Employee Engagement Leadership

A manager's guide to leading employee engagement

leading employee engagement

Leading employee engagement is a tall order, no matter how big or small your enterprise may be. Whether you head up a handful of creatives in a digital startup, or oversee hundreds of employees in a multinational company that has been established for over a century, employee engagement will always start from the top down.

This is why manager buy-in is of vital importance.  

Why leading employee engagement is vital in any recognition strategy

High engagement is normally associated with a strong, positive company culture. When the higher-ups in a company are committed to the success of an engagement strategy, it becomes possible to keep all recognition efforts aligned with company values and to angle it to support overarching business goals. When the right people in an enterprise are empowered to drive these efforts, managing, supporting and reviewing the progress of a forward-thinking engagement strategy becomes a whole lot easier.

In order to ensure that an engagement initiative benefits from the involvement of fully engaged team members that are focussed on continuous improvement, a business needs to leverage off of the innate leadership skills of their core management quotient. The fact of the matter is that increasing employee engagement is tied directly to any given company’s bottom line, so it pays to have the chiefs ready for action before endeavouring to rally the troops.


The first steps to becoming an employee engagement custodian

When you are chosen to be one of the managers within your company to lead employee engagement, you immediately become a custodian of the entire initiative. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your involvement drives positive change:

  1. Buy into it. If the recognition program that your company chose to implement is to succeed, you will have to be on board. Get excited about the whole thing! If there are certain aspects of the program you do not agree with that might stymie your excitement, it's best to speak up at the start, when there is still scope for some tweaks. Speak your mind, share your opinions, get involved.

  2. Actively embody the culture of recognition. Practice what you preach and be ready to show continuous public support.

  3. Be thorough in your monthly reports. This will be useful to your superiors when it comes to making recommendations or tailoring their approach where appropriate. This includes being present and participating in regular recognition review sessions.

  4. Expect autonomy. If you are to be sufficiently empowered in your role as engagement custodian, you will need sufficient autonomy in terms of administering budgets, arranging performance celebrations and scheduling team-building events. If you don't, ask for it.

  5. Touch base with your peers. Program leaders should ideally hold regular review sessions amongst themselves to ensure continued alignment with company goals and to assess the overall effectiveness of the program.

  6. Apply your existing skill set. As a manager, you are able to draw on your existing skill set to establish the groundwork for your company's recognition strategy. Apply your standard project management practices and methodologies in this regard so you can remain organised, accountable and in the position to gain insights quickly.

How you can encourage participation in employee engagement initiatives within your department

At the start of a new recognition program, it may take some time to get everyone on board. After all, most employees are kept busy with their day-to-day responsibilities and may not necessarily welcome what could initially be perceived as added responsibilities. Fortunately, there are a few tried and tested ways to encourage participation in employee engagement initiatives. These include:

  • Communicate (A LOT). At the outset, you need to provide your department members with plenty of opportunities to buy into the employee engagement program. Discuss the benefits thereof at every opportunity, and give them the chance to raise any questions or concerns they may have without fear of judgement. Keep speaking about it and encouraging open lines of communication in this regard. TOP TIP: Continuous listening should be backed up by continuous action. You cannot expect consistent feedback if it doesn’t lead to change.  

  • Market it! If you were rolling out a new campaign in 'the real world', it would come along with all the bells and whistles - catchy taglines, pretty graphics, an enticing value proposition - would it not? Use your newsletters, intranet postings, instant chat forums, break room video feeds and communal spaces to lead employee engagement in the same way.

  • Make it fun. Work is serious enough at the best of times. Find a way to make participation in the recognition program fun instead rather than being a chore or another to-do-list item employees have to tick.leading employee engagement

  • Keep it simple. When you require departmental participation in an employee engagement initiative, try to make it as simple as possible to comply. E.g. if you're trying to get everyone to take a survey, make sure the language is to the point and the survey platform is easy to access with a clear and obvious call to action.

  • Target the tallest trees. Most employees crave belonging and if influential roleplayers in your department are on board with your recognition efforts, the rest are likely to follow. Appeal to this herd behaviour by setting your sights on the tallest trees early on.

  • Don't make promises you can't keep. At the outset of a new program it can be easy to make big promises to get everyone on board. This tactic can be effective if you are able to deliver on your promises, but refrain from committing to big asks that you are unlikely to fulfil. Know your limits, act on your word and communicate follow-through to increase future credibility.

  • Keep tabs on participation. Monitor participation in the employee engagement program in real time to keep on track with your departmental goals. If you are partnering with an external vendor, you should be able to receive regular participation stats that you can leverage to track progress.

  • Harness your competitive streak. If you've gained a key position in your company, it's quite likely that you have a well-developed competitive streak. Now is the time to harness that need to succeed. See your department's participation rate as your score card and make it your personal goal to be the best.

There you have it - following these guidelines will enable you to fulfill your role as a steward of your company’s employee engagement strategy. Keep your eye on the blog in coming weeks and months for more expert insight on important aspects of recognition initiatives, such as leading employee engagement from the top down.

Ever considered a recognition program to promote an engaged and motivated workforce? Simply click the download button below to get your free eBook now!

employee recognition