Evolving Employee Engagement for Today

Since March, most of our customers have paused their Employee Engagement pulsing. However, they’re still actively engaging their people through our COVID-19 program, “Putting People First”. This has provided critical insights on how to move forward today. Also, our Pulse of HR series has validated these findings. We are now evolving Employee Engagement for today. This evolved framework includes a new cadence and question set that focuses on: Leader Support, Organizational Well-Being and Foundational Agility.

This equips customers with the familiarity, continuity and structure of an employee engagement program, while fitting our new reality. We can partner with each customer where they are today, and move forward from here. Below we share key insights and experiences informing our framework, and outline how customers can launch this today. 

First, we updated our baseline

As customers launched our Putting People First program during the pandemic, they shared their most pressing questions and concerns. They offered firsthand insights on how to maintain physical and psychological safety. They contributed their best ideas – and also voted on others’ – to pinpoint priorities for action.

By asking questions

Previously we outlined how leaders are having transparent conversations with their people through the Waggl platform, asking questions like

  • What is one question you have about the impact of COVID-19 that we can answer?
  • What is the most important thing you need right now to work effectively?

And listening to understand

We’ve also outlined previously how leaders are hearing widespread appreciation for this outreach, empathy and support. This outreach is informing where and how to allocate resources. Leaders are prioritizing issues, and learning which ones require a quick fix or deeper focus. Through this, they are quickly shifting from anxiety to tremendous relief. 

And then, responding with action

In fact, White & Case leaders were surprised by their Waggl results. At the start of the shutdown, they asked their people what they needed most to feel productive. Global People Engagement Director Dave Mowers shares, “It was a bit of a surprise curve ball for our management…we had an enormous number of people respond that they needed their office chairs.” Therefore, they immediately created a check out system for employees to collect these from their offices. Now they refer to this sudden discovery – and practical solution – as #chairgate!

White & Case also launched a Waggl pulse that confirmed the need for leader/team dialogue. Leaders asked their people what new processes they should continue forward. Mowers notes, “We continually heard that our use of Waggl’s real-time crowdsourcing tool makes our communication feel more like a relationship. Our leaders are talking to their teams more often, and there’s a deeper connection.”[1]

Leaders are also learning how much employees want to connect and contribute. When Principal Financial Group launched Waggl’s program, Director of Employee Experience Polly Heinen states, “We learned how much our people really want to support each other.” This aligned with our Pulse of HR asking HR professionals what was driving engagement at their organizations. Their top-voted answer was: “We created a new COVID-19 mantra: Healthy enough to help.”[2] 

Now it’s time to launch an evolved engagement framework

These findings also align with 3rd party data showing that employee engagement is skyrocketing. Therefore, customers can guide this momentum forward with an evolved engagement framework. Our framework prioritizes the following goals.

Job #1: Support leaders where they are today

The first step of our evolved framework is launching a leader-specific pulse. This pulse identifies exactly what support leaders need in this new reality. Responses may indicate new leadership skills, or simple tools and tactics that can equip them to do their best work today. 

In the case of skills, leaders are now being called to develop “‘next practices’ while excelling at today’s best practices.” These go beyond quick problem solving and decision making. Now leaders are managing teams remotely, while also counseling them on a more personal level. They’re also prioritizing empathy as a top skill to build closer relationships. 

Leading with dialogue

Well before COVID-19, Waggl results showed engagement increasing when leaders ask their teams questions, listen to their answers and act on what they learn.[3] Since the pandemic, this continues to be true. Recently, leaders have focused these conversations on: remote and on-site work productivity, concerns about job security, and emotional and physical well-being. While topics shift, authentic dialogue remains a key leadership skill.

When Principal Financial Group launched their leader-specific pulse, one top-voted response asked for more leader to leader dialogue. Heinen relays, “Our leaders told us how much they value learning from each other and sharing ideas.” This reinforced authentic conversation as a leadership skill in general, and also specified their leaders’ need for these conversations amongst themselves. 

Our leader-specific question set includes questions like

  • What is one way we can support you in engaging your team today?
  • What is one challenge you face in leading your team in our new work reality?   

Job #2: Prioritize well-being 

Well-being is a critical component of our evolved framework – for both leaders and their teams. While engagement is higher than ever, research also shows that employees are extraordinarily stressed. For example, one recent news article examines parental “rage in a pandemic.” Now more than ever, leaders are being called on to support employees’ mental health and resilience.

Connecting through dialogue

We’ve indicated how customers’ pulse results indicate employees’ eagerness for connection through dialogue. We also know connection supports well-being. With engagement at an all-time high, now is the time to launch a virtuous cycle of dialogue, connection and well-being. 

Our engagement framework now integrates a question set that guides leaders through an authentic dialogue around mental health and self-care. In this way, leaders and teams can also co-create actions to support their overall well-being. These questions include: “How can our organization support you in better managing your work and life responsibilities?” 

Job #3: Build an agile foundation

Rather than bouncing back to “normal,” our evolved framework helps customers create a better foundation to move forward. Resilience is about steadiness and rebounding in a storm, but what makes us get stronger through the storm? 

We’ve shared previously how aiming towards antifragility is a powerful step beyond resilience. Rather than just adapting to adversity, aiming towards antifragility helps us evolve through it. Launching our evolved framework helps organizations develop enduring agility as a core value to keep navigating uncertainty. 

Gaining agility through…yes, dialogue!

Our framework helps customers maximize the practices that have helped them evolve to this point. It helps them pinpoint what values have guided them so far. We know that “In a period of sustained uncertainty, the most difficult topics must be discussed.”[4] Our evolved framework supports this “culture of courageous conversations.” 

In fact, White & Case found that simply having these conversations activated this culture. Mowers relays, “You can talk about building dialogue and employee listening…but feeling it, and putting it into action, just changed everything. This launched our culture immediately.”

Principal Financial Group also experienced this immediate shift. Heinen states, “None of us have wanted to go through this COVID-19 crisis. But the silver lining is that it is forcing our organization to go in the right direction in terms of communicating with our employees. Now we’re taking these lessons with us into the future.”

Taking these lessons forward

There isn’t one playbook to guide organizations through our new reality. However, asking questions, listening, and responding with action, provides customers the agility to move forward. Now our evolved framework provides the ongoing cadence and question sets to accelerate this agility. Sabra’s Head of Talent & Organizational Development Cat Kennedy describes this experience using Waggl as “moving from ‘I think this might work’ to ‘I know what to do right now.’”

To learn more, please reach out to [email protected] or your Customer Success Manager. We will tailor our evolved Employee Engagement framework to help drive your business forward in our new work reality.

Please note: We are also introducing a framework to help customers co-create an anti-racist future. This draws on our Pulse of HR, with the specific question: “What is one action you would like to see your organization take to improve racial justice?”


Photo by Anisur Rahman on Unsplash