Top 10 Strategies to Impact Engagement Across an Organisation

By: Jennifer Schulte, Global Engagement Director for Mars, Inc.

1. Start at the top. If your most senior teams are not true believers of the power of engagement, it will be an uphill battle for everyone. Find a business metric they will respond to (we used the salary & benefits dollar cost of the ‘actively disengaged’ – which was over $500 million!) and get the CEO and his own team to start with themselves as role models.

2. Choose the right champions. To make sure engagement captures both hearts and minds, activate your ‘early adopters’ who are passionate about not only the concept but also about driving change and influencing others to communicate with local business units.

3. Focus on a bold goal. Just “improving engagement” will not be enough to connect with local business leaders
and managers who drive the bottom-up work that must happen to be successful and sustainable. Choose a corresponding metric and date as a target 2-3 years out that is both stretching and will make a significant impact on the business, and start rallying your senior leaders.

4. Energise your HR function. We can’t rely on HR to“do” engagement for the organization, but as a strategic business partner they must be accountable for ensuring it lives on local business strategies and is taken seriously in talent-related decisions. Engagement impacts many aspects of what HR does own, from morale to retention, and it’s in their best interest to drive the planning of actions that will create the right results.

5. Hold managers accountable. It’s no secret that the relationship between a first-line manager/supervisor and their associates has the most direct impact on engagement – all the research points to this in some way. Focus on the behavior change and require managers to report results on actions they’ve taken to impact engagement in their teams. This should be
weighted as an indication of performance when someone manages others directly.

6. Celebrate and replicate those who can engage. Find formal and informal ways to recognize and reward your managers and associates who are great at engagement! Some will find this a natural way of working and not realise they’re on to something that others should be learning from as best practice.

7. Recruit and promote for engagement. Why not make sure you are putting people into management positions who will be successful at engaging their associates? There are several different tools available as long as the organization uses them in a consistent way.

8. Develop for engagement. Most large corporations are training and developing managers in skills such as coaching, leadership and strategic thinking. Make sure engagement – the “how to” but also the compelling reasons why, and what the organization will hold them accountable for delivering – is also on the learning and development agenda.

9. Remove systemic barriers. In a business of largely manufacturing environments, we’ve found key themes that can get in the way of engagement across an entire site or segment no matter how good the frontline supervisor might be at it. Themes such as communication and trust, pay and benefits, office vs. plant culture, and (lack of) change management must be identified by actively listening to your frontline associates and addressed by the senior leadership in addition to direct manager-associate conversations.

10. Focus on chronic under-performers. Unfortunately, there are managers who won’t be engaging no matter
how much training and communication you provide. If a manager’s team scores low on a survey (we use the bottom half as our cut-off point) for 3 surveys in a row, it’s time to get involved and create a personalised engagement action plan. This typically involves that manager’s manager and HR who agree on the right steps – and often results in moving the manager to a
role where they do not manage others, or moving them out of our business when there is also a performance impact. This focused attention helps not only connect the engagement and performance of managers but also sends a strong message about what will and won’t be tolerated by the organisation.

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