THE BLOG
10/20/2014 03:30 pm ET Updated Dec 20, 2014

It's Not Just About the Bagels: Building Employee Engagement (Pt. 4): Nine Tips to Keep in Mind When Developing Employee Engagement Programs

This week I had the opportunity to spend time with peers from such countries as Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Malta, Slovakia, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, the UK and more. No it wasn't a UN meeting but rather a conference of HR Professionals in Barcelona.

Over the two days, a variety of presentations focused primarily on talent management and engagement. A number of initiatives were discussed along with the challenges, and then the realization that there is no magic pill for engagement. In addition to hearing about innovative programs and best practices, attending such conferences, for me, is validating; I am always thinking I can be doing more and then I hear from other HR peers that even with their bell and whistle programs and fancy corporate videos, engagement can still be elusive.

Ahhh, it's good to know I'm not alone.

Coming off the conference this past week, next week I will be participating on a panel where we will also be discussing the topic of engagement. In preparing my notes and organizing my thoughts, I have put together some helpful tips Human Resources professionals should keep in mind when it comes to engagement programs:

1) There is no magic formula. Enough said here.

2) Each employer's idea of engagement and how to bring it about is different. Respect that what may work at another company, may not be the right fit for yours. Understand, and be true to your culture.

3) Determine what are the key drivers of engagement at your organization. Whether through employee opinion surveys or walking the halls, determine what drives employee engagement at your company. Is it work/life balance, compensation, career paths and personal growth? Having this information will help guide your efforts and focus.

4) Alignment. Make sure your programs, the messages, and actions are aligned with the business strategy.

5) Measure, measure, measure. Have the data ready to show how the programs are working (or not). Make sure it answers some of the following questions:
a. How are the initiatives making a difference?
b. Has turnover been reduced? By how much?
c. Has your engagement scores improved? By how much?
d. Has your time-to-fill been reduced due to increased applicants?
e. How do these statistics impact the bottom line?

6) Be Flexible, be adaptable. Understand that sometimes the one constant is change. What may be the strategy today can change in an instant tomorrow with new leadership, as a result of economic changes, competition and the like.

7) Communicate. Do not make the assumption that the whole organization knows what you are working on when it comes to engagement programs. Communicate constantly, hold small information sessions or Town Halls to introduce new programs.

8) Don't lose momentum. Once you start the engagement initiatives keep them going. Build upon the buzz and the energy. Also once rolled out, revisit your programs periodically to keep them fresh and updated.

9) Get Buy In! I cannot stress this enough. The issue of buy in came up time and again over the course of the conference and programs that have succeeded were those that had buy in from the senior most executives and business unit heads before embarking on these initiatives.

Every company is on a quest to attract, retain, and motivate a high performing team. How we each achieve this may take different paths respecting what makes each of our companies unique. But just remember that no matter where in the world you may be, or in what industry, you are not alone in your quest to build engagement.