Employee Engagement Cycle: Action

Once input has been gathered and discussed, a few small, simple actions can have a large impact. Action involves creating and implementing a plan to address the engagement drivers (conditions that create engagement and productivity) that were identified through input and discussion as most critical to advance the unit’s goals and priorities. Taking action is not more work because it’s work that already needs to get done.

Action will be most effective if there are answers to these questions:

  • What specific, concrete steps are we going to take to improve?
  • Who will do the work, what resources will be needed?
  • How will we know if we’re successful?

Watch the video below to see an example of employee engagement in action.

1. Watch the Video

2. Learn the Action Planning Principles

The principles of action planning are:

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of the issues before moving on to action. This should have happened during the discussion step of the employee engagement cycle.
  2. Concentrate on 1-3 issues that can be executed exceptionally well. Focus on issues within your control and spend time on those areas where you can have the most impact.
  3. Involve faculty and staff in solution(s) where appropriate. What do they think? Faculty and staff can help you understand the context for the input as well as provide appropriate solutions.
  4. Be specific and clear in an action plan. The most effective action plans are linked to business objectives, limited to a manageable number of action priorities (1-3), focused on action areas where those accountable can have an impact, and are clear about who will do the work.
  5. Provide regular updates on progress. When important work is done as a result of faculty and staff input, they may not realize these actions were based on their informal feedback/survey data.  To avoid the perception that leaders did not take action, be certain to let faculty and staff know when actions were taken based on their informal feedback/survey data.

Apply: Review and Use the Action Library

Depending on the issue you are trying to address, there are various Supervisory Development resources for improving employee engagement through action. For your convenience, we have referenced them by each engagement driver.

Trying to address a specific Employee Engagement survey item, but not sure how it maps to a particular driver? See the Employee Engagement Survey Items handout for a full list of survey items as they relate to the conditions that improve employee engagement.

Click on the survey driver below to view some ideas for action. You can copy-paste the ideas to create your own action plan.

Have a Question?

We are happy to help! We also invite you to share your successes in using this material and/or letting us know how we can improve it. Submit your question about the course content to an LTD consultant.

Survey Results and Action

Have you received your Employee Engagement Survey results? Would you like to see more survey-specific information? Do you need more ideas on action planning?

Take Action

Check out the Take Action section on the Navigating Your Report Data site, which contains a range of ideas and resources for addressing employee engagement as well as a tool for you to create an action plan.

Clear & Promising Direction

Clear & Promising Direction

Ensure that staff and faculty understand how their work is connected to the goals of the department, college, campus, and University.

  • Share the "big picture" with team members. Explain the current strategy and goals of your unit and align them to your leadership's strategy and goals. Invite your leadership team to employee meetings to discuss your unit’s strategic priorities, core values, and goals to demonstrate strategic alignment and purpose. See the Quick Guide to Goal Setting for more information.
  • Encourage discussion and understanding about the unit's strategy, core values and goals during employee meetings. For more information refer to the Quick Guide to Goal Setting. When onboarding new employees, see the Planning New Employee Onboarding quick guide for more information.
  • Communicate progress towards the unit's strategy, core values and goals on a regular basis. For example, how do team members in your work group directly or indirectly contribute to the strategy and goals? See the Defining a Clear Purpose for Team Success quick guide for more information.
  • Communicate the large-scale successes of the unit, focusing on work well done and results. Be sure to explain your unit’s role in these success stories. See the Defining a Clear Purpose for Team Success quick guide for more information.
  • Develop performance goals with each employee that define the criteria for minimum, acceptable, and superior performance. Create goals that are clear, measurable, attainable, and that align with your unit’s overall strategy. Ask each employee to restate their performance goals to ensure that he/she understands them. Watch the Managing and Evaluating Performance webinar recording for more information.
  • Help employees better understand your goals and priorities by providing them with all of the relevant context information necessary to them to effectively perform their roles and responsibilities. Consider sharing announcements, new policies, organizational changes, budgets, new initiatives, etc.

Commitment to Excellence

Commitment to Excellence

Set and encourage high expectations for the quality of work, including demonstrating a commitment to excellence and continuous improvement.

  • Communicate successes and accomplishments, but don’t focus exclusively on them. Focus on work well done, behaviors you want to see more of, innovations, stakeholders that have been well served. See the Establishing Norms and Expectations quick guide for more information.
  • Emphasize the importance of delivering high impact, high quality scholarship and service to all stakeholders. When setting goals, clearly define your expectations for excellence. See the Quick Guide to Goal Setting for more information.
  • Invite and encourage discussions to identify stakeholder expectations around teaching, research, and outreach and administration that we provide in our department.
  • Identify frustrating processes and procedures employees and/or stakeholders encounter and streamline and simplify, if possible.
  • Create evaluations for all services delivered and assess data and make adjustments to ensure continuous improvement for department. Address quality issues and subpar performance in a timely manner. Watch the Feedback and Coaching webinar recording for more information.
  • Ask employees what processes need improvement and ask for their ideas for effective and efficient solutions. Use your influence, access to relationships and positional power to remove barriers and effect change. See the Quick Guide to Conflict Sources for more information.

Confidence in Leaders

Confidence in Leaders

Communicate openly and honestly to build trust and confidence in leadership.

  • Adopt and communicate to employees an "open door policy." Make yourself available by being visible and rarely "holed away." Consider maintaining regular "office hours" when you can be reached if you are frequently offsite or away in meetings.
  • Determine and use the most appropriate communications channel for each message. Face-to-face meetings are most appropriate to announce sensitive organizational issues such as colleague / management changes. Written communications are appropriate for more routine office announcements. Be sure to communicate in a timely manner.
    Invite a member of the senior leadership team to join a regular colleague meeting to discuss company goals, objectives, and values. Ask them to share some of their personal history with and perspective on the unit, the strengths of the senior management team, and current challenges.
  • Encourage senior managers to interact with your colleagues informally. For example, have leaders walk around the department to informally greet colleagues, acknowledge accomplishments, and thank them for their efforts. See Quick Guide to Conflict: Building Trust for more information.
  • Learn from employees what commitments or expectations they feel leaders have not met. Is it possible that leaders took action on a commitment but failed to communicate the message to employees? If you are not aware of the status on a given commitment, seek out the information. See the Quick Guide to Feedback for more information.
  • Seek feedback from employees regularly to understand what is working well and what needs improvement. Act on suggestions or honestly explain why you can’t act on their suggestions. See the Quick Guide to Feedback for more information. When onboarding new employees see Planning New Employee Onboarding quick guide.

Development Opportunities

Development Opportunities

Encourage the ongoing learning and development of skills and knowledge and ensure everyone has opportunities to receive coaching and mentoring.

  • Create and communicate a clear process for how career development opportunities are awarded. In your process considering including which opportunities will be given priority, how funding decisions are made, any annual restrictions on funding, expectations for utilizing learnings from funded opportunities, etc.
  • Set an example by actively pursuing your own development. Meet with your manager to develop your own career plan. You can use this experience to create a good career planning experience for your colleagues. See the Quick Guide to Goal Setting for more information and watch the Feedback: Ready, Set, Go! video.
  • Create a developmental plan and identify critical competencies for each of your employees. Communicate these competencies to employees to empower them to take charge of their careers and personal development. See the Quick Guide to Goal Setting for more information. Check out this example from Academic Support Resources Using an IDP for Employee Development. When onboarding new employees, see A Conversation Guide for New Employees for more information.
  • Promote development by providing constructive feedback. Deliver feedback when the employee is in a comfortable environment and has had the opportunity to reflect on how they can change their behavior in future scenarios. See the Quick Guide to Feedback for more information.
  • Frequently provide coaching and mentoring to help employee reach their potential and achieve their developmental goals. This will also help to maintain motivation and interest in improvement. See the Quick Guide to Coaching for more information.
  • Promote continuous improvement and learning within the department by encouraging employees to seek methods for improving processes. Recognize employees for their ideas by sharing the improvements that were implemented during team meetings through employee bulletins, unit updates, etc.

Respect and Recognition

Respect and Recognition

Interact respectfully and consistently recognize good work and meaningful contributions.

  • Publicly recognize/reward employees or teams whose behaviors exemplify your unit’s core set of values. Always check in with colleagues to ensure they understand specifically what the praise and recognition is for– this is crucial to help colleagues and the whole team understands what good performance looks like. See the Employee Engagement Drivers and Self-Reflection Questions for a deeper understanding.
  • If possible, grant employee requests for time off, unless there is critical work that needs to be done and can’t be assigned to others.
  • Act as a role model for treating all others with respect; reflect on interactions to make sure you treat all employees with the same level of respect.
  • Meet with employees, both individually and in groups, to understand their perception around whether their organization has care/concern for its employees. Collect details from them in regards to what ways they feel valued as employees and what causes them the most concern. See the Employee Engagement Cycle: Discussion quick guide for more information.
  • Evaluate and seek input on the inclusivity of your unit’s norms and processes. Are there any team members that feel unable to fully engage because they have different values, customs, or needs? Try to identify two things that you can do to make your work environment more inclusive and respectful. See the Employee Engagement Cycle: Input or the Quick Guide to Organizational Culture and Onboarding for more information.
  • Encourage your employees to regularly engage in University or unit sponsored U of M Wellbeing Program (e.g. earn wellness points visit the farmer’s market, attend financial literacy programs, etc.).

Authority & Empowerment

Authority & Empowerment

Ensure that everyone has the  autonomy they need to accomplish their work and the empowerment to make decisions.

  • Provide greater autonomy to employees by examining the way work is done. This will help to identify opportunities to redesign processes, change technologies, simplify procedures, eliminate repetitiveness, and change authority structures. See the Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities quick guide for more information.
  • Assess your openness to ideas. Recall a situation where you were not open to an employee’s suggestion, analyze why you took that position, and evaluate the outcome of that decision. Take a moment to think about what might have happened had you agreed with that employee’s suggestion. Evaluate whether you routinely encourage or discourage your employees to provide input. See the Employee Engagement Drivers and Self-Reflection Questions quick guide for more information.
  • Allow selected colleagues to "test" increased authority by asking a colleague to represent you at a meeting or work with you on a project. See the Assessing Performance, Potential and Readiness quick guide for more information.
  • Clarify and come to agreement with team members on the types of decisions they have the authority to make without team leader/management approval. See the Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities and Establishing Clear Decision-Making Processes quick guides for more information.
  • Establish a formal and/or informal employee suggestion program. Consider the most meaningful way to recognize creative and innovative ideas.
  • Develop an agenda to proactively seek team members’ ideas. Reserve time in meetings for brainstorming. Ask for feedback and comment on all ideas - including your own. Make sure your questions are open-ended to draw out full responses. Watch the Leading Teams webinar recording for more information.

Clear Expectations and Feedback

Clear Expectations and Feedback

Define roles, responsibilities, and  performance expectations and provide regular feedback.

  • Schedule regular meetings with your direct reports throughout the year to discuss progress on previously identified goals, provide feedback on recent work, and to clarify expectations for future work. See the Quick Guide to Ongoing Check-Ins for more information or when onboarding new employees see Organizational Culture and Onboarding and Planning New Employee Onboarding guides for more information.
  • Meet with the entire team to clarify and reinforce individual and group performance expectations. Be sure expectations align with organizational goals and objectives and that they are specific, measurable, and attainable. See the Defining a Clear Purpose for Team Success quick guide for more information.
  • Seek team member input for opportunities for team training. An opportunity for training can be any process or procedure where each team member has a different way of completing the task or a process or procedure where team members vary greatly in how well they perform. See the Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities quick guide for more information.
  • During a team meeting, raise the topic of feedback and ask for colleague ideas about ground rules to set when providing feedback to each other. Record these ground rules and hold team members accountable for following these rules. See the Quick Guide to Feedback and the Quick Guide to Establishing Norms and Expectations for more information.
  • Promote development by providing constructive feedback. Deliver feedback when the employee is in a comfortable environment and has had the opportunity to reflect on how they can change their behavior in future scenarios. See the Quick Guide to Feedback for more information.
  • When providing feedback on an individual’s behavior, be specific about the behavior and explain why a behavior is effective or ineffective. Provide enough information so that the individual can understand the positive or negative impact that their behavior made. See the Quick Guide to Feedback for more information.

Collaboration

Collaboration

Expect and support cooperation and the sharing of ideas within and across the organization.

  • Encourage and support individuals who you see attempting to demonstrate collaborative team behaviors, especially when their attempts are less than successful. Comment on their need to continue promoting collaborative working relationships for the benefit of the team. See the Establishing Norms and Expectations quick guide for more information.
  • Meet with team leaders or employee representatives from other groups to discuss improving collaboration between groups, identify ways to work more efficiently, and share internal best practices. See the Defining a Clear Purpose for Team Success quick guide for more information.
  • Identify groups that employees perceive as "hard to work with," explore to understand why this is the case, determine the impact, and approach the leaders of these groups (if appropriate). See the Conflict Sources quick guide for more information.
  • Discuss and agree upon a set of behaviors to guide team member interactions, shared decision making, and shared goal achievement. Ensure that all team members have a clear understanding of what the behaviors mean in their day-to-day jobs. Watch the Managing Conflict webinar recording for more information.
  • Promote a more collegial atmosphere both within and across teams/groups. Meet offsite on occasion to establish team cohesion. Also consider social activities outside of work or involving employees in community activities.
  • Communicate your team’s goals and objectives to the teams that you provide support for and those that support you. Establish formal cross-group teams with the responsibility of identifying ways to increase levels of collaboration, efficiencies, and share best practices. Watch the Leading Teams webinar recording for more information.

Support and Resources

Support and Resources

Ensure everyone has the skills, training, information, and resources needed to succeed.

  • During regular one-on-one meetings, ask colleagues if there are any information bottlenecks within the team. If there are, raise this with relevant colleagues, explaining the impact of withholding information from others.
  • Seek input on where and when employees have difficulty accessing information or resources. Then, identify creative ways to alleviate these issues and help others do their work more efficiently. See the Employee Engagement Cycle: Input quick guide for more information.
  • Construct an inventory of information, tools and resources (e.g. names of key contacts for department tasks) that staff members need to perform their jobs. Discuss this list with staff members to ensure it is accurate and complete. Rank resources in order of importance and determine the feasibility of adding/changing/replacing inadequate resources. When onboarding new employees see Quick Guide to Planning New Employee Onboarding for more information.
  • Periodically (e.g., monthly, quarterly) hold joint meetings with the work groups, teams, or leaders you work with most often. Use this forum to clarify information or address any resource issues or concerns. Watch the Managing Team Dynamics video to help keep the team productive.
  • Establish a working group that is tasked with identifying ways in which the work could be better organized and/or managed. Have this working group present its recommendations at your regular staff meetings. Watch the Building Teams video to learn more about how to establish this group.
  • Ensure that your colleagues understand standard operating procedures for any tools and equipment they use. This will help to differentiate frustrations with tools and equipment that arise from misuse, rather than failure or fault with the tools and equipment itself.

Work, Structure, & Process

Work, Structure, & Process

Actively manage workload so that it is distributed equitably, aligns with goals and priorities, and allows for improvements in the way work is done.

  • Have a discussion about how to more effectively and efficiently distribute the workload amongst the team. Consider if there are any roles or responsibilities that could be adjusted to improve workflow. See the Quick Guide to Facilitating a Discussion or the Quick Guide to Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities for more information.
  • Examine the way work is done to identify opportunities to redesign processes, change technologies, simplify procedures, and eliminate repetitiveness. Involve employees in this process.
  • Meet with other leaders to share and discuss workflow procedures and ways to help employees get the support needed.
  • At staff meetings, regularly discuss changes to work processes and procedures that directly or indirectly impact the way employees work. Don’t forget to explain reasons behind decisions when changes have been made. See Establishing Clear Decision-Making Processes quick guide or when onboarding new employees see the Quick Guide to Planning New Employee Onboarding for more information.
  • Establish a working group that is tasked with identifying ways in which the work could be better organized and/or managed. Have this working group present its recommendations at your regular staff meetings. Watch the Building Teams video to learn more about how to establish this group.
  • Address recurring issues by soliciting input from others about the source of the problem. Gather input from employees as well as peers. Be sure to take action on the input that is gathered and communicate the changes that you make to relevant groups. See the Quick Guide to Facilitating a Discussion for more information.