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Employee Engagement: How to get buy-in from your C-Suite

Last week we sat down with a panel of experts to discuss one of the hottest topics at the moment – employee engagement and how to get buy-in from your C-Suite. April Marcot, Head of People & Culture Talent International, Allan Watkinson, Engagement & Leadership Expert at Gallup and Jennifer Mumford, Director of People Strategy & Development Zip Co all came together to share their extensive knowledge on the topic. There were quite a few different discussion points and some brilliant advice shared. We wanted to take the time to share those key highlights from the session. 

 

Why does engagement need to be part of your business strategy? 

As we bounce back from one of the strangest years on record, and with the technology market as competitive as almost anyone can remember, staff retention and performance is paramount to the success of any business right now.  Our panel agreed that the importance of engagement and why it needs to be a part of the business strategy, comes down to the people and making sure they are working towards their strengths, have room to grow, and satisfaction coming to work, as once this is right, the business results will prosper.  

 
Key takeaways:
  • Being engaged basically means that you are happy, satisfied, and love coming to work. You have good relationships with your managers and your fellow colleagues and want to be there. You cannot leave engagement up to just the People & Culture team. This is something that needs to be owned by the business, it needs to be something that matters to the board, it needs to be something that matters to senior management, and every single manager and employee in the organisation.” – April Marcot 

  • A big part of being able to deliver on your people strategy is having humans that are doing the best work of their life and one of the best ways to do that is through engagement them. Engagement is how you actually motivate your people to deliver on that strategy which then maps to the business strategy” – Jen Mumford 

What is the difference between employee satisfaction over and above engagement? 

Our panel spoke about a team feeling a sense of belonging, a chance to contribute, and knowing exactly what they are working towards. 
 
Key takeaways:
  • “Satisfaction are things like policies and procedures. It can be how close is home to work, what is the office environment like, pay can be in the satisfaction category however doubling someone’s pay does not double someone’s motivation or engagement. It is going above and beyond, bringing more energy to work, collaboration, problem solving focused, and creativity. Engaged employees give that discretionary effort more often which is why it’s the enabler of the business strategy.” – Allan Watkinson 

  • “Pay can be a huge motivator but it’s never going to be the top motivator.” – Jen Mumford 

How does engagement impact the bottom line? 

Our panel were in strong agreement about how critical employee engagement is to a business’ bottom line. All three panellists stressed that employee engagement is not an isolated project that sits on the P&C team to do list, but rather a whole of business initiative that requires involvement from everyone.

 
Key takeaways:
  • What I have found over time is that we can show high engagement scores and improvements in engagement but when you’re able to connect it to business outcomes and performance metrics that’s when their (leadership team) eyes light up. What we find on average is that teams that have high engagement in organisations have around 80% lower absenteeism than the least engaged teams. We can quantify the value of improving engagement in an organisation and it is often millions of dollars in organisations just from a couple of those key metrics like turnover. – Allan Watkinson

  • Businesses do rely on the data. They say tell us the silver bullet that’s going to transform the organisation into an engaged one and I say, you’ve got to go and talk to people and then follow through. Engagement is a contact sport so it’s about managers and people coming together to talk about the important things and then taking action. Ultimately the thing that improves engagement is not measuring engagement, it’s taking the action and having the conversation. - Allan Watkinson 

  • “If we know engagement does impact the bottom line, what can we do next? I personally believe that step one is to listen. Step two is to act, there’s no point asking someone what they feel if you aren’t going to do anything with that information. Step three is to gain trust and then once again we can go back, and the cycle starts again.” – April Marcot 

  • “We run stay interviews which is instead of your exit interview. It’s getting feedback on what we can do better when they’re still there.” – Jen Mumford 

  • “One of the hardest things you can tackle if you’ve got a highly disengaged leader, who has a lot of influence. Sometimes we need to take a short-term loss for a long-term gain and ultimately if you make those really difficult decisions about people like that, you make it clear to everybody else, that we don’t tolerate this.” – April Marcot  

  • “It’s not about raising the numbers, it’s about what the numbers raise.” – Allan Watkinson 

How can you help your employees to thrive? 

Our panel discussed how communication is key in this area and to make sure teams are equipped properly to be able to do what is expected of them in order to thrive.

 
Key takeaways:
  • If you really believe in what you’re doing, you don’t care that you are up at 9pm or that you are working 24/7, if you believe in what you do, if you understand how what you’re doing is a cog in a huge wheel that is impacting the business and people are recognising this and care about you, then you want to be there and you want to keep going.” – April Marcot  

  • “The ability of managers to have frequent ongoing conversations with their people with two dimensions to it. One is about their role, the tasks, and everything else that is going on day-to-day but the second element of it is about the person performing the task. Managers need to carve out time or make those conversations much more personal than they ever have before. The number one thing organisations can do help people thrive is to make sure those one-on-one conversations are happening about the right things about that person and about their role.” – Allan Watkinson 

Don’t forget about your employer brand and EVP 

All our panel were in agreeance that employer brand and EVP is ensuring that you are walking the talk and that it’s more than free drinks on a Friday.

 
Key takeaways:
  • “Employer brand comes down to authenticity. So much of it is what people are hearing and seeing outside and how that marries up when you are on the inside.” – Jen Mumford 

  • “I truly believe that the most fundamental part to EVP is ensuring that what you are saying that you do, is actually the same as what you are doing. What are you doing for the people that are not just perks? People are more likely to jump out of a bed on a Friday because they’re loving the project they’re doing, they are playing to their strengths, and they’ve got good relationships with people around them.” – April Marcot 

  • “If you want to define or understand your EVP, get your high performers in a room and ask them two questions – Why did they join and why do you stay? That in essence gets to the heard of what the EVP is, and what it should be, because you know what you want to do through an EVP which is to attract and retain more high performers.” – Allan Watkinson 

How do you influence your C-Suite? 

Our panel discussed the tips and tricks to influence your C-Suite. They were all in agreeance that if you can give them facts and an evidence-based argument, you will have more of a chance of obtaining their approval. 

 
Key takeaways:
  • “First one is you’ve got to meet your stakeholders where they’re at on their own people journey. You will have believers and people that don’t get it, so it’s about tailoring your approach. The next one is data. That can be market data or internal data but data to support or initiate change. Lastly, ask to experiment with something and prove to your C-Suite the impact it can have.” – Jen Mumford 

  • “We ran an engagement survey internally and I was able to show the CEO with clarity the top performing teams in our business were the most engaged. We went through the data and he became a convert and from then on the conversation was important.” – April Marcot

  • “Engagement is all about creating the conditions for high performance so the more you can help senior leaders understand that it goes beyond make people happy and satisfied at work, it’s actually creating the conditions where people can work and perform at their best and you make that link to high performance, that’s when they care about performance.” – Allan Watkinson 

In conclusion 

There is a lot of information out there about how to really tap into your C-Suite and influence them. I hope the above has shared a few different angles on how to do this and hopefully you can take this and put it to use. If you are needing any further assistance with boosting your team engagement, please feel free to reach out to one of our team members at solutions@talentinternational.com