As with any business process, there’s an art and a science to employee engagement. The art of employee engagement is informed by your culture, leadership style and other important but intangible factors that are unique to your organization. The science of employee engagement comes from the tested and proven ways we can measure engagement through different kinds of surveys.
Balancing the two can be a challenge, but it’s a must for getting engagement right. Here’s how art and science merge in the different aspects of employee engagement.
Art: You’ll lean heavily on the art of communication during any employee engagement initiative. If your organization usually communicates with employees in a formal way, they’ll reject any hint of rah-rah excitement over a new push for engagement. Likewise, if you usually have a casual and friendly communication tone, a sudden shift to corporate-speak when announcing the initiative is likely to bring skepticism.
Science: When communicating about employee engagement, share information about the science of the procedure: How it works, what gets measured, what happens with the information and who will have access to it. Showing employees that the survey process has a basis in scientific principles will boost trust in the project.
Art: Your culture and communication tactics will have a lot to do with how your survey is put together. The wording of questions will need to fit other business communications, and you’ll need to use the lingo of the company to make it familiar and trustworthy to employees. Think about how your employees see your organization, and use that knowledge to inform how you build and administer your survey.
Science: On the science side, ensure that you’ve read up on how to build an effective employee survey and have learned about the importance of writing effective questions. Brush up on data analysis and work with a partner who knows how to spot significant shifts that could represent opportunities for working on engagement. Surveys are all about science, so rely on it here.
Art: Once you’ve identified changes to make, let your art side shine by making them a reality in a way that is true to your company’s culture, mission and vision. A nimble startup that begins offering a more flexible work schedule to retain top performers might announce the change as a perk of being a progressive and dynamic young company, while a large corporate organization may announce the change as one that helps keep it relevant in a changing world.
Science: As you make these changes, continue to survey to see how engagement changes. Using science to back up what you think you see will help the company make more strategic and effective changes as part of its engagement work.
The Next Step
Art: Where you take your engagement projects will depend a lot on culture. Your employees may be comfortable with a lot of little changes in a short amount of time, or you may need to slow things down a bit as processes are streamlined and people get used to the new normal. Having a clear mission, culture and vision will help you pace the speed of change at your organization.
Science: Surveying employees too often will give them survey fatigue, and the numbers won’t be as useful or may indicate sentiments that aren’t even there. Look for signs of survey fatigue (such as incomplete surveys or lots of surveys that give “neutral” answers) and time your next survey accordingly.
We’ve written an e-book about the art and science of engagement! You can download it here.
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