Employee Engagement

3 expert methods for improving workplace culture

Did we see you at Illuminate? Our team at Blueboard attended the conference a few weeks ago, and we were so inspired by the sessions and speakers that we decided to share our best learnings with you here:  

Learning #1: Belonging isn’t a’s a necessity.

One of the major themes that emerged at the conference is the importance of cultivating belonging in the workplace. While a sense of belonging is an emotion that all humans are wired to pursue, it’s also a driver of critical employee metrics. According to Pat Wador, CHRO of ServiceNow, a strong sense of belonging has been shown to improve a variety of factors affecting your top employees, including:

  • Mental and physical health: Whether or not they’re burnt out
  • Loyalty: How likely they are to stay
  • Motivation: How hard they work for you
  • Trust and psychological safety: If they feel provided for and whether their manager and team has their back

Mark Levy, Head of Employee Experience at Allbirds, explained how his team brings belonging to life for their teams: he encourages opening up two-way dialogue, information sharing, and bonding between employees across all teams as well as with their customers.

Additional tips from the speakers:

  • Map out the employee experience at your company and consider where you can inject a sense of belonging in this journey.
  • Use storytelling as a tool. Surface how employees feel connected, appreciated, through photos, quotes or video. Create a channel for sharing these stories along the way!
  • Coordinate activities to encourage bonding (i.e. having employees volunteer to teach each other something like painting, how to repair a bike, etc.). This has been a huge hit for our team at Blueboard. We’ve covered sessions around financial wellness, learning your love language, and how to network effectively. It’s another way that we bring our company value “dance a little different” to life.  

Learning #2: Better data leads to better people management.

Data is becoming an increasingly popular tool in HR. According to Justin Angsuwat, VP People at Thumbtack, it’s putting managers in a better position to serve their employees. He shared a recent example where Thumbtack hosted a gender identity discussion and used Reflektive data to better understand certain trends. They found that:

  • Female employees were more likely to receive emotional feedback from peers.
  • Female employees were less future-focused when planning for their careers.
  • Female employees were more likely to raise hands for organizational tasks (office administration, code cleanup, etc.) but less likely to be recognized for these actions during review periods.

While these weren’t the most optimistic findings, Thumbtack shared them broadly with the company and even developed a task force to specifically tackle the issues surfaced from the data. Justin explained that this is a great way to develop trust with their employees, while also addressing needs that may have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t surfaced from the data.

Another important use case for data is using it to measure the ROI of engaged employees. This topic was addressed in a panel discussion with Bianca McCann, Global Head of People at Trifacta; David Hanrahan, VP of People at Niantic; Ron Storn, Chief People Officer at Zume; andKate Kastenbaum, VP of People Ops at Remind.

All the speakers understood the significance of employee engagement in today’s workplace: not only do engaged companies see 200% better business returns, but living in the age of review sites like Glassdoor makes it easy for employees to vent frustrations that stem from disengagement. That makes it all the more important to collect data (whether positive or constructive)and present it to leadership so they can take action.

As one speaker put it, “engagement stems from leadership. As HR professionals, we can only author it, then hold the mirror up to the leaders to see.” Below are tips from the speakers on how to use employee engagement data more wisely:

4 employee engagement tips:

  • Openly share data with the company - especially when it doesn’t look good. Honesty is appreciated and expected from your company’s leadership team.
  • Empower employees and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to take data and run with it to address any issues that come up, or new opportunities for their groups to tackle.
  • When you develop an engagement strategy, figure out how you’re going to measure it.
  • Measure what matters, then commit to addressing just one area at a time.

Learning #3: Looking after your company’s culture is hard.

There’s no denying it: looking after your company’s culture is challenging. However, there are tactics to help you manage culture effectively, and even adapt it according to feedback from your employees. Natasha Kehimkar, Chief People Officer at AppAnnie used a great metaphor to explain culture change - she compared it to planning a dinner party.

Her advice is to:

  • Know your guests: Understand your team, so you can move the good ones forward and cut the bad ones out. Also, recognize people’s strengths and weaknesses and place them accordingly throughout your workforce.
  • Plan the menu: Establish your company’s  mission, vision, and values, and ensure they’re clearly communicated to all employees.
  • Mise en place: Get everything in order and set clear expectations.
  • Plan for hiccups. Prepare for multiple scenarios from the best to worst case scenarios. This ensures you have the right backup plans in place.

The topic of employee feedback was also addressed, given that it frequently shapes company culture. In a panel discussion with Manny Hernandez, SVP of Culture and Learning at Livongo; Andrea Robb, Director of Talent Design and Operations at AirBnb; Jacklyn Felix, Learning and Development Manager at Dollar Shave Club; andLindsey Ducroz, Director of U.S. HR at Frog Design, they shared the following tips to use when collecting, using, and acting on employee feedback:

5 employee feedback tips:

  • Create a feedback culture, and have a framework for collecting feedback.
  • Use polling to understand the feedback experience for employees.
  • Act on the feedback that’s gathered by getting leadership involved.
  • To the best of your abilities, remove bias and give everyone equal opportunities.
  • Push back on vague, open-ended feedback. Digging deeper will help get to the root of the employee’s needs.

A huge thanks to Reflektive for inviting us to Illuminate! We learned so much about the ins and outs of people management, and we hope you picked up some learnings from our recap.

If you’re interested in learning how Blueboard can strengthen your relationship with employees through meaningful experiential gifts, reach out and request a demo or give us a shout in the Live Chat window at the bottom right corner.

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As of March 12, 2024, Blueboard has ceased its operations. To everyone that supported us over the years, thank you. 🙏