Opinion: Simple steps to secure engagement on your CEO’s agenda: Part 3

by Contributor11 Jan 2017
In part three of a three-part series, Nigel Purse outlines how to create simple, actionable steps to secure employee engagement on your CEO's agenda

As the head of HR, working towards a healthy employee engagement situation is probably on your to-do list of potential moves that’ll make your company great. But while the importance of employee engagement is hard to dismiss, it is unlikely that CEOs or Board members share your sentiment, for a variety of reasons. What can you do to overcome these hesitations, and to give your business a push in the direction of improvement?

The first important step is in making your CEO feel comfortable enough to act, and in order to achieve this, it is helpful to learn a little about what drives people to succeed, and what causes them to resist change. Ashridge Business School reported recently that there were three categories of ‘barrier’ stopping many CEOs from supporting the implementation of employee engagement:
  • Leadership abilities – identifying new leadership techniques, the struggles sometimes faced with self-awareness, fear of comment and advice, and the general two-sided nature of leadership.
  • The leader – their own character, values and beliefs, self-belief and motivation, and guardedness over vulnerabilities or insecurities
  • Company culture – the ways in which you operate, business heirarchies, old-fashioned business models and economic circumstances
You are likely to experience these barriers in combination, so it is quite impossible to deal with them all at once. Take a more measured approach and break it down, and look at the way your CEO interacts at work and the value placed on their professional status. It is getting better insight to their character, and more specifically, their hesitations, that will help you to identify better ways of approaching them about employee engagement. The drivers of employee engagement, and the ways in which it can be implemented should also be taken into consideration.

As obvious as it may seem, any number of CEOs and HR leaders have fallen into a trap of miscommunication, which can leave any efforts at improved employee engagement looking a bit limp. Drivers of employee engagement are often identified as:
  • Interaction with leaders who set out a company narrative with clarity, covering where the company has come from, where it stands now, and where it will go in the future
  • Reporting to leaders who encourage and grow their employees and treat them as individuals
  • Belonging to a culture in which employees’ voices are heard, and communication is open across all levels
  • Company values being lived and exercised in the daily operations of leaders and employees
This probably is no surprise. The masses of data and evidence collected over the years suggest that these approaches to the motivation and improved output of employees are very effective. The common misunderstanding is about where responsibility lies, and with whom.

The responsibility is very often presumed to be that of the corporate team, but accountability reaches much further. The above influences are driven by how line managers interact with their employees on an individual level. The corporate centre is responsible for the upkeep of this culture shift, and to supply line managers with all the resources they require to introduce effective employee engagement.

Although they cause no harm, half-baked schemes like ‘teambuilding days’ and company blogs do not make up for improper management. Such ideas are often implemented in business settings to give the impression of regard for employee satisfaction and engagement, where proper, full-time commitment to employee engagement gives everybody the opportunity to:
  • Identify your particular place within the company and what you contribute
  • Be clear about management’s expectations and resources for improvement
  • Voice your opinions to the whole company
  • Feel involved and valued within the business
CEOs are central to influencing their line managers and ensuring that proper practices are taking place to ensure a comfortable and effective introduction of employee engagement. It is important to uphold expectations and ensure that all staff, management and otherwise, are working efficiently towards this common goal.

Now, these simple principles can be worked into a plan of action for your CEO to introduce and endorse, and this is nowhere near as daunting as it sounds.

There are several important points to remember when taking steps to make proper employee engagement a central fixture within your business:
  • If needed, instigate an employee engagement survey to measure the current levels and how much work needs to be done
  • Have your CEO be clear on a public platform about how accountability rests with all managers to form strong relationships with all staff members, and ensure it is emphasised as a priority
  • Demonstrate how this core value can be incorporated into talent and leadership programmes, starting with First Line Management and working downwards
  • Establish a list of proposed training schemes for all management levels, with particular emphasis on holding open and honest conversations and building professional relationships.
As management, you need to champion high employee engagement, and this is not easy. But by introducing some of these ideas into your company culture and your employees’ everyday experiences in the workplace, you can start to build a strong and supportive team with proud employees, proud board members and proud CEO.

In your managerial role, it is your job to champion the all-round advantages of good employee engagement, and this is always a challenge. But the implementation of some of these ideas into the way your company works, you can begin to strengthen and reinforce your team, from the ground up, and all its operations. You will have satisfied staff, and happy board members.

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