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Derek Irvine


Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more about Derek Irvine

Blog: 7 guidelines for employee engagement – lessons from Stryker


Recognise This! – A desire to increase employee engagement is useless without commitment and follow-through.

Gallup issued a brilliant case study of Stryker, a global medical devices company. Focussing on just one unit in New Jersey, the case study highlights several key tenets of success for an employee engagement or strategic employee recognition programme.

1. Be committed
Stryker believes that employee engagement is part of its success — the company has been deeply committed to employee engagement, strengths development, and leadership development for years.”
Commitment to increasing engagement requires commitment to creating a workplace environment in which employees choose to engage. And this is not done by one person. It must be seen as a priority by the entire organisation as a whole.
2. Secure executive support
“The first [advantage] was the support of the plant’s leadership, particularly that of John Haller, vice president of global operations for implants at Stryker; the human resources staff; and [Fred] Lorestani, [vice president of North American Implement Operations] himself.”
But it does take clear and highly visible executive support to show employees that actions taken and promises made will be followed through. Without that, many employees won’t feel the initiative is worth their time.
3. Don’t survey unless you plan to follow up
“They did the survey, but nothing happened afterwards. That’s a problem. Gallup has found that one of the fastest ways to damage morale is to ask employees for their opinions, then ignore their replies.”
Surveying without follow up action on the results only further disengages employees. Would you keep giving your honest opinion if you didn’t think anything would come of it?
4. Engagement is the responsibility of management and employees alike
“It’s not always top down; you [individual employees] also own and you are responsible for your own engagement.”
All employees at every level have a responsibility for engagement. I’ve gone into greater depth on precisely what those responsibilities are for executives, managers and employees in this post.
5. Engagement doesn’t come naturally to everyone. You must train managers
“Stryker had been investing in manager development through Gallup’s Great Manager Programme for some time, and Krummel-Mihajlovic found it so helpful that she insisted each of the managers on the operations side attend. She also insisted that the executives above them receive Gallup leadership training.”
Don’t assume just because a manager fails at engagement today that they don’t care about the engagement of their employees. Instead, work to train those managers on both the importance of engagement and what specific actions they can take to improve engagement.
6. Find local champions
“Engagement is individual, and the best advocates for it – and perpetuators of it – are employees. And that voice had to be a loud one.”
This is a key tenet I speak to in my training sessions and Stryker got it right. Krummel-Mihajlovic asked who the outspoken people were and who was the go-to person for help. Never assume this is always a person in a management.
It’s just as likely to be the receptionist, line leader or any other person in the organisation who cares about their colleagues and getting the job done. Stryker ultimately found 20 champions in this one plant alone.

7. Choose ambassadors to bring good ideas forward

Ambassadors play a different role. They carry the messages forward up the chain and then across all employees. These must be people who are both respected as well as passionate and excited about moving your engagement and recognition project forward.

Have you undertaken an engagement or recognition initiative in your organisation? Did you follow these steps? What others did I miss?
Derek Irvine is senior vice president of global strategy at employee recognition software provider, Globoforce.

We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.

4 Responses

  1. Engagement lessons

    Don, brilliant comment and thanks for adding to the conversation.

    You’re correct. Employees are looking for the specifics of how do I do that. That’s why I so passionately believe in the power of strategic recognition. If you create a recogntion program, clearly and carefully define your reasons for recognition to be your core values and strategic objectives, then give all employees permission to recognise each other when they see colleagues demonstrating those values in contribution to those objectives – now employees understand what those values and objectives look like in their daily work.

    Critical to this, of course, is requiring a detailed message. A simple "thanks for that" won’t be sufficient. Instead, employees need to hear messages like: "Great job on the MacGuffin project. You took the time to understand the client’s challenges, dissect the need, and then respond to each point clealry and with an actionable approach. Our client now appreciates us even more. You truly demonstrated our value of ‘client-focused.’"

  2. Engagement lessons

    Very true, Barry. Because of tight budgets, muncipal and other government employees often do not receive the same opportunities for recognition more common in the private sector. And that is truly unfortunate. Most of us never give a thought to all that the emplyees of our local governments do that keep our lives running smoothly – utlities, rubbish removal, oversight, police, firefighters. The list is truly endless.

    Thank you for bringing this topic forward.

  3. Employee Engagement

    I always find this topic hugely interesting, not so much for the suggestions offered [I seldom see actual examples of what to do, but more the goals to aim for], but more to see whether people actually define what they mean by Employee Engagement.  I have the same comment to make about performance cirteria where people are required to perform their jobs ‘professionally’!   Well Hellooo.

    Is it another term to use for encouraging initiative; for involving team members in either or both what they do and what the team does;  is it for helping people do their jobs better [in which case we need to see how their jobs are defined]……….etc. etc.??

    My reason for responding so, is that for all these good ideas to make headway, we need to remember that by far the greatest number of Employees to be so engaged, work in small to medium sized places, and therefore what they are looking for are step-by-step ideas of how to achieve the good ideas written and spoken about where they do not have the HR Director and the Training and Development Director.  All these functions fall on the shoulders of the owner/manager and their supervisors.  In addition we need also to remind people of the basics that have remained crucial for so long, and not tout them as a brilliant part of the latest management tool.  The best example I know is that whatever is seen as having to be implemented, is not only driven from the top, but also exemplified from the top.  Then folk will hopefully get the message this has been important/crucial for yonks but yet still does not happen.  Bit like drink driving!!

    Cheers.  Don Rhodes.

  4. Engagement-do we need to exchange rings?
    I found this article really interesting and timely as we embark upon an employee engagement programme across the organisation. That’s not to say we don’t have engaged employees and managers, we do! it’s just when times are tough especially in Local Government it doesn’t hurt to encourage staff and recognise their contribution to boost morale and motivate. Barry

    Barry Wilding-Webb
    Leadership and Management Development
    Devon County Council
    Exeter EX24QU

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Derek Irvine

Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more from Derek Irvine

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