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An employee engagement survey only helps if you set and achieve relevant employee engagement goals. This clear guide with examples will help you get started.
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When’s the last time you felt analysis paralysis?
Maybe it was in the cereal aisle at your local grocery store or looking at a menu at a new coffee shop. We’ve all felt it. You see so many options—so much incoming information—that it overwhelms you and makes it hard to make a choice.
It’s not uncommon to feel that way after running an employee engagement survey. When you’ve received wide-ranging feedback across your entire company on dozens of areas, how should you get started? What are you supposed to do with it all?
You need to figure out a clear path towards setting employee engagement goals that make sense for your team and company.
Employee engagement is a measurement of how enthusiastic your employees are about working for your company. There’s not just one simple method to understanding your employees’ engagement, because employee engagement is a multi-faceted thing. When people talk about measuring employee engagement, they’re really trying to gauge multiple things, including your employees’ levels of motivation, loyalty, and emotional connection to your company.
While every company should run regular employee engagement surveys, one of the best ways to understand whether your employees are engaged is to look at their normal behaviors and actions.
Your employees’ actions speak louder than their words.
An engaged employee or team should regularly embody certain behaviors, including:
Engaged employees take a proactive stance towards your business. Putting a new idea out into the world feels scary for many people, but if you’ve created a psychologically safe workplace then it doesn’t feel so intimidating. Even if it’s uncomfortable, highly engaged employees are willing to regularly share new ideas because they value helping their team and company succeed.
Engaged employees recognize that building a successful business is a team sport. They’re committed to your company and they’re excited about helping you succeed, so they’re more than willing to pitch in and help out teammates when needed. Engaged employees do far more than the minimum you ask of them.
Engaged employees aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. The way employees communicate will vary—extroverts may be more forthcoming, for example—but if you’ve built a team full of engaged employees you should regularly be having open and honest conversations with them.
Highly engaged employees want to do their jobs well, which means they’re hungry for feedback. If you’ve built a workplace where it’s safe to share honestly, then you should see employees regularly asking for feedback on their performance. Keep in mind that feedback should be a two-way street. Your engaged employees are hungry for feedback, and they’ll also be more open to sharing feedback with their managers and peers as well.
It’s hard—maybe impossible—to effectively lead a team without clear goals.
“The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run,” says Seth Godin. “It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact…those people have goals.”
If employee engagement is a priority for your company—and all the data says it should be—then it’s foolish to cross your fingers and hope your managers figure out a way to make it happen.
If you want to reap the benefits of engaged employees, working with your managers to set employee engagement goals is a far better approach. No goal is guaranteed, of course. But clear employee engagement goals act as both a signpost and a catalyst: they point people in the same direction and they kickstart action.
When setting employee engagement goals, you should always follow general best practices for setting any kind of goals. There are a few key strategies that will boost your odds of successfully driving employee engagement:
Many people are familiar with the concept of setting SMART goals. SMART goals are:
SMART goals are often preached about, but they’re not always practiced well. To make sure your goals are SMART, try using a template like this:
Our goal is to [quantifiable target] by [deadline]. Accomplishing this goal will [result or benefit]
This template helps to ensure that your goal is measurable, relevant, and time-bound. To create an employee engagement goal that’s also specific and attainable, you’ll need to work with the leaders across your organization. You’ll know you’ve set a fully SMART goal when everyone is on the same page and agrees that although the goal seems challenging, they’re motivated and believe you can accomplish it.
Employee engagement goals exist for your employees. If you’re not including employees in the conversation around your engagement goals, you’ve missed the point.
I’ve mentioned above how you’ll want input from leaders, but don’t stop there. When you’re setting your employee engagement goals, find ways to facilitate a two-way conversation with employees. Effective employee engagement goals often go through multiple rounds of iterations based upon employee feedback.
This might be a good place for a graphic. I’m envisioning a flow chart of sorts, something that shows the different players involved in setting engagement goals—People Ops initiates, managers lead, ICs give feedback, etc.—with arrows showing how it should be an iterative process.
Any time you set a meaningful goal, you should also create a process for checking in on your progress regularly.
When it comes to employee engagement goals, these checkpoints are great opportunities to celebrate progress and highlight successes. If you’re struggling to achieve your goals, checkpoints are also a good time to solicit feedback on why and to humbly acknowledge to your teams that there’s more work to be done.
It takes time to generate employee engagement. While you want to check in regularly, you also don’t want to do it too often. If you’re using quarterly engagement surveys, a good approach is to check on your progress biweekly or monthly. This gives you sufficient checkpoints between surveys, but also gives your team enough time to focus on execution.
Psychological safety is the belief that anyone can share their opinion without fearing repercussions. It’s a cornerstone of an engaged team and a well-functioning organization. When you don’t have psychological safety, employees aren’t sharing their ideas, giving honest feedback, or taking calculated risks.
Here’s how you set a goal like this using the template above.
By the end of Q4, our goal is to increase the number of employees who agree with this statement: “It is safe to take a risk on this team.” Accomplishing this goal will result in a healthier company culture and in more effective teams.
Psychological safety is difficult to measure if you’re solely relying on a quarterly engagement survey. To really understand if you’ve created a safe workplace, you need to understand your team’s mood on an ongoing basis. Engagement surveys give you useful data, but it’s an incomplete picture.
The best way to reach this goal and achieve ongoing psychological safety at work is to use daily check-ins to gauge your employees’ emotional wellbeing. These daily check-ins supplement your employee engagement surveys and enable your managers to offer quick support when help is needed. Kona’s daily check-ins are also public, meaning your whole team sees your empathetic responses, which encourages more psychological safety.
Employee growth and development is one of the strongest drivers of employee engagement. Your team wants consistent growth challenges, so when you align your company’s goals with your employees’ appetites for growth, you’ve hit the sweet spot.
An employee engagement goal for this area might look like this:
Our goal is to increase the number of internal promotions across the company by 15% by the end of Q3. Accomplishing this goal will show significant and meaningful employee growth.
Tracking the number of internal promotions across your organization is a fantastic way to measure your employees’ growth over time. But don’t just track the number in a spreadsheet. Each internal promotion is a great opportunity to spotlight and celebrate employee growth, fostering additional employee engagement.
Every role brings on-the-job learning opportunities, but maximizing the impact of growth and development on employee engagement requires structure and intentionality.
Building out a learning and development (L&D) program is the best way to provide your employees with consistent growth opportunities. Here’s an easy way to get started: Take your company’s strategic goals and identify what skills your team needs to achieve them. Work backwards from there, creating training opportunities that will encourage employees to learn and develop in those areas.
A healthy relationship with your work goes by many names. You may call it work-life balance, or life-work balance, or living an integrated life. Whatever name you prefer, creating healthy and sustainable connections between your work and the rest of your life is key to preventing employee burnout.
Here’s an example of an employee engagement goal around life-work balance:
This year, our goal is to increase the average number of PTO days per employee by 20%. We’ll run quarterly reports to track participation and will proactively encourage employees who aren’t taking time off. Accomplishing this goal will give our employees space to recharge and to regularly engage with other areas of life that are meaningful to them.
You measure things that matter to you. If life-work balance is a priority, then consider starting to measure non-work significant life events across your team. This could include things like weddings, academic degrees, babies born, side hustles launched, or more. Avi Meir, CEO at TravelPerk, sets a great example of this.
Over the past century, we’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with work. The cultural norm in most parts of the world is that all of life needs to fit in around a normal 40+ hour work week.
If you want your team to find true life-work balance and be engaged for the long-term, you need to flip that script. Put the rest of life before work. Equip your employees with tools, resources, and policies that enable them to fit their work around the rest of the things they value.
It’s way harder to achieve anything meaningful when you don’t have appropriate goals in place. That’s why you need to set effective employee engagement goals. Employee engagement has wide-reaching positive effects on the way your organization operates, but there’s more to it than that.
Building a workplace where employees are enthusiastic and engaged is also just good leadership, plain and simple. It’s the right thing to do.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to get started, try adding Kona to Slack for free today. Kona’s daily check-ins are the perfect way to encourage a culture of employee engagement and wellbeing.