Tested strategies to raise employee engagement

What are the best strategies for raising employee engagement?

Engaged employees – absorbed in and enthusiastic about their work – can be powerful assets. So how can you create greater engagement?

Ian O. Williamson

Helen Macpherson Smith chair in leadership for social impact at the Melbourne Business School

Ian WilliamsonEmployee engagement has never been more critical to organisational success. However, managers often rely on personal beliefs or myths when trying to engage their workforce. The research on what works is extensive and refutes many commonly held beliefs.

For example, one myth is that engagement always boils down to money. A large body of research shows that while money is important to employees, the relationship between money and engagement is not linear – that is, more is not always better. At some point, other factors, such as doing interesting work or having positive social relationships, become more important to employees. The challenge for managers is that the point of diminishing returns from higher pay varies from employee to employee.

It is important for managers to have an honest discussion with employees about what they want from their work. Many managers are afraid to have this conversation because they fear employees will ask for things they cannot provide. Have the conversation and be candid about what is or is not possible. 

It is also important to accept that the answer will be different for each employee. Thus, managers need to be comfortable customising working arrangements for each employee. The returns for this type of management behaviour can be very positive.

Indeed, many organisations now track and monitor employee engagement with the hope of gaining insights into how to motivate peak performance in their staff.

Related: Why a happy workplace is essential to your bottom line

Linda Simonsen

CEO and founder of FuturePeople

Linda SimonsenAll leaders know that the most challenging part of the role relates to people; hiring the right people, developing them effectively and motivating them to give their best and deliver high performance. 

There isn’t one simple or easy way to ensure the business gets the right outcomes from its people without first pinpointing the areas of most concern. 

To drive a deeply engaged workforce requires time and effort.

At an organisation level, you need to ensure your employee and customer engagement programs work alongside each other for mutual benefit and aligned outcomes. Without cooperative models, the challenges will continue to inhibit active participation.

On the leadership front, a structured support and development network is required for leaders to encourage better engagement that benefits them individually, as well as the people they lead. 

Reviewing performance alone won’t inspire further action, but a nurturing environment for their growth will.

By raising employee engagement in the right ways, businesses can expect to benefit from a productive, profitable and successful enterprise together.

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Rob Phipps

Chief people officer for KFC South Pacific

Rob RhippsToo often organisations rely on one-way communication, such as posters and emails, to communicate with employees. For nearly all companies, employees are at the forefront of every interaction with the customer. Therefore, it is crucial employees are as invested in the business’s success as the management team. 

We strive to consistently raise employee engagement across our diverse workforce. 

This year, to engage our employees further, we launched an employee goal-setting program called #myplan – a fun and interactive way for staff to consider their career and personal goals. This could be anything from long-term career planning, like becoming a teacher, to setting short-term personal goals, such as buying a car.

The development of the #myplan program stems from our understanding that to raise employee engagement, we always need to give our employees the best career opportunities, whether that’s within the KFC network or beyond.

Additionally, the recent launch of our internal social media channel on Yammer is an example of how we are trying to create an environment where all our employees feel involved. Employee engagement strategies should be reflective of a business’s workforce.

For us, the adoption of an internal social network makes sense, as we have an employee base with a younger skew. It has added a level of transparency and openness to the way we communicate.

It is critical that staff engagement be a tailored solution for every business; it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

The experts

Ian O. Williamson

Ian O. Williamson joined Melbourne Business School in 2006 and is the Helen Macpherson Smith chair in leadership for social impact. He is also associate dean of international relations and co-director of the Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre.

He is a former assistant professor of management at the University of Maryland, is a director of S&S Futures and has consulted for a number of well-known brands, including ANZ, Nestlé, Petronas, PwC, the Royal Women’s Hospital and more. Williamson’s research into how the development of effective talent pipelines can enhance organisational and community outcomes has been published in leading journals, such as the Academy of Management Journal, MIT Sloan Management Review and Journal of Applied Psychology.


Linda Simonsen

Linda Simonsen is founder and CEO of FuturePeople, an Australian employee engagement firm working on customer advocacy and business performance. Simonsen has more than 20 years’ experience in recruitment, human resources, organisational psychology, emotional intelligence and leadership. FuturePeople won Most Innovative Recruitment Firm at the 2016 Global Recruiter Asia Pacific Awards in Singapore.

Rob Phipps

Rob Phipps is the chief people officer for KFC South Pacific, and has more than 20 years’ experience working across both KFC and Pizza Hut brands owned by Yum! He has a Bachelor of Laws from Queensland University of Technology and has led HR functions across the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.


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December 2016
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