Monday, 4 January 2016

A fresh perspective for 2016

The end of the year often brings relief and reflection in equal measure. We look back at what’s gone well and vow to change what hasn’t. But when we’re back at our desks in the New Year, this commitment often wanes and we slip back into the way we’ve always done things (with predictable results).

In the world more widely, surveys often proclaim employee engagement to be a priority for leaders in the following year. But time passes, and little changes. And the same surveys will be saying the same thing the next time round.

But what if, this year, we really do keep our resolutions? What if we have a fresh look at employee engagement and change what we do, if only in small ways, to help us succeed?

With this in mind, we offer some thoughts on how to make more of engagement in 2016.

1. Be smart about goals
Obvious, but often overlooked. We’ve all got to understand where our organisations are heading (whether we’re in them or consulting for them) so we can define how better engagement can help. We’ve got to be ever more informed to help us interpret opportunities and deliver the value that our organisations want and deserve from us.

2. Understand interaction
Please let’s stop talking about audiences. The ‘fourth wall’ in organisations has well and truly crumbled: we’re all swimming in a sea of interaction with each other and the outside world. Let’s explore and understand what this really means and take action to nurture the type of culture that makes best use of a world in which we’re all connected, all of the time.

3. Be an activist
Let’s make this the year in which we become real activists within our organisations. People who question, challenge and critique the world around us, acting as advocates for employees and the litmus test for our leaders. Let’s be more proactive, and frankly more of a nuisance, than we’ve ever been before. If we do it well, we’ll add increasing value to those we work with and build our own credibility as a result.

4. Make more of managers
We all know that managers are the missing link in employee engagement: we can have the most inspirational leaders but their efforts will fall flat if managers lack the spirit and skills to spark and sustain engagement with their teams. We know this is a major issue, but we’ve still not managed to crack it. So let’s put in the effort required to resolve it and increase both competence and confidence among managers.

5. Let’s be creative
Creativity isn’t all about campaigns (although we’d all love to see more exciting activity, rather than the same old ‘stuff’). There are many different ways of being creative in the aim of achieving engagement, from the way we plan programmes to the tactics we use. It’s about a mindset, rather than money or team size. Let’s challenge ourselves to think differently in 2016.

6. Prioritise the personal
We all know the personal touch goes a long way. Where possible, face-to-face communication remains the most valued and credible way of striking and sustaining engagement. But when it’s not possible to do this physically, there are many different ways of doing so virtually. They’re increasingly easy and cheap, but sometimes neglected. There’s really no reason for ignoring them, not matter how big and complex an organisation is, so we hope they are harnessed more and more in 2016.

7. Don’t be dazzled by technology
Embrace new technology but use it wisely. In the rush to embrace what’s possible, what’s really relevant sometimes gets missed. Any technology, however clever it is, only helps if it fulfils a defined role. Too many times, we see technology retro-fitted to support a strategy, rather than being seen as the right solution for an identified need. Start with the need, not the kit, and go from there.

8. Evaluate every day
Finally, the thorny topic of evaluation. Only we think it’s more straightforward than others make it seem. Our industry still sees measurement as an end-point exercise, rather than a day-today process. We think assessing progress little-by-little, rather than focusing all effort on an annual evaluation jamboree, provides more insight on what’s happening and more chance to address issues. As the reliance on set-piece surveys ebbs away make this the year when measurement becomes part of ‘business as usual’.

In the end
That’s it. They are simple steps to help bring a fresh perspective – and maybe new vigour – to employee engagement in the year ahead. It’s not an exhaustive list, we know that: we could probably all keep adding to it until this time next year. But we hope it’s some food for thought, and maybe a prompt, as you seek to spark and sustain effective engagement in 2016. Good luck!

If you could do with a fresh pair of eyes on employee engagement, if only for a chat over coffee, then do get in touch. We’re specialists, we have extensive experience, and we can help.