Real Engagement: Employee Relationships Are a Two-Way Street

There are varying uses of the word “engagement” in the English language. It can mean a betrothal between two people; an arrangement to do something at a particular time and place; or a conflict, or battle, between opposing forces.


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Among these uses is one commonality: a two-way commitment. And when it comes to employee engagement, it’s no different.

Employee engagement today signifies the importance of employees’ commitment to their work and their employer’s values, but one thing is missing: How are companies ensuring employees are just as involved in their own engagement and able to give feedback on what’s working and what’s not?

Engagement isn’t something to be expected from employees simply based on the salaries, generous benefits, and free swag provided by the employer. In truth, real engagement is a two-way street, maintained through listening and communication, personalized recognition, and a commitment from both parties.

How Committed Are You to Hearing from Employees?

Employees likely hear from you, as the employer, a lot—whether in town halls and companywide meetings or updates through the internal communications tool of choice. But how often do you hear from them?

The true catalyst of real engagement is building a platform to accentuate the employee voice whereby your team can express their concerns and excitement about their experiences. Just as brands invest heavily in understanding the Voice of the Consumer (VoC)—gathering customer feedback around their brand persona and offerings—employers also must invest in the Voice of the Employee (VoE). Here are three tips to drive real engagement by prioritizing VoE.

1. Formalize VoE

Because VoE still isn’t as prioritized as VoC, companies tend to depend on tools like SurveyMonkey to conduct employee surveys on an ad hoc basis. The problem is that these feedback channels are inconsistent and informal. So, it’s no surprise that only 22% of HR leaders believe there is an effective system in place to foster a culture of feedback.

To achieve real engagement, companies must be strategic about gathering holistic employee feedback through different channels. Quarterly and annual surveys, always-on digital channels for real-time feedback, and one-on-one meetings are all avenues for listening to employees that cumulatively give a pulse on the cultural health of the organization.

Setting specific goals for each channel and formalizing the process of analyzing and acting on the results are what build a culture of mutual trust and open communication between employees and employers.

2. Create a Platform for Celebration and Positivity

We tend to think of feedback as negative, and it’s true that humans are more prone to offering their feedback after a negative experience that carries a sense of urgency. But that’s exactly why, when feedback includes positive, reaffirming messages of appreciation and celebration, it can transform the culture of your company.

VoE should be leveraged as a positive contributor to company culture. This means giving the entire company a means to celebrate the achievements of colleagues and leadership in real time through personalized recognition.

Although, according to Gallup, lack of recognition is a top reason employees leave their organizations, hearing messages of gratitude and positivity is proven to motivate employees to work harder, according to Harvard Medical School. Giving employees a voice for celebrating milestones and a public job well done will have positive reverberations across the organization.

3. Check on Happiness but also Alignment

For workplace engagement and happiness to exist, employees must gain meaning from their work, which is driven by understanding and believing in the company’s vision and values. Real engagement means not only holding employees accountable to corporate values but also making sure employees feel the organization, and its top leadership, is doing the same.

Some companies might believe that hanging posters along hallways and holding biannual culture awards are enough to celebrate their values, but these are one-sided efforts. Herein lies the significance of VoE.

Listen to your employees. Ask them if they feel as committed as you expect them to be and if they feel management is being held just as accountable. This process should be ongoing; just as a company’s employee engagement, recruiting, and retention efforts are continuous, so should a company’s commitment to soliciting feedback from its team.

Committing to Real Engagement

So, we come back to the word “engagement.” In any sense of the word, when one party decides to break its promise, the engagement is off. That’s why communication is key.

Companies must commit to transparency and communication; to coaching and growing their people; and to celebrating their people and making them feel valued and heard. Today, only 22% of employees consider themselves very engaged. The companies that act on the need to invest in VoE now will gain a remarkable competitive advantage and see their retention, recruiting efforts, and productivity grow.

Vanessa BrangwynAs the Chief Customer Officer at Achievers, Vanessa Brangwyn is focused on helping clients develop and cultivate successful recognition and reward programs that ultimately align with and contribute to the attainment of strategic business objectives.

Since 2011, Vanessa has had the opportunity to lead and develop a fantastic team of CSMs and partner with many diverse organizations who share her passion for creating a work environment committed to employee recognition as a key driver of business success.