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The buck stops with everyone: how to empower employee ownership of engagement

Author:
Sara Holmberg
Date Published:
November 2022
Length:
4
minute read
The buck stops with everyone: how to empower employee ownership of engagement

For lasting impact, employee engagement mustn’t be a top-down initiative but a cultural truth: engagement needs to become our new ‘the way things work around here’. This only happens when employees are engaged with and accountable for change.

Keep reading and we’ll unpick what that means, why it matters, and how the right employee engagement software can help you get there.

Don’t fall into the happiness trap

As talent shortages and high attrition continue to hurt, building an engaged workforce tops most HR leaders’ to-do. More than 70% of HR professionals in the UK say they’re prioritising improving employee engagement this year, for example.

But many organisations focus on short-term employee happiness over long-term employee engagement — so they invest into the wrong places to create change.

As Cirrus’ Head of Engagement Jenny Perkins says, “happiness at work is usually fleeting, whereas engagement tends to be more permanent.” She talks about the difference between being happy because the sun’s shining or there’s cake in the kitchen versus profound, ongoing engagement with work.

The first is great — who doesn’t want employees to feel happy? But the latter is pivotal to business success. It’s about the baseline an employee operates from.

When your people are fundamentally engaged, they’re likely to give more and perform better. They buy into what they’re doing, so they’re better to work alongside. And they’re more forgiving. More resilient. Because they’re engaged, they cope better with fleeting frustrations and roadblocks.

This distinction between engaged employees and happy employees is why tactical initiatives alone aren’t enough. Free breakfasts; four-day weeks; flexible working: there’s no simple tactical answer to the engagement equation. (And that’s also why no amount of investment into simple perk-based tools alone will truly move the needle on engagement).

What’s needed is true culture change.

True culture change demands employee ownership

Change is hard. That’s true at individual level (ever tried to cut down drinking, or stop smoking, or wake up earlier, or stretch more?!) and truer at organisational level.

Culture change demands broad behaviour change, which demands broad mindset change. Your workforce is an interrelated web of people whose actions and behaviours impact everyone around them. So, to truly cement a culture of engagement, everyone from the CEO to the new intern must think and act differently.

Harvard Business Review express it nicely:

“Culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.”

A culture of employee engagement must be created by everyone: your ‘how things are done around here’ needs to change.

To get there, you don’t only need strong HR leadership. You also need employees to take ownership. The engagement technology you invest into should hold this principle dear.

How to put employees in the engagement driving seat

“Taking ownership is about taking initiative”, says Modern Manager’s Warren Tanner. “We take ownership when we believe that taking action is not someone else’s responsibility. You care about the outcome the same way you would care as an owner of the organization.”

To encourage your people to take ownership, you need an engagement solution that gives them responsibility, prioritises their participation, and encourages accountability for change.

Let’s talk about what that looks like.

1)    Pulse surveys

Many organisations are coming to recognise the limitations of annual surveys. Measuring and following up on employee well-being and engagement once a year just isn’t enough: pulse surveys are much faster and more engaging and create a much better opportunity to create change.

Where annual surveys typically take hours, pulse surveys take only a few seconds to answer. And increased frequency means pulse surveys allow your people to comment and take action on important day-to-day issues.

The pulse survey doesn’t take away the need for face-to-face conversations, mind. On the contrary ­– actively working with survey results on both an individual and team level means conversations with your people become higher quality, strengthening workplace relationships.

Pulse surveys are also much more manageable for HR, as they do not require heavy administration and lengthy action logs.

Read more: Annual employee engagement surveys vs. pulse surveys

The upshot is, pulse surveys empower employees to make real change happen. When your people start to see the impact they can have, participation in the process increases as well as overall engagement.

Participation is so important to us at Winningtemp it’s one of the nine core categories that underpin our temperature scores. Do employees feel confident expressing their opinion? Do they feel they can influence decision-making? We’ve found participation becomes a positive cycle, because as employees engage more with the Winningtemp engagement tool, their overall feelings of participation in your culture increase too. That’s what collaborative culture change looks like.

2)    AI-based questions

You could transition towards a pulse survey model by breaking your annual survey into chunks and sending questions more regularly. But that wouldn’t do much for employee ownership.

Relevance is absolutely central. Employees want to feel recognised and treated as an individual. Any process that feels generic won’t generate participation, let alone excitement (and that’s always been our bar).

Winningtemp uses AI to send relevant questions to relevant people at relevant times. That means employees don’t get random questions every week. Instead, our algorithm continuously analyses response patterns and asks tailored questions. For example, say Jenny feels unusually stressed. Next week, questions could dig deeper into her feelings of stress, to understand what’s changing over time. But her team-mate Jahid might get a completely different set of questions depending on his past responses.

3)    Intuitive user-centric design

Pulse surveys alone aren’t enough to galvanise employee ownership for engagement. The interface you use to deliver those surveys matters a lot too.

Busy employees won’t thank you for another tool that complicates their day. To encourage participation, the feedback process must be simple and streamlined.

Winningtemp is designed with your people’s experience front of mind. One great example is our emoji scale. Emojis are intuitive, inclusive, experience-led, and, the science proves, extremely psychometrically robust — making them the best way to drive participation.

Read more: Why does Winningtemp use an emoji scale? 

4)    Self-leadership

Asking your people for their input is only the start of improving engagement, but it’s where many engagement solutions end. To build a collaborative process, the platform you choose must empower employees not only to share feedback but to see and act on results themselves.

The right platform should cater to both leaders and employees, empowering executives, teams, and individuals to proactively work on the changes they want to see.

Winningtemp is built on the principle of giving employees the right tools to lead the charge on engagement. Winningtemp’s self-leadership empowers employees to understand engagement both personally and within teams, providing a constant stream of recommendations to help them take ownership over progress.

For example, Inars Kempelis, Head of Production in the Baltic region for Löfbergs talks about how Winningtemp empowered him to proactively reduce stress in his team:

“During the spring of 2021, we had a decline in produced volume due to a decrease in demand. I could see directly in Winningtemp that the stress level of the team considerably went up. And thanks to the data, I could act quickly and increase communication about our present situation and reduce stress and worry with my co-workers”.

A culture of engagement is always co-created

The right employee engagement software doesn’t just ask questions. It empowers your people to create a workplace they’re proud to belong to, to embed engagement into the fabric of your business.

Book a demo to see why that’s Winningtemp.  

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  • Malesuada
Sara Holmberg
About the Author
About the Author
About the Author
Om författaren
Sara Holmberg
With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

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