Three research-backed ways to improve employee engagement
The best way to understand what’s driving employee engagement is by using feedback captured in an employee engagement survey. Over 1,500 organizations have used Culture Amp’s employee engagement survey to determine what matters to employees. Every year we analyze this data to understand trends driving employee engagement.
Research from our 2018 benchmark data revealed that learning and development, leadership, and service and quality focus were the top three factors driving employee engagement across industries.
While these three factors show up often, how individual companies take action on them differs. This complexity led our team at Culture Amp to create the inspiration engine, which provides decision-makers with tested ideas from our community to address specific focus areas related to employee engagement.
Here, we share inspirations for action on the top three factors driving employee engagement based on our 2018 benchmark research.
Improving employee engagement through learning and development
Learning and development (L&D) is about allowing employees to learn new skills and grow personally and professionally, either formally or informally. The survey question, “This is a great company for me to make a contribution to my development,” in particular, has shown up as a driver of engagement for the past three years. According to Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, authors of An Everyone Culture, development-focused organizations will prosper as they are more deeply aligned with people's strongest motive: to grow.
Below are two ideas for driving engagement through employee development.
Host Lunch and Learn's with other, cross-functional teams
Increase the visibility and accessibility of different teams by holding "lunch and learn"'s with other teams. These informal opportunities for learning allow teams to meet and hear from members from distant teams. This not only improves an employee's knowledge but also creates a greater sense of connection across the organization.
Enable employees to test different roles
Give employees a chance to test out different jobs within the business. One company set up a job exchange program that enables employees to expand their experience and develop skills outside core capabilities. Job exchanges ensure people can learn and grow even if there are no new roles to move into. At this company, the exchange is generally initiated by an employee and facilitated by the manager and human resources team to ensure employees exchanging roles are set up to succeed.
Case study: Vend
At Vend, learning and development was identified as a high driver of engagement. In their June 2016 engagement survey, 79% of people at Vend favorably rated the statement: “I have access to the learning and development I need to do my current job well.” To continuously improve on this factor, they began empowering people to make decisions that fit their careers and encouraging managers to talk with their teams about individual learning and development.
Read the full Vend case study
10 companies with great learning and development programs
Companies that offer learning and development opportunities experience greater engagement. Here are 10 examples of great L&D programs in the workplace.
Improving employee engagement through leadership
Historically, employee perceptions of leadership have had an outsized impact on employee engagement. In 2018, that trend continued. Specifically, we see that confidence in leaders, and leadership's ability to communicate a motivating vision (and connect the vision to what employees are doing daily), have a significant impact on employee engagement.
Below are some actions we have seen organizations implement to improve perceptions of leadership.
Host lunch Drop-Ins
Increase the visibility and accessibility of leaders by holding regular lunches hosted by executives. One option is for executives to have one monthly lunch with a randomly selected team. Leaders connect with employees outside of day-to-day activities, and employees can get to know leaders more personally.
Create a public Executive Channel
Enable greater transparency in decision-making by making executive discussions on internal communication channels available to anyone in the company. Another option is to record executive meetings and make the recordings available to everyone in the organization. If that sounds too intrusive, an alternative is to share the meeting notes during all-hands meetings. This gives employees a better understanding of what executives see as important. It also provides clarity on executives' views on those topics.
Case study: Jactravel
At JacTravel, leadership communication was identified as a high driver of employee engagement. “What we heard from the survey was there wasn’t enough explanation from leadership of the course we’re on and why we’re on it,” says Deputy Chief Executive Officer Peter Clements.
To address this, Clements arranged a series of meetings across the company’s global offices to spend time talking with employees. “It was a really constructive and informative period that helped bridge the gap between the executive team and people within the business. Off the back of that, we’re enacting several initiatives around communication and engagement,” he says.
Improving employee engagement with a focus on service and quality
While learning and development and leadership have been consistent drivers of engagement over time, a focus on service and quality is an emerging factor of importance. This factor represents an organization's attitude towards its product quality and services, internally and externally.
Here are two ideas for increasing engagement by focusing on service and quality.
Hold Project retrospectives
One organization holds frequent project retrospectives, allowing teams to work together to identify mistakes and what went well and apply learning to the next project. For larger teams, they scale retrospectives using a few additional steps. First, a team of facilitators is identified and trained. Then, those facilitators perform focus groups around standardized themes with project team members. Next, the facilitators compare notes. Finally, the themes are presented at an all-hands meeting to share learnings and get feedback.
Highlight impact from customers
Share the value that customers experience with employees regularly.
One company invites a panel of customers to participate in their all-hands meetings. Each customer explains how using their product has positively impacted their business and shares some things they wish the product could do (or ways the product has failed them). An employee moderates a Q&A session between the customer panel and attendees. Team Level: The team lead can invite a panel of internal customers to participate in their team meeting. The internal customers can explain how the team helps them achieve their goals but also highlight some difficulties in working together.
Case study: Culture Amp
At Culture Amp, we have a customer-focused mindset regarding the quality of our products. We regularly seek feedback from customers, and our product team leads the charge in ensuring this feedback is implemented.
Here are a few ways we do this:
- Our Product Managers (and broader Product Group) members regularly sit in on prospect demos and customer success meetings to hear directly from customers about what’s working well and where we can improve our product.
- Our voice of the customer program, where we ask customers, “Would you recommend Culture Amp, and if so, why?” We regularly follow up with Promoters/Detractors to better understand their feedback.
- Customer Discovery - Every product feature moves through a discovery process to truly understand the problem to be solved, along with several iterations of design and a staged rollout. At each stage, customer feedback is used to understand how to improve the product.
- Product usage data to understand adoption and where customers are/aren’t engaging with the product.
- Capturing unsolicited feedback from customers via support requests
- Capturing feedback from Campers regularly interacting with customers
All of these various customer feedback mechanisms contribute to our short and longer-term product roadmap planning
How to improve employee engagement
Our data shows that learning and development, leadership, and service and quality focus are drivers of engagement across industries. The examples above are a great start to taking action toward improving employee engagement. However, ultimately, the best way to identify the most impactful way to improve employee engagement is by using an employee engagement survey to reveal what's uniquely engaging to your employees.