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Find and Develop Employee Engagement Champions

Just having your company leaders talk about employee engagement isn't enough. You must embed engagement champions throughout your workforce. Identifying the right employees as your engagement champions is key to building a culture of engagement. Failing to do so will severely hamper your engagement efforts.

To identify your engagement champions, first you need to understand your own culture. What behaviors and traits does your firm value? For instance, Southwest Airlines values a sense of humor, Apple values creativity, and Nordstrom values customer service. More often than not, your most engaged employees are those whose personal traits mirror the traits of the firm's culture. Those employees will make for great engagement champions.

Look, too, to your most respected and well networked employees. Malcolm Gladwell (author of such books as The Tipping Point and Outliers, both published by Little, Brown) calls them “connectors.” You want to make sure your engagement champions are connectors within your firm, because you'll need them to serve as engagement ambassadors.

Although committees are often overused and improperly chartered, if you're new to engagement, you may consider bringing together a group of engaged connectors to help give the initiative some traction.

After you locate your engagement champions, it's on you to help them develop. Here are a few ideas:

  • Identify an organizational need or a problem that needs fixing and put your engagement champions in charge of a team aimed at solving it. Give the group a budget, a voice at the leadership table, and a timetable to recommend a plan. Just remember that if your leadership team is unwilling to consider the team's solution, the result will be a disengaged champion.

  • Send your engagement champions to a conference or trade show to present a technical paper or work the booth. Even if they're not marketing types, they'll be great brand ambassadors, representing you to your customers.

  • Invite your engagement champions to participate in your college recruiting program or at job fairs. These standouts can act as brand ambassadors to potential employees in much the same way they can to customers. Also, invite them to mentor new hires or those who have been promoted.

  • Reward your engagement champions to a weeklong executive development program. These programs are frequently offered at major universities. Also, ask them to participate in (or perhaps even present at) executive leadership team meetings.

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