.

For example, one consistently high driver of employee engagement is: my company “is a great company for me to make a contribution to my development". High-cost L&D programs might be one option. But it can be highly effective to create an improved template and cadence for 1-on-1 conversations between managers and employees. 

2. Make employee engagement a shared responsibility

Ownership of your culture rests at every level, from leadership to individual contributors and from your founders to new hires. You’ll achieve better results via authentic, shared buy-in if you can create a culture that doesn't see engagement as extra work, but rather as part of how the day-to-day work gets done. 

One example at Culture Amp was an ask we made of Campers coming out of our Wellbeing survey last year. We asked each Camper to use the survey results and our in-platform inspirations to identify two small actions they could take to:

  1. Improve their own wellbeing
  2. Support the wellbeing of a fellow Camper (i.e., not messaging them on Slack after working hours). 

Three components of engagement initiatives

When it comes to driving engagement, three key components can help maximize the impact of your efforts without breaking the bank:

  1. Care
  2. Time
  3. Cost

1. Care: Creating buy-in by acknowledging what matters to people

In today's fast-paced and increasingly busy world of work, it's hard to get people's attention. It’s not enough to say, “engagement matters because it’s engagement". It’s critical to frame the data and your asks of others through the lens of what matters most to them. 

Some questions to ask yourself include: 

  • Do you know what your stakeholders are held accountable to?
  • Do you know what their core challenges are?
  • How might not taking action impact their ability to be successful?

Building care creates buy-in for the actions you’re taking. It can create momentum and ownership around actions. For example, suppose you’re working with sales leaders. In that case, you might be aware that their ability to hit targets is hindered when there's a dip in motivation for salespeople in a particular region. But if you help the leaders see why they should care about keeping their team motivated, your costs decrease because you have to spend fewer resources on engaging the salespeople.

2. Time: Engagement efforts can be simple

If you’re an HR professional, there's no doubt that you've got a lot on your plate, and so do your stakeholders. You need to find ways to help create time where often it feels like it doesn't exist.

There are a few tactics that you might try: leverage for creating that time or helping to share that responsibility.

  • Use existing spaces and time: For example, if there’s already an All Hands meeting on the calendar, leverage that space's allotted time to drive meaningful action.
  • Distribute mutual accountability: Create an action plan that leverages central, local, and individual components. Have a clear ask of local leaders (by geography or by team), managers, and individuals so that the time commitment gets shared.
  • Keep your asks simple and clear: Make this a priority, even if you have to compromise on being as detailed and specific as you may want to be.

3. Cost: Initiatives can be cheap as long as you’re intentional in scoping the problem and solution 

One reason that engagement initiatives often end up with expensive solutions is that the problems that we’re trying to solve aren’t properly scoped, or actions are created in a vacuum.  

We recommend investing a little more time up-front specifying the problem or opportunity (for example, through root causing and focus groups). Then come up with ideas that find the right intersectionality between being feasible and having an impact. 

Typically, this might look like three basic steps:

  1. Collaborate: Spend time unpacking your results and refining one problem you might try to solve
  2. Ideate: Collectively work with a team to generate ideas for action
  3. Activate: Act on your ideas and get some quick wins

Watch the full webinar to learn more about ways to structure your engagement planning around care, time, and cost.

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