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Creating an effective employee engagement plan is one of the most strategic HR activities you will do throughout your career – as it can be critically important for the overall success of your company and for your career. Historically, “creating a plan” consisted of reviewing the overall survey results from the vendor, looking at the low points and tapping your leaders to deliver engagement activities around those results.

But it doesn’t work like that anymore.

Our employee population has changed and their expectations, desires, engagement factors, and overall drivers have shifted in ways that our current approach to employee engagement is ineffective.

So how can you be more strategic and deliver actual engagement when all that you’ve known is no longer relevant?

That’s the key question – and the first answer is… you need to shift the way you view employee engagement action plans and activities.

I know, I know – we want our leaders to own the process. To be accountable. People are engaged and stay at their company because they love their boss… right? (I am so over seeing the memes about this on LinkedIn, I can’t even begin to tell you how much eyerolling is involved).

Sure, your leaders need to play an active role in leading and engaging their employees. But HR needs to be strategic in their guidance – and help get true results. Because yes, a bad boss sucks and makes you want to peace out – but so does a bad company. Let’s not forget that. A bad boss sucks and makes you want to peace out – but so does a bad company. Let’s not forget that. #StrategicHR #EmployeeEngagement Click To Tweet
To create the absolute best plan, you would need to influence the survey categories and questions – most of us can’t do that (for whatever reason), so we’re going to gloss over that as an action step – and if you are able to influence those things, drop me a line and I’d be happy to help you get that squared away before you start.

From where most of us are, here’s how to create an effective employee engagement action plan.

1: Create your “Essentialism Goal”

Unless you have read the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, you likely have no idea what I’m talking about here. You should read this book – it’s great for finding your focus and determining what’s important.

But the Cliff’s Notes version for this first step is this: determine what is the singular focus and desired outcome, for increasing your employee engagement.

This is your WHY.

Why is it critical for engagement to be increased? What are you trying to solve? Or avoid? Or fix?

What is the one outcome that is necessary, for engagement to be deemed high?

It sounds easy – that just means you aren’t digging to the actual essentialism goal them. Dig deeper and ask, “so what?”

If you skip this step, you won’t be able to deliver results that have any sort of meaning/value – in other words, you’ll be in the same place you are right now and lacking strategic delivery here.

This helps set the stage as to why this is an important HR activity versus something you are doing year-over-year because you have the budget for it.

For example, here is one of my client’s essentialism goal:

Driving employee engagement will help us become an employer of choice in their industry and significantly decrease key talent turnover by at least 10%.

This means that everything they do from this step on, is laser-focused on how to decrease key talent turnover and become an employer of choice in their industry. If the actions, activities, results don’t align with that goal, then they leave it on the table and move on.

Your essentialism goal will narrow your focus to ensure results. It will feel strange because you are no longer thinking about getting everything over 90% or targeting all of your lowest scores, regardless.

If it doesn’t match your goal, it’s superfluous.

2. Find your Outliers

With your essentialism goal in mind (always), review your results through the lens of identifying outliers. Which things are you currently doing really well to support your goal? And conversely, what areas are you not meeting expectations to support your goal?

You want to identify things that are outside of the average result – by category and by question. Your standard deviation will vary based on your results, but you want to view the numbers with a questioning perspective.

Is that interesting? Why is that different? That’s not quite aligned with the rest of the results… and so on.

In this case, your outliers may show huge gaps in engagement or they may have smaller skews. Treat each outlier as something to consider and review.

Remember: You are going to ignore outliers that do not directly support your essentialism goal. Remember: When creating your #employeeengagement plan, you are going to ignore outliers that do not directly support your essentialism goal. #HR Click To Tweet
Here’s an example I’ve previously shared, as I know ignoring low numbers will be difficult.

For example, maybe physical work environment is a category on your survey, and it was scored the lowest overall. And your company is mostly remote with a goal to move to 100% remote over the next two years. Will fixing the physical work environment be helpful to your overall goals? Um, no. Your company is focusing on eliminating the physical work environment (onsite desks) as a whole.

In this example, bettering the work environment was completely disconnected with their essentialism goal – and definitely not something that would help them achieve their desired results.

It’s hard to leave a low number on the table – but trust me, it will help you as you move along the rest of the action plan steps.

3. Probe Deeper

Now that you have your list of outliers to dig into further, it’s time to dig deeper into your results. Ugh, more work – LOL, yes – but this is fun, strategic work and it will have a huge payoff (and you’ve already limited your digging topics in the previous two steps – so less work overall!).
Once you have your list of outliers to dig into further, it’s time to dig deeper into your results. Ugh, more work – LOL, yes – but this is fun, strategic work and it will have a huge payoff! #EmployeeEngagement #HR Click To Tweet

Results from a company-wide engagement survey are helpful, but they have a ton of biases and skews baked into them. Who participates, who doesn’t. Who feels safe answering honestly, who wouldn’t for a hundred dollars… and so on.

These results are your starting point, but you want to go deeper. And because we have our essentialism goal in mind, we’re able to go deep in a focused manner, versus being a mile-wide and an inch deep (which for the record, doesn’t actually influence meaningful change or engagement).

To go deeper, you’ll want to do some more 1:1 work – either through focus groups, small staff meetings, lunch and learn’s (for feedback), and so on. Anything that helps you have a direct conversation with employees and leaders, so you can ask more about certain topics without pressure.

Once you’ve added a few more touchpoints to the survey results, add them to your list – supporting the outlier topics with the additional insight you’ve captured.

4. Rank…

We’re *finally* at the take-action step! This is the fun part because we’ve done the necessary pre-work that makes this step very easy.

We are going to look at our list that looks something like this:

  • Essentialism Goal:
  • Outlier List:
    • Item 1:
      • Supporting insight from conversation
    • Item 2:
      • Supporting insight from conversation

Based on your list of outliers, it’s time to decide the order of criticality for which you will then start solving.

That sounds complicated, but here’s exactly what you’re going to do: determine which item is most critical to solve for your essentialism goal. That this item being low or not aligned or broken, is causing harm – and that goes to the top of your list.

And then order the rest of your outliers using the same process – if the most critical one is solved, which is the next critical item, so on and so forth.

This is your plan of attack – the order in which you’ll be tackling things to increase engagement.

Notice what you’re NOT going to do any longer:

  • Focus on three key categories to improve over the next year
  • Solve your lowest hanging fruit items
  • Pick your favorite and go forward

5. … and Tackle

Because we are being strategic with our engagement factors and action plan, we are starting with ONE thing/outlier to tackle. One thing only.

And here is where we’re going to create our action plan to directly tackle this one thing – and ultimately increase engagement so we can meet our essentialism goal.

So what goes on this action plan?Because we are being strategic with our engagement factors and action plan, we are starting with ONE thing/outlier to tackle. One thing only. So what goes into our action plan? #strategicHR Click To Tweet
You have a LOT of information to start with – you know what the question and category is that needs addressing, and you know why employees feel (in their own words), this one thing is so low. Use this information to your advantage.

Your employees have likely shared some solutions and ideas on how to improve the various things you reviewed with them – consider how these can be turned into action items. We’re not looking at the easiest or the quickest results (unless you’re being pressured to deliver something quickly); we’re looking at the action that will close the gap or eliminate the friction points for your essentialism goal.

That’s your action plan – what will you implement to improve your one thing.

Once that is solved and you’ve measured its success, then – and only then, do you move on to your second item.

Your action plan looks vastly different with this approach than it does with our traditional approach.

Instead of creating a long list of “1000 ways to increase engagement” and implementing as many as you can, you will be implementing with intentional action – all focused on delivering one specific outcome.

Your action plan includes one essentialism goal, one outlier idea and one action to address the idea.

With this focused approach, you and your leaders will not only know exactly what to focus but you’ll also be able to go deep with your one activity to ensure true engagement which in turn, will deliver focused results to your essentialism goal.