Over the last few months I have observed closely as employees took ownership to drive various engagement initiatives across the organization I work in. Unlike other organizations where dedicated teams are assigned to create a fun place, employees here leverage their ‘collective wisdom’ to uplift the mood in the offices.
What started as a ‘community event’ to build connection and improve the ‘buzz’ in the office grew into a twice a month engagement calendar event focusing on the company’s key milestones. There are now more and more employees volunteering to chip in with events! Despite the slowdown and pressing demands, the focus has always been on creating a positive workplace.
Inspired by the team of enthusiastic individuals who championed the first event other employees stepped forward to do their bit. Not just the event, they also immersed themselves in communication, promotion and measurement! From sharing updates about the company’s strategy to articulating progress on initiatives. From highlighting values to recognizing high performers. A successful ‘shared responsibility’ model. When asked what drives them, the response is that they like the ‘culture’ and ‘want to contribute more’ to make it better.
So while most organizations rely on the human resources group or a ‘dedicated’ counsel for employee engagement or the cool sounding ‘Chief Fun Officer’ to own and drive engagement, I strongly believe a grass root approach works best. ‘Grass root’ engagement to me is a movement from within and from the ‘bottom-up’ rather than a high level view of what engagement should be.
In their white paper titled ‘Market Research: Voice of the Employee” Globoforce discusses how engagement can improve morale and remain a priority in good or bad times. Communication and recognition are highlighted as essential elements for success.
While surveys agree that engagement drive productivity and improve the bottom-line, it is the final lap of the equation that matters to employees. Employees seek on-the-ground tangible effort that is direct, transparent and visible.
Rather than see a top-down initiative to drive engagement employees usually ask:
a) How can I contribute to the effort?
b) What more can I do to make a difference to the organization?
c) Can I do something now to improve connection?
So how does this work and how can you as human resources or communicators play an active role? Here are some thoughts.
Provide a framework: As the internal communicators, you can help define templates for running local connection programs. Basic planning sheets, budget trackers, communication formats, post connection feedback questionnaire, promotion outlines among others. Even communication documents to reduce turnaround time. Discuss and arrive at a formal process for content and design reviews so that you can avoid reinventing the wheel.
Lead by action: Participate in planning meetings and call out the role of internal communication for the success of connection programs. Such as review of communication, support for promotion and internal branding guidance. Work closely on a couple of connection programs to seek more opportunities to pitch in.
Empower: The organization must empower employee(s) to take decisions and thereby evolve their own guidelines for connection programs. The event owners much be provided all support be it with budgets or with relevant tools and resources.
Recognize instantaneously: I found employees seek recognition and soon. It is the responsibility of local leadership to take action as soon as they see tangible results and effort on the part of employees to go over and beyond.
Communicate widely: We leverage our intranet to showcase the connection events and how employees have contributed. The weekly newsletter carries snippets which the entire organization can read at a glance. This is in itself a wonderful form of recognition.
Plan ahead: When employees see a long term plan they believe there is commitment from the organization to invest in engagement programs. Share the calendar in advance and seek ideas to improve the event formats and feedback mechanism.
Finally – let employees have fun! The most recent event had an interesting connection exercise called ‘Festival of Joy’ as well as a relevant ‘Know Your Colleague’ Contest. The participation it drew was testament of this excellent engagement model.