The engagement journey

A clear path to an engaged culture

Developing a great culture is a journey, and at the end is a work environment where employees are committed to your organization, passionate about their work, and excited to tell others about it.

In this section, you’ll learn:

So, where is your organization today?

When you start working to improve employee engagement, it helps to begin with an understanding of your current culture. First, give some thought to these questions:

  • Do leaders see a connection between engagement and business results?
  • Is leadership fully committed and aligned?
  • Is engagement seen as a shared responsibility?
  • Do your KPIs tie back to engagement?
  • Do you have the right data and insights?
  • Are managers ready to lead change?

Don’t worry if you can’t say “yes” to everything yet — there’s always a next step. Let’s find out where your organization is on The Engagement Journey.

The Engagement Journey

From where you are — to where you want to be

Let’s look at some practical tips to help you on your journey to the Summit of Sustainment.

Lost at Sea

If you’re Lost at Sea, change and innovation will continue to be a struggle. Retention may be OK for the time being, but engagement will remain low and attracting new talent will be a challenge. Typically, it takes a change at the top of the organization before any real progress can be made.

Try running a low-key survey to facilitate a conversation with your senior team and get the lay of the land. If you’re faced with resistance, you should proceed with caution.

Islands of Effort

Status quo is your general outlook. Some of your managers will see success in engaging their teams, but overall, engagement efforts will remain isolated. But this is also the best place to start building momentum.

Work with managers who are champions of engagement. Find opportunities for them to share best practices and their passion for developing and supporting people. You might be able to kindle a fire from these bright sparks. But be careful, it’s not time for a large initiative just yet.

Shallows of Despair

It’s possible for committed HR champions to be successful, but it’ll be a rough ride. That’s because it takes an entire senior team to lead a people strategy, and without alignment, efforts will fail.

If you’re here, take a step back. Don’t invest in large efforts or initiatives until you get buy-in and commitment from senior leaders. In the meantime, it’s OK to start in one department. Just go with the flow to build momentum.

Shores of Enlightenment

On the Shores of Enlightenment, you’re on your way. But your leadership team will have to overcome manager and employee doubts. Now’s the time to set clear initiatives and accountabilities.

View your journey as a marathon, not as a sprint. Your goal is to weave new ways of thinking and working over time. Be patient, but be persistent. New habits develop slowly, and if you stay the course, you will reach the summit.

Ascent of Success

Yes! You’re finally starting to see the returns of your efforts. Keep a focus on maintaining a regular rhythm and make sure you embed best practices. Expect progress to be gradual, and it will continue to build over time.

Stop to celebrate your success, just for a moment at least. It’s time to keep the conversation going with your entire workforce and continue to solicit input. Have people comment on how things have improved and recognize the small wins along the way.

Summit of Sustainment

Congratulations! It’s true that maintaining altitude is always easier than climbing the slope. Now that high performance is part of your culture, it will be your competitive advantage. Still, leadership teams shouldn’t take this success for granted. Engagement needs to be protected and nurtured every day.

Don’t let your efforts grow stale. Find new ways to breathe fresh life into your engagement strategy. Otherwise, best practices will start to feel like a routine. And if you foresee turbulence in your company’s future, don’t let your efforts take a back seat. It's when the going gets tough that you can tap into your bank of goodwill.

Common barriers along the way

We’ve said any organization can fix engagement. And that’s true. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few challenges. We’re talking about things like:

  • Leadership that lacks alignment, insight, and focus
  • External investors who don’t prioritize engagement efforts
  • Communication channels that are saturated
  • Leadership behavior that gets in the way of employee engagement
  • Trouble getting the whole organization on board

One thing that sets Top Workplaces apart from just average ones is that they know how to eliminate the barriers to success. We’ve shared what they did here.

Next up, we’ll have a look at some strategies to start applying today.