How to Make Employee Engagement Happen Without an HR Department

employee engagement

As the hub for all things employee related HR is the “go-to” executive leaders rely on for strategic people and performance guidance. But what happens when a smaller-sized organization doesn’t have an HR department?  How is something as fundamental as employee engagement handled, if at all?

Operating without an HR professional is often part and parcel of being a not-for-profit organization, small financial service, community health and wellness facility, professional association, private school, start-up … just about any organizations with a dozen or three employees give or take?

Sure, a Board of Directors can bring HR insights to the table. But day to day activities fall inside the organization onto those meant to focus on finessing processes, products or services and growing the organization’s revenue streams and front-of-mind presence among target audiences. Recruiting, hiring and training detract from these business must-dos.  Yet employee engagement is a must-do for any organization serious about long-term viability.

Employee Engagement is Everyone's Business in a Small Organizations

Group of diverse businesspeople sitting together in office and using digital tablet. Young people at startup using tablet computer and smiling.

Spearheaded by the person at the helm, employee engagement becomes everyone’s business in smaller organizations.  Measures are low-cost or no-cost, with great returns. In fact, a recent benchmark report completed by TalentMap reveals engagement scores for small organizations are a full 13 percentage points above the overall 73 percent benchmark for organizations of all sizes and sectors.

An everyday “good morning, how’s it going” exchange between the big chief and whomever they meet coming into the office, heading to and from the coffee room or passing in the halls makes for a good springboard.  An accessible and more importantly, approachable executive leader, genuinely interested in the people on their team, is an exemplary role model who sets the stage for employee engagement.

Weekly one-on-one meetings with team leads and colleagues, is another excellent opportunity for employees to check-in and engage with one another. Sometimes work talk will predominate. Other times not so much.  The point is strengthening relationships strengthen bonds of engagement.

Celebrating and supporting. Sharing the good and the bad is what we do as humans.  Transparency trumps secrecy. Tell it like it is.  If you’re into a bad stretch, say so, and why. Invite creativity and innovation into discussions. The reverse also holds true. Emotionally invested employees want to be engaged in achieving the good and tackling the bad.

Social pomp and ceremony isn’t necessary but social outreach certainly is.  The simple step of forming a social committee to plan in-house luncheons, CSR initiatives and external outings tends to attract people-minded people to the task of drawing employees together.

Nothing builds camaraderie quite like a collective guffaw.  At TalentMap recently, an employee took it upon themselves (read discretionary effort) to photo shop the face of every team member into a lively little ditty of dancing elves. It was used as a meeting opener and received raucous applause.  It also added levity into the rest of everyone’s day.

Tear Down Walls – Figuratively and Literally

Open concept layouts open up interaction and innovation.  Of course there are always people and tasks needing quiet thinking-spaces, or places where confidential or robust phone conversations can be had. That’s fine too when the need arises.  Otherwise, an open-door culture implies issues and ideas are welcome. People are welcome.  In turn, the doors to employee engagement are wide open and welcoming too.

author patricia bell newson

About Patricia Bell Newson

A graduate of Canada’s leading Journalism Degree program, Patricia Bell Newson is an accomplished writer and communications specialist. As a key member of the TalentMap team, Pat leads the company’s thought leadership with full force producing weekly content on employee engagement and best practices in employee surveys. Pat’s experience in advising leaders on strategic approaches to sensitive issues, priorities, and policies together with her ability to research and easily grasp various concepts regarding the workplace has been a great asset in creating valuable insights for HR leaders.

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