I’ve had several conversations lately about annual employee engagement surveys – it’s about that time of year when people are either reviewing results or preparing to conduct a survey, depending on their HR cycle. These surveys can be powerful tools in measuring employee sentiment, but if your organization thinks that sending out a survey alone checks the box for employee engagement, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

And, if employee engagement isn’t on your radar at all, you’re really missing the boat. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. Despite this, however, Gallup also reports that a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are NOT engaged at work.

There are many factors that contribute to employee engagement, and it’s important to note that building an engaged workforce doesn’t happen overnight, or with a once-a-year survey. To build the foundation for a strong employee engagement program, consider the following:

  1. Make sure all employees understand your organization’s purpose, mission and business objectives, and their role in helping the business achieve those goals. This is absolutely critical to boosting employee engagement and overall business success, particularly as we think about younger generations in the workplace and their desire to make a difference.
  2. Don’t think about employee engagement as a once-a-year thing. An employee engagement survey is a great way to get a pulse on how employees are feeling, but it’s a survey – not a program. Take the time to design a survey that will generate useful data, and use those findings as the baseline for a comprehensive program that demonstrates your commitment to listening and taking action on the items that are most important to your employees. And, don’t limit yourself to seeking feedback just once a year. That’s fine for a formal survey, but look for ways to seek insight and feedback throughout the year.
  3. Ask, listen and ACT. Per the point above, if you are going to ask people to take the time to give you feedback, you need to take the time to listen. And don’t worry – taking action doesn’t mean you should to give in to every crazy request. But, follow up communication should be a part of all initiatives. For example, after an employee survey – the topic that sparked this post – it’s important to follow up with “Here are the top three areas of opportunity we uncovered in the survey, and here’s how we are addressing them.”
  4. Communicate, clearly and transparently. Never underestimate the power of communication. Understand which channels resonate most with your employees, and use those channels to provide them with relevant, timely information about your company – both good and bad.
  5. Understand that engagement does not always mean “more fun.” Too often, employers equate engagement with fun. This can result in some one-time team builders, employee appreciation days and other one-offs. Before I get mistaken for the fun police, I am a firm believer that fun is an important part of establishing a healthy workplace culture, but it isn’t a band aid. A strong employee engagement program is driven by a thorough understanding of your employee base, clear, measurable objectives and a solid strategy.

What is your organization doing to drive engagement and boost your top line?