One of the most popular definitions for employee engagement is discretionary effort. But when you ask the question – “Discretionary effort for what?” – the answers can go in a lot of different directions, and they’re often not very strategically targeted. Asking yourself a few key questions will help you leverage employee engagement for things that matter most to the organization and employees alike:
1. What do we want people to do?
Determine your priorities, and communicate frequently and consistently with employees on where you want them to focus their discretionary effort.
2. How do we want them to do it?
Give employees a mechanism for taking action and initiative based on what we call the 4-S principles. No, I didn’t miss one from the 5-S “lean” system. These are different – simple, streamlined, supportive and systemic.
3. How do we get them tuned in and turned on?
Explain to employees how their individual efforts to “go the extra mile” can boost company performance, and give them a stake in the outcomes with modest incentives and bonuses.
4. How do we keep it alive?
Make continuous improvement part of the daily routine by putting it in everyone’s job description, and discuss it in regular group meetings and one-on-one conversations.
5. How well are we doing it?
Monitor and measure the level of discretionary effort employees put into making improvements in your top priorities, and show them the impact it’s having on critical performance indicators.
6. How are we reinforcing it?
Recognize people’s contributions frequently and sincerely with simple yet meaningful expressions of acknowledgment and appreciation.
The actual design of your “discretionary effort system” will vary depending on a lot of factors such as type of business, size of the organization, number and locations of operations, communication tools. . .and plain old culture. But answering those questions is a great starting point for any organization to ensure that they get the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to employee engagement.
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