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7 Min Read

6 Steps to Creating an Employee Engagement Plan

Genevieve Michaels

Everyone wants better engagement. A motivated, inspired workforce means better retention, productivity, and innovation — outcomes every business leader is striving for.  

But clearly, just wanting it isn’t enough. 

As of 2022, the number of actively disengaged workers rose to 18%, indicating that pandemic-related hurdles weren’t the only thing stopping people from living their best lives at work. 

Instead, companies need to take concrete action, based on data, to help their people feel more connected to one another and their mission at large. They need to create an employee engagement action plan. 

At heart, this is a simple concept: ask employees for feedback, then show them you’re listening by enacting real change. That’s the foundation of any healthy relationship, in the workplace or out of it. 

There’s a lot to learn when creating an employee engagement plan. Here, we’ll get started by breaking it down into six simple steps. Creating an engaged workforce isn’t rocket science — it just means staying in close attunement with your people.  

Define company values, goals, and priorities

What do you care about, and what do you stand for? What makes your company culture special? How can you stay true to those principles as you work towards creating more engaged employees? As you get started, take a close look at your company’s core values, mission and vision statements, and organizational goals. 

For example, Disney strives to “design work environments that inspire optimism and drive innovation.” Atlassian’s core values include “play, as a team” and “open company, no bullsh*t.”

Are strong relationships most important to you, or are you more invested in supporting individuals? Do you motivate your people with financial metrics, or do you rally around lofty goals like sustainability? 

As you move forward in creating your engagement plan, you might find that your specific goals or objectives shift in surprising ways. But these core values and priorities should still serve as a guiding vision — they tell you what kind of work environment you’re striving for.

Set objectives for your employee engagement plan

Using your values and priorities as a starting point, decide on what objectives you’ll work towards with this employee engagement plan. 

Are there any specific metrics (like turnover) that need to improve? Or are your goals broader, like increasing employee happiness and sense of belonging? 

For example, if your company values team relationships, you might set a goal to improve the frequency and openness of manager-contributor communications, and build psychological safety on all your teams. 

It’s not always easy to quantify your objectives, both in terms of knowing where you stand, and tracking improvement. But with the right survey partner, you’ll be able to gather a complete picture of your engagement strengths and weaknesses — and take targeted action to do better. 

Be open to these objectives evolving with the employee feedback you receive. You might be doing better than you thought in some areas, but surprised at how low your performance is in others. As long as you’re guided by your core values and mission, any path you take to get there is the right one. 

Survey employees about engagement

Conducting your engagement survey is probably the most important phase. This is where you actually ask your employees how things are going! 

These findings will reveal your engagement strengths, problems that need to be addressed, and inform the action plan that will help you reach your goals. 

But not all surveys are created equal — and sharing one that’s inadequate or poorly thought out can be not only unhelpful, but actively harmful to engagement and morale. 

There are three types of engagement surveys

  • Vanity surveys, designed to generate results that will help you win awards and recognition for being a good employer
  • Self-commissioned surveys, designed by the HR team themselves. Unfortunately, these surveys typically don’t allow respondent anonymity, and contain biased, statistically invalid questions
  • Psychometrically-valid surveys, which assess the psychological drivers beyond employee engagement

To produce valid, useful results, we strongly recommend working with an external survey partner like 15Five. Developed with academic experts, executive leaders, and HR industry veterans, 15Five has developed a method for measuring 17 key engagement drivers, across four different ‘spheres of experience’ at work. 

Match solutions to engagement gaps

If your survey was sufficiently rigorous and detailed, you should be able to accurately identify employee pain points, and specific areas for improving engagement. (In 15Five, users can drill down on these gaps to the level of specific managers.) 

Then, you and your team can brainstorm projects and initiatives to address these problem areas. Here are a few ideas. 

  • Are employees burnt out and lacking work-life balance?
    • Consider mental health stipends or company-wide paid days off 
  • Do people see a lack of opportunities for career progression?
    • Offer regular mentoring sessions and launch an internal job board 
  • Is your virtual workforce feeling disconnected and isolated?
    • Schedule virtual group lunches, coffee breaks, or happy hours 
  • Do employees feel constrained, controlled, or micro-managed?
    • Investigate which managers the issue is coming from, and offer training and upskilling programs
  • Do people feel overlooked, unappreciated, or overworked?
    • Consider employee recognition and reward programs — see our tips for creating a great one

If you’re not sure about a possible solution, don’t be afraid to take it back to your people. Do a quick pulse check or informal survey — are people resonating with this idea? Would they be excited to take part? 

Turn aspirations into actionable goals

You’ve gathered data, you know where you’re going, and you’ve got a rough idea of how to get there. Now, it’s time to get tactical — the ‘plan’ part of your engagement action plan. 

Consider using a goal setting framework like OKRs or SMART goals to lay out the concrete steps you will take to bring your engagement action plan to life.

Even a simple goal, like “hold a virtual weekly happy hour,” will be more complex to execute than you might think. Your people are already busy — make sure everyone knows what needs to happen to realize these new plans. 

For each solution, answer questions like: 

If you need help making things actionable, 15Five’s surveys connect users with executive advisors and manager coaches, who can advise you on how best to take action.

Evaluate outcomes regularly

Keeping people highly engaged is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done task. This is one major benefit of 15Five’s ‘pulse surveys’, as opposed to the standardized, annual engagement surveys of yesteryear. Administered virtually on a regular basis, this model gives you a consistent, near real-time picture of engagement at your organization. 

As you put your plans into action, evaluate and revisit them regularly. You should monitor if they’re being executed according to plan — but more importantly, if they’re having the effects you want. Be ready to tweak and adjust your employee engagement strategy in line with the outcomes you see. 

Measure, take action, and increase engagement

Unless your engagement survey is valid, rigorous, and anonymous, it can actually make things worse. You’ll collect biased and incorrect data, and damage morale if employees don’t see their responses put into concrete action. 

That’s why HR leaders and executives should consider 15Five Engage. We’re an easy-to-use, science-backed platform to measure employee engagement, find actionable insights, and take steps to drive real change.