Revolutionising Employee Engagement with Pragmatic Thinking’s Mikey Ellis

Rosie Ramirez

24 April 2019    |   

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals. It’s how far staff are willing to go to fulfill the customer promise. For Mikey Ellis, Cultural Strategist at Pragmatic Thinking, it’s also a relationship. “Like any relationship, there are there are boundaries, expectations, and rules of engagement. So that needs to be negotiated and agreed upon, and then each party held to account within that organization,” he explains. Mikey, who heads up Pragmatic Thinking’s presence in Melbourne, knows what it’s like to build employee engagement from the ground up. “As you know, with the rise of startups and with technology enabling people and companies to challenge the norms and the more conventional ways of working, we get to now decide how we want to work,” he says. Companies today have an increased awareness around culture. There is a focus on empowering people to use their skills and talents towards a mission. And more organisations are asking, how do we do it? That’s where a Cultural Strategist like Mikey comes in. Learn more about how he tackles work culture issues and presents clear, workable solutions below! Start with defining employee engagement “A good place to start when it comes to engagement,” he says, “is defining what it means for you as an organisation.” Most organisations have a written set of values displayed in their office. Employees are informed of these values during the onboarding process. But they can’t remain on the wall or in the employee handbook. “It is the responsibility and obligation of leaders to embody those values and to demonstrate them. It’s not to say that it’s not also the responsibility of an employee as well. Engagement is a relationship and both parties must take responsibility for their role,” he emphasises. Employee engagement, then, differs for every company. For a food business, it could mean frontline staff serve customers with a smile even during the busiest hours. For a tech company, it could mean that everyone keeps abreast of industry trends without being asked. It depends on the business, the industry, and the values that they want each employee to embody. It’s easier said than done. Employers need to lead the charge by, first, being very clear about what it means to be an engaged employee. Then they need to build the environment to reflect it. Read more: Employee Engagement – A Matter of Care Overcome resistance to change “If values are embedded into the processes, routines, and expectations, [the workplace] becomes a really great place to be. And it is difficult to do because it’s going to for a lot of people it’s going to require some personal accountability. It’s going to require some behavioural change,” Mikey observes. When working on improving employee engagement, there may be some uncomfortable conversations that employer and employee need to have. All parties need to acknowledge where they have failed before they can correct it. It is a tough process, but it needs to be done. Employees will be less resistant to change if employers keep in mind that the bottom line is a sense of belonging. “People just want to feel like they belong. They want to feel like they’re contributing to something. It doesn’t take that much for an employer, leader, [or] manager to do that,” he explains. There will be speed bumps along the way, but when the leaders of the organisation embody the change they want to see they make it easy for others to follow suit. Employees want to work with businesses, not for them. If an employer can show that they care about individual and collective contributions, engagement increases. Read more: How to Achieve Culture by Design with Career Culture Lab’s Amanda Lutvey Measure engagement with the right tools Many employers ask for feedback on how engaged employees are. While that’s important, Mikey believes that employers also need to take a step back and think about the kind of questions they ask. “There are some great software and tools out there to measure engagement — employee satisfaction, physical and mental health and well-being throughout the day. Poll surveys, you know, they’re great. But the key is to be really clear about what it is you’re measuring and whether that aligns to the outcome that you’re ultimately working towards.” For him, like any measurement tool, it’s only as good as how you use it. If there are issues within the workplace, Mikey suggests looking at how much the company invests in culture. “You’re probably better off for measuring the input. What are you doing to bring about the kind of culture that you want, as opposed to measuring this amorphous engagement concept?” he asks. As a Culture Strategist, he takes a pragmatic approach. He looks at antecedents to behaviour like structures and values, and how they all align. He shares, “We create not only the strategy but also the capabilities within key people in the organisation to achieve the kind of culture that they’re wanting to build.” Read more: Don’t Quit! 3 Ways to Retain your Employees in 2019 Never stop growing the business Finally, the best way to maintain employee engagement is to never stop growing the business with people in mind. Businesses that are productive, efficient, and forward-thinking provides more opportunities for people to grow with them. They need to invest in the right tools to make sure that work flows as smoothly as possible. “If we want to keep good people and we want to grow with people, we’ve got to help them do it,” Mikey elaborates. “We need to achieve what it is that they want to achieve and so it’s a win-win: The company benefits, the individual grows and learns, and collectively it’s a great outcome.”. Growth is, by far, one of the most significant drivers of engagement in an organisation. A robust environment where people feel like they belong and can contribute encourages them to go the extra mile to fulfill the customer promise. “If you’re not [growing], then you’re just going to lose people. And if you keep them, you’re just not going to be getting the best out of them. They’re not going to be happy because they’re not growing.” In the end, what it comes down to is the willingness of every business to listen to employees, empower its managers, lead by example, and make sure that individuals grow alongside the business. Mikey Ellis will be talking about how to revolutionise employee engagement at the Workforce Success Conference 2019 on 26 July in Brisbane Australia. Get your tickets here!

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals. It’s how far staff are willing to go to fulfill the customer promise. For Mikey Ellis, Cultural Strategist at Pragmatic Thinking, it’s also a relationship. “Like any relationship, there are there are boundaries, expectations, and rules of engagement. So that needs to be negotiated and agreed upon, and then each party held to account within that organization,” he explains. Mikey, who heads up Pragmatic Thinking’s presence in Melbourne, knows what it’s like to build employee engagement from the ground up.

“As you know, with the rise of startups and with technology enabling people and companies to challenge the norms and the more conventional ways of working, we get to now decide how we want to work,” he says. Companies today have an increased awareness around culture. There is a focus on empowering people to use their skills and talents towards a mission. And more organisations are asking, how do we do it? That’s where a Cultural Strategist like Mikey comes in. Learn more about how he tackles work culture issues and presents clear, workable solutions below!

Start with defining employee engagement

“A good place to start when it comes to engagement,” he says, “is defining what it means for you as an organisation.” Most organisations have a written set of values displayed in their office. Employees are informed of these values during the onboarding process. But they can’t remain on the wall or in the employee handbook. “It is the responsibility and obligation of leaders to embody those values and to demonstrate them. It’s not to say that it’s not also the responsibility of an employee as well. Engagement is a relationship and both parties must take responsibility for their role,” he emphasises.

Employee engagement, then, differs for every company. For a food business, it could mean frontline staff serve customers with a smile even during the busiest hours. For a tech company, it could mean that everyone keeps abreast of industry trends without being asked. It depends on the business, the industry, and the values that they want each employee to embody. It’s easier said than done. Employers need to lead the charge by, first, being very clear about what it means to be an engaged employee. Then they need to build the environment to reflect it.

Read more: Employee Engagement – A Matter of Care

Overcome resistance to change

“If values are embedded into the processes, routines, and expectations, [the workplace] becomes a really great place to be. And it is difficult to do because it’s going to for a lot of people it’s going to require some personal accountability. It’s going to require some behavioural change,” Mikey observes. When working on improving employee engagement, there may be some uncomfortable conversations that employer and employee need to have. All parties need to acknowledge where they have failed before they can correct it. It is a tough process, but it needs to be done.

Employees will be less resistant to change if employers keep in mind that the bottom line is a sense of belonging. “People just want to feel like they belong. They want to feel like they’re contributing to something. It doesn’t take that much for an employer, leader, [or] manager to do that,” he explains. There will be speed bumps along the way, but when the leaders of the organisation embody the change they want to see they make it easy for others to follow suit. Employees want to work with businesses, not for them. If an employer can show that they care about individual and collective contributions, engagement increases.

Read more: How to Achieve Culture by Design with Career Culture Lab’s Amanda Lutvey

Measure engagement with the right tools

Many employers ask for feedback on how engaged employees are. While that’s important, Mikey believes that employers also need to take a step back and think about the kind of questions they ask. “There are some great software and tools out there to measure engagement — employee satisfaction, physical and mental health and well-being throughout the day. Poll surveys, you know, they’re great. But the key is to be really clear about what it is you’re measuring and whether that aligns to the outcome that you’re ultimately working towards.” For him, like any measurement tool, it’s only as good as how you use it.

If there are issues within the workplace, Mikey suggests looking at how much the company invests in culture. “You’re probably better off for measuring the input. What are you doing to bring about the kind of culture that you want, as opposed to measuring this amorphous engagement concept?” he asks. As a Culture Strategist, he takes a pragmatic approach. He looks at antecedents to behaviour like structures and values, and how they all align. He shares, “We create not only the strategy but also the capabilities within key people in the organisation to achieve the kind of culture that they’re wanting to build.”

Read more: Don’t Quit! 3 Ways to Retain your Employees in 2019

Never stop growing the business

Finally, the best way to maintain employee engagement is to never stop growing the business with people in mind. Businesses that are productive, efficient, and forward-thinking provides more opportunities for people to grow with them. They need to invest in the right tools to make sure that work flows as smoothly as possible. “If we want to keep good people and we want to grow with people, we’ve got to help them do it,” Mikey elaborates. “We need to achieve what it is that they want to achieve and so it’s a win-win: The company benefits, the individual grows and learns, and collectively it’s a great outcome.”.

Growth is, by far, one of the most significant drivers of engagement in an organisation. A robust environment where people feel like they belong and can contribute encourages them to go the extra mile to fulfill the customer promise. “If you’re not [growing], then you’re just going to lose people. And if you keep them, you’re just not going to be getting the best out of them. They’re not going to be happy because they’re not growing.” In the end, what it comes down to is the willingness of every business to listen to employees, empower its managers, lead by example, and make sure that individuals grow alongside the business.

Mikey Ellis will be talking about how to revolutionise employee engagement at the Workforce Success Conference 2019 on 26 July in Brisbane Australia. Get your tickets here!

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Giving Employee Feedback: 7 Ways to Constructively Deliver Bad News

Wouldn’t management be so much easier if everyone just did their job? You might feel sometimes like your job description would better match that of a babysitter than a business manager. But the sad fact is, unless you provide your staff with proper leadership; productivity, efficiency, morale, and overall quality of work will suffer. Part of effective management is providing your personnel with feedback when they’ve done something incorrectly, or perhaps just less correctly than you would prefer. Ideally, you want to train your workforce to act as you would in a given situation. This takes time, patience, and consistent positive reinforcement. So how can you communicate to your beautiful and unique snowflakes that they’re not meeting your standards without alienating, offending, or irritating them? Here is a list of best practices that can help you deliver a difficult message in ways that will improve employee attitude, engagement, and performance. 1.      Focus on Positives Even if you’ve been stuck with the worst employee in the world, even if they come into work smelling like a Cypress Hill concert in un-ironed slacks made of organic hemp, you’ve got to find a silver lining. To be clear, this doesn’t mean sugar-coating the negatives. It just means balancing criticism with praise. Build employee confidence first, then present avenues for improvement. The thing to remember about creating a harmonious work environment is it begins and ends with being nice. The simplest gestures can prevent resentment, discontentment, and hurt feelings. Keep your employees happy, and you’ll be a much happier manager. 2.      Objectivity This can be tough. It’s important not to let your emotions get in the way of effective management. Subjectivity can get you into all sorts of trouble: favouritism, nepotism, and a plethora of other –isms worth avoiding. A cool head is needed for command decisions, plus your employees will reflect the attitudes you present to them. Come to work angry, and you’re likely to look out and see an office rife with cantankerousness. 3.      Always Deliver Negative Feedback in Person It’s a busy day, you hear a bad report, and you want to get it handled quickly. So you just shoot of an email with a textual reprimand. A very tempting scenario, but not the best idea. People can read into messages more or less than you intend. If there’s a problem with an employee important enough for you to respond personally, then it’s important enough to respond to it in person. 4.      Time your Feedback Correctly Timing is everything. You have to take the opportune moment. For minor infractions, or something of a sensitive nature (a conflict between employees for example), allow a bit of time to pass so that tempers might cool before addressing the situation. Similarly, don’t call an employee out in front of their peers. Wait for the right moment, when they’re not under scrutiny, to approach. You don’t want to embarrass an employee, and you never know what can get the blood running to someone’s cheeks. 5.      Location, Location, Location Along the same lines as timing, the location of a performance review can have a great impact on how receptive an employee might be to your suggestions. Go to an empty conference room, any neutral ground will do. 6.      Pay Attention to How You’re Being Perceived This means watching your phrasing and body language. Present problems in a sympathetic light, and avoid negative syntax: “I don’t think… You shouldn’t… This isn’t…” Maintain eye contact, without being creepy. Keep gesticulations, mannerisms, and movements calm and casual. Aggression is an animal instinct, don’t release the beast during a performance review. 7.      Be Clear With Your Criticisms, Leave No Room for Interpretation Convey your meaning quickly, clearly, and without ambiguity. Be direct with your employees, let them know exactly what you disapprove of, how they can improve, and if there’s a need for it: a warning as to what continued instances of the undesired behavior will result in. Alternatively, reinforce desired actions. If they’ve done anything right at all, mention it, and offer praise. Building an effective team is a complicated process, but armed with common sense and a healthy dose of positivity, you can put together an office environment that runs like a well-oiled machine.

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“Help! My employees are always late!”

Do you find in your business employees are constantly showing up for work late, or clocking off just a little bit too early for your liking? Tanda can help you keep track of your employees clock-ins and clock-outs. The SMS feature alerting you when people are late is also a handy Tanda tool to keep an eye on the hard workers and the not-so-hard workers in your team. But there’s one thing a Tanda Clock can’t do, and that’s motivate your team to show up on time to put in their best work. There’s a few key reasons staff start to dawdle on their way to work. One key factor is motivation. Once motivation drops in the office, kitchen or factory, the unproductive sentiment can spread like wild fire. You can help bring up your employees motivation levels with a few tips and tricks that the team here at Tanda has learned and implemented as well. Automation Firstly, automate what you can. If there is something an employee has to do that could be done just as easily with an add-on, application or new system then what are you waiting for? The same way Tanda automates payroll and rosters meaning less time wasted on the boring stuff, you can get rid of the boring tasks for your employees too. Rotation There are some things that have to happen around the workforce. But, if one employee has to carry out the same task or responsibility for more than three hours you will notice they might be getting bored. Try rostering them onto the same task for days or weeks on end and then ask yourself can you really blame them for being late all the time? Instead, it’s better to delegate and rotate tasks between your team. Productivy levels tend to spike at the beginning of a task, so if you can keep your team motivated with new or different things to do you’ll find less stragglers getting to work in the mornings. Optimization Which brings us to optimising how you use your time. Tanda knows a thing or two about time and attendance. Studies have shown people were more likely to be more cooperative and get work done in the morning. Throughout the day the peak in productivity comes unsurprisingly after lunch breaks. The worst times for positive results came just before lunch breaks and nearing the end of the shift. With that in mind, try and schedule the nitty gritty work, unpleasant tasks or least favourite jobs in the mornings and just after your staff have had a break to refresh. Save the fun stuff for the long hours and just before home time. Because really, if your staff are passionate about what they do for your company then there should be plenty of fun stuff for them to do.

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Employee Engagement – A Matter of Care

In reading through the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce A Matter of Care – Australia’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy it is great to see their survey of employee engagement and its importance. It stipulates poor employee engagement and enablement as a Workforce training and education opportunity. What we need next in the industry is for facilities to uptake recommendations and look to improve their employee engagement. But first… What is employee engagement? It is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals. End of the day, how far the employee will go to deliver exceptional care for the organisation. Or how committed the staff is to ‘go the extra mile’. From talking to aged care providers, I’ve found the easiest ways to improve employee engagement is through a clean onboarding experience, flexible working environment and ensuring pay compliance. Employee Onboarding The onboarding experience is the first touch point of employment our new employee has after the hiring process. It is incredibly important for first impressions and the employee’s initial level of engagement. First impressions last. There are a lot of great onboarding HRIS software out there that tackle this aspect of the hiring software. It is important to look at the cost of the system, that it integrates well into your existing processes and ultimately saves time. Flexible Working Environments This isn’t necessarily for everyone, there needs to be an open conversation with management and staff if they would enjoy a more flexible working environment. Or those that are already working in a flexible environment on a casual or part-time basis can be enabled to further have control over their destiny. Allowing employees to swap shifts is part of improving flexibility in the workplace. Should you allow shift swapping?, that is a decision to be made at the management level. Although shift swapping not only improves engagement but can overall improve workforce success. What’s important in a shift swapping tool is that it enables manager control (approval) while also allowing employees to pick up extra cash and swap out of shifts. Employees will feel more engaged in their work if they are able to better manage their shifts. I believe this will also alleviate the flight of employees over 40. Retention of under 40s was seen as a key finding of employee engagement in the report. Improving the retention of key staff is incredibly important as the workplace consistently changes. This also tackles the casualisation of the workforce which is a general trend across industries. Ensuring Pay Compliance This is probably the most obvious although can be difficult. If you pay employees more they necessarily won’t be happier but if follow through on promises and pay employees correctly, that makes all the difference. Trust is a big part of the equation in employee engagement. Ensuring you pay employees correctly is a critical first step. The QLD Aged Care sector and SA Aged Care sector have done well in compliance in recent years. It is important to ensure that pay compliance isn’t becoming an administrative nightmare. In the end this is trust and confidence in leaders which is a key finding for the survey on employee engagement. In conclusion, employee engagement is still an emerging field in the industry but it is important to act on it now. Employees do feel the negative light on the industry thrown on by media and government. It is more important now, more than ever to talk to employees and ensure they are engaged with work and if they are not, how you can improve that. Related article: Knowing how to Manage Upwards

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Rosie Ramirez

Our team's goal is to provide practical advice for business owners and managers across industries.

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