Ownership culture: How to let employees drive engagement

Carl Jacobsson
April 29, 2021
Ownership culture: How to let employees drive engagement

While it may be true that C-suite leaders and HR managers are pivotal in getting the ball rolling on employee engagement — but how would it look for engagement to be owned by everyone at your company, at every level? Pretty thrilling, not to mention a more authentic and sustainable way to go about things.

The question that follows is: how do you hand the reins of engagement over to employees, and, well, what exactly are the reins again?

Let us step back for a second and revisit what the word engagement means. It’s been quite a handy term over the centuries, used in a few different ways beginning with the French engager, to press into military service. It later came to describe a promise to wed. Then engagement became a noun for an event that when one agrees to go, and by goodness they will go, it’s an engagement.

The common thread? It’s all about an exchange of words, followed closely by action.

You can think of employee engagement in the exact same way. Conversation that leads to action. Distinct from chit chat, this kind of conversation is about being able to openly and honestly share ideas and have those ideas listened to, relayed, built upon.

Okay, now we are ready to revisit the question of how to hand the reins of engagement to employees. And the answer is to make inclusive, safe, honest conversations amongst teams a regular occurrence. Amongst Winningtemp customers, these team powwows have many different names. We like to call it: the Temperature Meeting.

Here we go over how to have a Temperature Meeting, which is as it sounds, a dedicated time to assess the temperature in your team. We recommend that these meetings first be facilitated by managers, and then if the managers choose, they can hand facilitation over to different team members.

A template for successful temperature meetings

The key to it all is to start with data — the objective truth of where things stand for everybody. In this case: your team’s temperature in Winningtemp. This way the conversation is not being let by any one person’s perspective, but rather with the facts about how everyone is feeling. Choose two questions or two trends to discuss in the meeting.

First, pick a strength. Perhaps the question “Do you and your colleagues build on each other’s ideas?” has been hovering around a 9 for a long time. Talk about this. How does this happen in your team and how does it benefit your work together? Take notes. There will likely be ideas for sustaining and building further on this strength.

Next, pick an area where you could make some improvement. For example, perhaps you see the question: “Do you feel that it is fun to go to work?” has been declining over the past 6 months.

Ask your team members to share their thoughts around the question. What their personal experience has been and what they see might be happening within the team. Have someone take notes. And ask for solutions. What kinds of things would make it more fun to come to work? As a team, settle on the measures that everybody agrees would make a big impact. And assign some responsible people to make sure this gets carried out. Words, followed closely by action.

Then, make sure to close the loop. Make plans for how you intend to revisit what you promised for the whole team to assess. Have a look at the temperature too, to see if it has improved.

These kinds of open, vulnerable, action-oriented team conversations are truly magic. Their end product is simply engagement and an effective antidote to the forces that can cause disengagement.

The magic lies in that they:

1. Generate native solutions

While there are some things that can only be done on an organisation-wide level, oftentimes it is teams that can and need to optimise operations amongst themselves. Or come to exactly what it is they need in order to execute better, whether that’s from leadership or another department. Rather than forever being frustrated by a bottleneck, teams know what to ask for — specifically, concretely.

2. Foster participation and create accountability

Everyone is encouraged to participate, everyone shares. With regular Temperature Meetings as an outlet, no feeling can fester in the darkness. And while one is free to complain, the structure of the meeting also forces solutions. Each team member is made accountable for coming up with the solutions that would help make them happier, and — the kicker — probably carrying them out too.

3. Lift an impossible burden from HR’s shoulders

Rather than doing the fraught work of investigating why a department is underperforming or unhappy, departments are doing that investigative work themselves continually. And an aside: should a problem lie with leadership, that will be reflected clearly in Temperature for HR to see.

4. Improve employee retention

We actually have a statistic here: after just one year of using Winningtemp, our customers experience an average 30% decrease in employee turnover. And we think this has everything to do with how our customers use data to engage in the right conversations and unearth the reasons behind dissatisfaction before it’s too late. Rather than gathering crucial insight in an exit interview, address the important stuff head on in temperature meetings!

As Oscar Wilde put it “ultimately the bond of all companionship… is conversation.” And it’s bonds you’re looking for — bonds that an employee forges with their colleagues, with the mission of your organisation, with the goals they’ve set. The quality of these bonds is the quality of employee engagement at your organisation, so make sure it’s prioritised, measured, and tended to as any other business metric would be.

Let Winningtemp help unleash the ownership culture within! Book a demo of our platform here.

Carl works as VP of Customer Success at Winingtemp and is part of the Senior Management team. He has more than 10 years of experience in leadership development, and in the last couple of years, he has influenced HR-directors and business leaders in the Nordics to adapt and transform their organisations' way of working.

About the author
Carl Jacobsson

Focusing on people

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