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Six Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement

Six Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement

Increased employee engagement is one of the top strategic objectives for many institutions so we’d like to share six strategies to increase employee engagement. As we facilitate strategic planning sessions for our clients, they often share the concern that their employees are not as engaged as they would want them to be. This topic is important enough to the senior leadership team that we spend significant amount of time discussing strategies to increase employee engagement.

In this blog, we provide six strategies to increase employee engagement. We answer some of the most common questions institutions have about the subject.

What does “employee engagement” mean to your organization?

The word engagement has several meanings. But in the context of employee engagement, it means involvement, commitment, obligation, and pledge. Companies that share the core belief of strong employee engagement want their team members to embrace that important core belief. They want employees to feel like they belong with the company—that they are part of the family.

One main reason why company leaders want increased employee engagement is because engaged employees tend to stay with the company longer than unengaged employees. Employee longevity is a key ingredient in the success of any company because it creates a sense of stability for other employees and for customers.

Strategy #1: Communicate to your employees what employee engagement means to you and why it’s important for them to become engaged. Embrace engagement as one of your core values and communicate it in writing and verbally with all your employees—consistently.

How do you create an environment that invites employee engagement?

Engagement starts at the top. An engaged Board of Directors sets the tone for the rest of the organization. When Directors meet with examiners at the safety and soundness exam exit meetings, it sends a message to the regulators and employees alike that Directors care about the institution. Directors who show up to company gatherings and socialize with the regular staff, communicate that they are part of the team.

Most community banks and credit unions engage with their communities—thus their name “community bank” or “community credit union.” Therefore, employees have plenty of opportunities to also involve themselves in the planned activities. In addition, employees can also serve on nonprofit boards located in their own towns or join the local chamber of commerce. Anything that the organization participates in opens a door for their employees to join in.

Strategy #2: Create opportunities for your employees to engage with you as an organization and with your community. Then communicate to everyone via your Intranet, monthly staff meetings, emails, and every other way you have available, so everybody is in the know. 

What are the benefits of an engaged team?

There are plenty of benefits an engaged team brings to a company. When employees engage with the organization and with their teams, you experience significantly low turnover. Often employees don’t leave a company because their friends are there. Other times, they truly enjoy the community activities the organization supports. In addition, employees stay with their employer when they see a career path for them and a future with the company.

Employees who are involved and committed benefit too. When employees engage with others in the company or participate in the community, they make lifelong friendships, get to know their coworkers, and learn new skills.

Strategy #3: Make a list of all the benefits that employees gain from being engaged with the company and communicate it to them. Emphasize not only that employee engagement is a company core value but also what they gain personally by being engaged.

How do you change the culture to inspire employees to become more engaged?

The Board of Directors and senior leadership drive the culture of the organization. A new employee cannot change the culture. He or she needs to only embrace it. The company provides opportunities for employees to engage internally and externally with the community. However, the employee chooses to get involved voluntarily.

Strategy #4: Increase participation at the top. The leadership team must be engaged themselves—with the company and with one another. Create new opportunities including internal committees for employees to lead and communicate to all staff.

Strategy #5: Enhance your Talent Management Program by establishing career paths, leadership development, and clear ways for employees to get involved. You communicate these activities to all staff through demonstration and sharing verbally and in writing.

How do you motivate unengaged employees even when you provide plenty of opportunities?

Unfortunately, there are people that no matter what you do as a leadership, they won’t get involved. They have the right to not get involved nor engaged. With those employees, you need to respect their decision and understand that precisely because they are not engaged, they may be the ones to leave the company sooner than later. Let them go.

Strategy #6: Hire the right people from the start. During the interview process, ask the right questions to ensure employees are willing and able to participate in company and community activities. Communicate that you expect them to become engaged from the start.

I hope you noticed the theme to communicate with your employees your desire and expectation for them to engage with the company’s internal activities as well as the community you serve. Implementing these six strategies to increase employee engagement allows you to create a culture of engagement.

Strategic Succession Planning Is a Must

Strategic success planning is a must

If your institution is experiencing the effects of the Great Resignation, then strategic succession planning is a must. Our clients across the nation experience the challenges that come from the transition between the legacy employees and the younger generation moving into all positions of the organization. The key to a successful transition is to have a strategic succession plan for all positions in the institution.

Below are five strategic steps you can take to successfully transition successors into their new positions and keep legacy employees happy in their last months with your institution:

1.      Choose Successors Wisely.

The first step before you even start the succession planning process is to choose the specific successors for each key position wisely. Start by asking these questions:

  • Who is retiring in our organization within the 12-24 months? Make a list with name, title, department, approximate retirement date. Often, you will find out through casual conversations. You can also ask everyone the same question during the performance review: Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
  • Are those retiring occupying leadership positions?
  • Are other individuals in key positions throughout the institution who possess unique knowledge retiring?
  • Add the following columns to your list: Immediate Successor (in case of an unexpected departure or death), and Strategic Successor (the planned successor). Enter the name of the potential successor on each column. It is acceptable to enter more than one employee who will fulfill only one of the functions the current employee is performing in their current role.

2.      Update Job Descriptions.

Now that you have your list completed, it’s time to focus on job descriptions. The top benefits of establishing job descriptions are to:

  • Establish accountability so each employee knows exactly what they’re responsible for.
  • Clarify roles so everyone knows what others do in the company.
  • Ensure jobs are classified properly based on federal and state labor laws.
  • Include your organization’s core values as a best practice. Doing so prompts each employee to assess if their core values align with the organization’s.

3.      Formalize Performance Review Process.

Now that you have job descriptions established, it’s time to hold employees accountable to perform the jobs you hired them to do. Your employees deserve to know how they’re doing and their potential career opportunities within your company.

The performance review process starts with an employee self-evaluation to assess how they feel they performed their job in the past year, what training they received and what they want to learn in the upcoming year, what other areas they may be interested in learning about, and where they see opportunities to improve. Providing employees’ input to managers help them to write a meaningful performance review.

Lastly, as a best practice, have the “money conversation” separately from the actual performance review meeting. This takes away the anxiety of the employee wanting the manager to “get to the raise, please.” Both parties can then focus on truly evaluating the employee’s performance and planning for their future with the company.

4.      Establish Clear Accountabilities and Expectations.

The next step is to establish clear accountabilities for both the person leaving and the designated successor. Create milestones during the time they work on the formal transition of duties. Depending on the position, the transition should start anywhere from 3 months before departure to two years before the person retires such as in the case of the President or CEO.

The person leaving or retiring is accountable to transition all the duties that are unique to the position and that only that person knows. The successor is accountable to learn and put into practice the new responsibilities within a specific timeframe. In the case of a CFO position, for example, where there are tasks that are only done quarterly, you need more time to ensure the successor has enough opportunities to practice. Of course, you should also have other backups to assist the successor with the new duties after the employee retiring leaves.

If you are promoting from within, then you also need to create a succession plan for the employee moving into the new role who’s position is now vacant.

5.      Implement Mentoring Program.

There is another aspect of the succession planning that is extremely important too: Mentoring the successor. For example, if an experienced Ag lender is retiring, it is important to mentor the successor on how to deal with the various customers’ loans as well as their individual relationships. The retiring employee must transfer the “knowledge of the customer relationship” to the successor in the best way possible, so your customers have a seamless transition.

Successors can have more than one mentor in their new role. For example, if a successor is transitioning to the Director of IT or CIO type position, the successor may need a technology mentor and a leadership mentor depending on the person’s leadership experience.

If you want a successful transition and positive experience for both the person leaving and the successor, then strategic succession planning is a must. Going through these steps above will ensure you have a good base to start from. I hope these ideas help you in your succession planning journey for your organization.

Books by Marcia Malzahn