Why Companies Should Build Employee Engagement Programs From The Bottom Up

Why Companies Should Build Employee Engagement Programs From The Bottom Up


Yana Nigen is founder and CEO of WRAP, a waste reduction art project, and Woman of the Year 2019 Golden Bridge Award Winner.

As my organization, WRAP, expands and works with corporate clients that are actively planning office reopenings, large sculpture installations and mural festivals, we’re aiming to build relationships that support the purpose of each of our client organizations. 

Today, purpose-driven organizations are helping to shape the way our society develops. They can help employees at these organizations feel more connected to the mission and the cause of their employers. I believe it is key to keep that connection going and support it with a forward-looking strategy focused on employee engagement, sustainability and mindfulness. 

I’ve worked in the HR, marketing and technology sectors for decades and have been involved in building programs around employee engagement and sustainability. Today, I am seeing a paradigm shift in this area. Employers, especially enterprise-level organizations, seem to be looking to their employees to suggest programs and activities for their departments that are meaningful to them. I have seen companies have success with internal employee engagement portals where they can select and add activities of interest for consideration. Formalizing engagement efforts and making them trackable is also important. If your company does not have an employee portal, you can use surveys or ask your HR team to suggest the best way to get feedback from your employee base and establish this two-way conversation.  

In the long run, this bottom-up approach helps ensure employees have a genuine connection with the program. If your pilot programs are successful on a departmental level, you can then roll them out enterprise-wide. Offering new and successful pilots through your employee portal is one of the best ways to approach this. Again, if you don’t have a portal, make sure you have a way to track and measure your progress as you roll out the program to ensure accountability.

It’s important that employees suggest or contribute to developing these initiatives to ensure there will be a high level of engagement. I’ve found that this approach works well not only with larger organizations but also with mid-sized enterprises.  

Then, once your employees help identify a program and the initial pilot is deemed successful, it is time to measure that success. Here are a few tips for measuring success: Take your pilot data and extrapolate it to determine what success could look like department-wide and enterprise-wide. Set clear goals for the program and establish KPIs to measure whether the program achieves these goals.

At WRAP, we’ve found that programs that involve employee participation, creativity and fun can have positive outcomes for employees. For example, one of the programs WRAP offers involves building a sculpture with an artist’s guidance. Leo Sewell, a junk-art sculptor who has been building recycled art out of found objects for decades, leads the workshops. 

In addition to creative projects, you can consider building recognition programs, organizing virtual and live team-building workshops in their teams’ areas of interest, and much more. Regardless of the program you choose, make sure you can measure the participation and engagement of your employees and build projects from the bottom up to increase the odds of high participation and engagement and a positive outcome for your organization.

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