‘The Big E’ has a huge effect on any business – whether it has one, five or 5,000 employees. It’s our term for the very corporate sounding ‘employee engagement’, and affects business performance from day one.
It is a proven fact that individuals who are engaged will be more productive and more likely to stay with you, thrive and progress – thus delivering better results. Employee engagement goes beyond motivation and job satisfaction; it’s a state of mind whereby employer and employee understand and honour their commitments to one another, furthering the organisation’s interests.
With the benefits of ‘The Big E’ on an organisation clear to see, it’s imperative that as a start-up grows you ensure yourself and any new joiners are engaged and remain so. Here are our big eight tips to help you on your way:
1) Get your people promise right
The people promise, or more commonly known as the employee value proposition, covers everything to do with the employee’s experience as a part of the organisation. It encapsulates mission, values, leadership, culture, benefits, progression and other variables. If the people promise is to drive ‘The Big E’, it must be compelling, relevant and exciting. Most of all it should be communicated clearly and delivered consistently.
To define your people promise, think about what you offer your people that you’re proud of, things which could be improved and areas which are embarrassing. Use this information to draw up a list of things which you should keep doing more of, things which should be stopped and things which should be introduced.
Next pick three quick wins and make them happen, giving you the momentum to carry on and tackle the rest. Just remember, the people promise is a continual work in progress which evolves as you grow, therefore regularly review where you are and make necessary changes to keep on moving forwards.
2) Start ‘The Big E’ before they join
Engaging people with your organisation doesn’t have to start when they officially join your business. In fact we believe it should start from the first time they hear of you. You should therefore consider ways to engage throughout your external marketing – writing compelling and exciting job adverts, having a great website; friendly, helpful and polite people answering telephones. Each of these things can help clock up ‘Big E’ points before an individual joins you.
When recruiting, inspire them at interview, provide great feedback (especially if the person is not going to be hired) and reimburse travel expenses. Should you make an offer, bring in the ‘wow’ factor by sending a well-thought out induction plan full of rich experiences which will help them settle in and really get to know ‘how things are done around here’.
3) Welcome in a big way
In the first three months of joining a business, an individual will decide whether they want to stay and make a career, or if they fancy it just for a year, and worst case they’ve made a mistake and want to leave. Inductions therefore play a massive part in engaging and retaining the talented individual your business needs in order to grow.
Inductions are a great opportunity to continue gaining ‘engagement points’ and instil a sense of belonging, loyalty and understanding in the individual, as well as setting the foundations for a successful career.
Plan them well in advance, make them enjoyable and cover off things like:
• where stuff is,
• meeting key people (including clients and suppliers),
• vision, mission, values, strategy and goals,
• job description
Start as you mean to go on, set the scene and clarify expectations on both sides. Most importantly, build in reviews throughout and make sure they happen.
4) Communicate on an adult-to-adult basis
The people at the sharp end usually know best. Businesses do not employ children, they employ grown-ups who have mortgages, relationships, children and out-of-work responsibilities, activities and talents like you wouldn’t believe. Treat them as such and communicate on an adult-to-adult level. Consult, listen, respect, learn and be amazed at the returns.
5) Keep on checking
As with anything, you can only correct if you are aware of the issue. Engagement levels will always go up and down – so when it’s down you need to know. Continually checking levels of engagement will give you a heads up. This doesn’t have to be formal. At learnpurple, we check engagement by simply asking “On a scale of one to 10, how purple are you?” This provides a good basis for discussion during one-to-ones (“What would make you a 10?”). It also allows for a quick and easy measure of our overall purpleness as an organisation.
You don’t have to revert to Crippen-esque practices to test ‘The Big E’. All you need to do is ask the right questions; and we have a wonderful engagement indicator survey available for free on our website (for up to 100 people) with those questions. Sign up to www.learnpurple.com/purple_revolution to access.
6) Have fun!
Engagement is seriously enhanced by having fun in the workplace. This doesn’t mean turn the office into a comedy club; however a few nice things can have a significant impact. Have lunch together, tell stories, share business books, email round your top five achievements each Friday, introduce a fun budget for treats and activities, even brighten up the office. Just remember that everyone is different, so keep it mature and sensible, making sure the fun is never going to offend anyone.
Jane Sunley is CEO of talent management specialists, learnpurple (
), and author of people bible, ‘Purple your People – the secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people’ which can be purchased via