Employee engagement is getting a lot of attention now. The thinking is that this will lead to higher productivity and lower turnover in ways employee satisfaction never did. The question is really what employers can do to foster engagement.

Engagement is a two-way street. While you could select people who tend to be more engaged, the behavior is really derived from the culture. In other words, management has to create an environment that employees what to be engaged with.

At a talent management symposium last week, I heard some interesting ideas about engagement. One was that it should be fostered from the very first day. The speaker gave an example of how during the interview she asks candidates if they like sweet or savory snacks as an ice-breaker. If the person gets hired, s/he has his/her preference waiting at the desk the first day.

What I like about this idea is that it shows new employees that the company listens to them. There’s an old adage that you only want to ask survey questions that you are prepared to respond to. Otherwise, why would people provide you with feedback or other process improvement information? Having the first day snack shows in a very tangible way that management is willing to have a two-way conversation. I can see how that would foster engagement.

Then I came across this article. It describes an amazing piece of employee recognition at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. You can be as cynical as you want about this, but in an industry where turnover is the norm, I was impressed that a senior executive did this in response to a customer letter and not some internal metric. He recognized an employee being engaged with a customer. Imagine the effect on customer service at your business if senior executives recognized it like this (or even 1/10th of this).

Employee engagement primarily emerges from your culture. What these two examples show are ways that management can foster an environment where engagement can thrive. What they have in common was management being pro-active in reaching out to employees rather than reacting to a crisis and saying “Trust us.”.

What are you doing to create an engaging workplace?

For more information on measuring and improving employee engagement, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  warren@allaboutperformance.biz.