A growing number of companies are concerned about employee retention and are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in employee training, development and engagement programs. How can you stay competitive in today’s talent market when it comes to retention and employee engagement? You might be surprised at how simple, yet effective, an employee action committee can be at retaining your workforce and increasing employee engagement levels.

At the basic level, employee advisory committees are groups of employees who meet regularly to provide input on benefit programs and other issues affecting a company’s workforce and the employer-employee relationship. Some of these committees are formal, with set terms for members and with regularly scheduled meetings and minutes taken and shared later. Others are less formal, with loose guidelines for membership and a casual level of participation. No matter how they are structured, these committees can play a positive role in any organization.

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Developing an Employee Action Committee

A solid employee action committee is designed to discuss company survey results, build trust, and develop a dialogue. Designated employee ambassadors make suggestions and are involved in employee-led initiatives designed to address survey result data. Your employee action committee is a great way to drive accountability for employees to focus on solutions and their involvement in building culture and relationships. This group also serves as a communication channel subtly reminding employees the organization has listened to survey feedback and is taking action in response.

A well-run employee advisory committee with engaged and knowledgeable members can be a good sounding board for organizations that are contemplating benefit changes or need to communicate new programs. The first step should be to create guidelines for membership or selection. You’ll want a group that represents each department within your organization, ideally employees who are demonstrably invested in company success, and natural leaders on your various teams. You can achieve this via a selection process with your company leadership, or begin with an “opt-in” style group of volunteers from each department.

Tips for Running an Employee Action Committee

Once you’ve decided to create an employee action committee and have developed guidelines for membership, here are a few things to consider:

Create a charter with clearly defined roles and goals. Your employee action committee should have a clear purpose. Setting roles within the committee can help keep discussions and meetings on track. At the least, you should identify a chairperson and administrator. Both will be focused on committee agenda, the chairperson will lead each meeting, and the administrator will schedule, take attendance, record notes, and be responsible for sharing action items identified by the committee with company leadership.

Here’s an example of an employee action committee charter with a focus on employee engagement from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Human Resource Management. Government agencies have stricter regulations for committees, but this is a strong outline to use when developing your committee charter.

Note that while senior leadership should participate in employee action committees, they should not hold a leadership role within the committee. Top-down management doesn’t work when the goal is employee retention and engagement, as the feedback you’ll find the most valuable will come from team members who are not in leadership positions.

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Transparent two-way communication. Understand that the employees serving on your committee likely do not have a strong background in employee benefits programs, how they work, and the issues and decisions involved in administering these programs. This can make it difficult to communicate to the committee your company’s rationale and decision-making around certain issues, such as plan design and cost sharing. Having a representative from human resources act as a communications liaison can address this by letting the committee know their recommendations are heard, being considered, and highlight the obstacles the committee may be able to help overcome within the company.

Your HR or benefit delegates must be transparent and explain the issues. This requires time and effort that can pay off if it ends with the employee advisory committee’s support for planned changes and new programs.

Take action. Your company must be prepared to take the group’s feedback and concerns seriously. Not all employers are willing to do so. Many employers may not be in a position to take the advice of employees serving on an advisory committee, due to budget or staffing constraints, so they are hesitant to seek their opinions.

Setting up a committee to solicit feedback, but not acting on the advice of the committee, is the primary reason groups like this fail. In order to increase retention and engagement, ensure you have the resources and bandwidth to develop programs or processes based on committee recommendations.

Finally, whether your employee action committee is formal or informal, understand that you’re creating and supporting a valuable resource for improving your employee engagement and retention. Unlike a board of directors, an employee action committee gives your company greater flexibility in structure and management, and the nature of the collaborative group can raise the bar for innovation and enterprise within your organization.

When employees feel involved in developing the solutions, and are empowered by senior leadership to implement those solutions, that in itself will help improve retention and employee engagement.

 

Jessica Miller-Merrell is a workplace change agent and author focused on human resources and talent acquisition. She lives in Austin, TX and is recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer. She's the founder of Workology.