Employee Engagement Best Practice Series: Setting Up Your Employee Engagement Committee

This is the second in my series of "best practice" blogs on measuring and improving employee engagement. In this series, I'm answering a number of questions which are often asked by our network in terms of how to measure and, more importantly, improve employee engagement. One of the things that tends to perplex many of our clients is how to set up an employee engagement committee (aka "taskforce", "working group", "advisory group", "collaboration pod", and many other even more creative names).

First, let me tell you that the single best predictor of improved employee engagement is employee involvement in the action planning and implementation:

"Action Planning led by employees boosts employee engagement because the process itself demonstrates that the opinions of each person on the team are important."

Trying to develop, let alone implement, an employee engagement action plan without employees is doomed to failure. Yet, you would be surprised at how many leaders and managers try to do just that. It is so ironic to watch so many organizations attempt to impose a "top-down" approach to improving engagement. Leadership tasks middle management with "boosting the engagement numbers" as they would operations or finance KPIs. Management tools, action planning templates and portals for managers are all the rage, in the misguided view that employees will be come more engaged if managers fill in and submit "employee engagement plans" to HR (full disclosure: TalentMap experimented with an online action planning portal for managers which we have temporarily withdrawn - mostly because we have found they don't work).

Employees are (more) engaged by being consulted and included in decision-making (among other things). One of the best ways to accomplish this is through an employee engagement committee.

Establishing Your Employee Engagement Committee

An Employee Engagement Committee is an excellent mechanism to get employees involved, and more importantly, to get them to take ownership of engagement.

Who should be on your Engagement Steering Committee?

  • Maximum 10-12 individuals (more than this and the group gets bogged down)
  • From all areas and levels of your organization/area of responsibility, including managers and senior leadership.

It is imperative that senior leadership be represented in the group; however, the senior leader should participate, yet not lead. Their role is to provide a window into leadership thinking and a constructive reality check on recommendations put forward (not to be "Dr. No", but rather to say "yes, and...."). Senior leadership presence on the committee achieves two things: first, the leader will lend credence to employees that leadership is taking the initiative seriously; and second, it avoids an "us vs. them" showdown when presenting recommendations to leadership, as the senior leader committee member acts as an ambassador - having participated and endorsed the recommendations coming forward.

How do you select the Committee members?

This is when some care and thought is needed. Employees are watching your actions closely to see how you will respond to the engagement survey. On the one hand, you don’t want to force anyone to be on a committee who doesn’t want to be; but on the other hand, you’ll need representation from throughout the organization. Also, simply calling for volunteers will likely yield only your most motivated and engaged employees, yet you must also appeal to the less engaged.  And of course, simply selecting committee members will lead to calls of favouritism, on top of the fact that there may be some unwilling participants.

Our proposed solution to this is twofold.  First, call for “expressions of interest”, in which individuals can put their names forward, without any commitment that they will be selected for the committee.  Secondly, review the names put forward and then approach individuals from areas of the organization which are under-represented and invite them to the committee as well, indicating you need representation from their unit or section. This allows for volunteerism, while also ensuring you get the representation you require for the committee to have credibility throughout your organization.

What is the responsibility of this Committee?

Your employee engagement committee should be charged with six tasks:

  1. Review and understand the results of the employee engagement survey.
  1. Establish 2-4 focused priority areas for action
  1. Consult widely with colleagues to understand root causes, and solicit ideas for solutions
  1. Develop and present an action plan to senior leadership
  1. Take ownership for the implementation of that plan. (Accountability for the plan should be assigned to senior leaders depending on the action involved).
  1. Act as employee engagement ambassadors. Encourage participation.

When employees feel involved in developing the solutions, and they are empowered by senior leadership to implement those solutions, that in and of itself will help improve engagement. And don't forget about the many good ideas that they will bring forward.

Norm Baillie-David is Senior Vice President of Employee Engagement at TalentMap, a North American leader in measuring and improving employee engagement.

Interested in learning more about actions you can take in your organization?

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