On Your Mission… To Improve Employee Engagement

by Tim Rinaldi
6 min read

Does your company have carefully thought-out culture and values but struggles to achieve their adoption throughout the organization?

Does it feel like your accomplishments go unnoticed by everyone besides your team?

Do you wish you and your colleagues were more engaged with your work?

Do you often wonder how much impact your work will actually have on the company achieving its goals?

After becoming the Director of Operations for Raincatcher in the summer of 2020, one of my initial focuses was improving our employee engagement. We were proud of the team and culture we had built (we were named one of the Inc. Best Workplaces for 2020), but as an entirely remote company, we wanted to develop better practices for celebrating our successes, asking for help when needed, and sharing feedback with our managers and colleagues. At the same time, though, we wanted to emphasize that these new practices would be solely about continuous improvement as a team, rather than micromanagement or a lack of trust. 

That’s what led me to research solutions and ultimately discover Lattice and Bonusly. In case you’re wondering, I am not getting any form of commission from these companies for this post; I’ve just been so thrilled with their impact that I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned about employee engagement and how to improve it. Even if you don’t choose to invest in new software, I hope these lessons will help you and your company:

1- We can’t determine how to best improve employee engagement if we don’t know what our starting point is

After implementing Lattice, we conducted an anonymous engagement survey of around 40 questions covering topics like our commitment to our company, how valued we feel, our job satisfaction, our well-being, how satisfied we are with management, our work relationships, and our fit and belonging with our company (among others). After conducting the survey, we received scores on each topic from 1-100 – this showed us what areas we should prioritize to improve our engagement. Then, we launched monthly Pulse surveys with just four questions; it only takes a minute or so to complete, but we get a steady stream of information to see how our engagement is changing with our new initiatives and other factors.  

Does your company’s leadership know how engaged its employees generally are? If not, besides implementing Lattice, how can your company determine the current level of engagement and what improvements are needed? What impact would this have on each employee and team and the entire company?

2- We need to understand how our individual goals directly correlate to our company achieving its goals 

At Raincatcher, we’re proud of our BHAG – to become the #1 business brokerage company within the United States by December 31st, 2025. However, we found that it was difficult to see how our work in a given day would bring our company closer to achieving this lofty goal by 2025. So, we made a point to break down our BHAG to show how each department’s goals are vital to the company achieving it. With Lattice, we track our individual, department, and company goals – each employee updates their goals on a monthly basis so they can discuss their performance with their managers. We’ve found that the best types of goals are those that are important for our roles but not directly related to our quotas/daily responsibilities; for example, our sales team should be networking, so tracking their performance with this goal helps them to make it a priority even when other tasks feel more pressing. 

How does your company encourage creating and tracking goals? If there isn’t a system in place, how can that be changed, starting with your team? What types of goals would you track, and what impact would that have on your performance?

3- We need dedicated forums to celebrate each other’s impact

With everyone working remotely at Raincatcher (even before the pandemic), it became a challenge to recognize and celebrate each other’s successes. While the major achievements were easy to recognize, it would typically just result in a string of group emails and a shoutout during a team meeting (and then quickly forgotten). We wanted to better celebrate the small wins, and we’ve loved doing so with Lattice and Bonusly. With Lattice, we can share public feedback for each other – usually how someone demonstrated our company values and impacted the team in a way that others may not have noticed.

With Bonusly, this has become a major form of entertainment for us! We each have a budget of 100 points a month (or $10) to give to each other to recognize their impact – we do so on a public board with gifs and hashtags, so it’s fun to not only reward each other but to see how others are doing so as well. Then, we can use our rewards for Amazon, Starbucks, donations to great causes, and many other options. 

Does your company have a system in place to encourage its employees to celebrate each other? If it’s just emails or shoutouts, how can it become more enjoyable to help it catch on throughout the company? And how can the recognition be given in a way that isn’t quickly forgotten?

4- But we also need dedicated forums to share our struggles and concerns 

The downside of everyone working remotely is when we’re dealing with struggles and concerns, we may feel alone. It’s easy to share our accomplishments and celebrate each other; it’s difficult to acknowledge our shortcomings out of fear of giving our colleagues a less favorable impression of us. With Lattice, we’ve been using the Updates feature each week to let our managers know how we’re doing in just 5 minutes or so: what we focused on that week; what we’re planning to do for the following week; what challenges we need help with; and how we’re feeling bandwidth-wise and in general. Then, after sharing the updates, the managers review them and provide feedback to demonstrate the importance of the update and what support they’ll provide when needed. This way, it’s clear our motivation behind the updates is not to make sure they’re doing their jobs, but rather to ensure we understand when and how they need additional help to be successful.

Does your company stress the importance of sharing your struggles and concerns so that you can receive any support you may need? Is there a standard practice for doing so, and are most of your colleagues comfortable with it? If not, how can your company better encourage this form of sharing and offering the necessary support?

5- To make our performance reviews as effective as possible, they should be more than annual touchpoints 

Along with improving our employee engagement, another major focus of mine was making our performance review process more meaningful. Rather than having meetings in December, creating goals, and revisiting them the next December, we wanted to continually check in on our progress over the course of the year. So, with Lattice, our managers now conduct quarterly performance reviews – along with reviewing the direct reports’ progress against their goals, the managers can see their past feedback and updates on their profiles to guide the discussions. Then, everyone’s goals are updated for the following quarter to help us continuously improve in advance of the next annual performance reviews. 

Does your company conduct performance reviews? If so, are they as impactful as they should be, or do they tend to be forgotten in a few weeks? Are there potential improvements to the review process, and how would that help you and your colleagues to continuously improve?

6- Ultimately though, no matter what our company states its values are, it comes down to the managers to ensure they are carried out by their teams

While tools like Lattice and Bonusly can and should have a great impact on our companies, ultimately it’s up to our managers to determine how much they are leveraged. A company’s leadership can create the perfect values and best practices to ensure those values are adopted throughout the organization, but if managers incentivize other actions, their direct reports will fall in line with them. When we implemented Lattice, I soon realized that its major value would be helping our managers to be the leaders their direct reports need. By encouraging their teams to adopt Lattice and Bonusly, the managers will get a steady stream of feedback to celebrate their direct reports, provide support when needed, and identify the opportunities for growth and help them achieve it. 

How does your company ensure its values are promoted by each and every manager? If it isn’t doing so effectively, what changes should be made? What would be the impact on the individuals, teams, and company of carrying out these changes?

How can I get better?

My mission is to impact as many people as I can from what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in my career. If you have any feedback on how I can do that better (about my writing style, other books/articles/videos I should check out, etc.), I’d love to hear it!

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