Employee Engagement

Why Employee Engagement Programs Backfire and What You Can Do About It

To create true engagement among employees, leadership teams need to first understand what employees want.
Why Employee Engagement Programs Backfire and What You Can Do About It
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In recent years, employee engagement programs have become part of business leaders’ efforts to improve morale in many organizations. The thought is that by paying for you to take part in training programs or join trade organizations, your boss assumed they could make you more engaged at work. It’s all part of a movement toward finding new ways to motivate employees.

Unfortunately, these methods probably aren’t working for many employees. According to a study from EMPLOYEEapp, of the 71 percent of surveyed employers who have implemented employee engagement initiatives, only 37 percent believe their employees are actively engaged. Training courses are the most popular form of employee engagement, followed by open-door policies and reimbursements for memberships in industry groups.

Why they fail.

The EMPLOYEEapp research wasn’t the first study on the effects of employee engagement programs on workforces. A previous study found no connection between your engagement and how well you performed. It’s possible that companies are already so disconnected from their employees that making attempts to engage them can amount to little more than guesswork.

For employers to create programs that truly increase employee engagement, they need to first determine what employees want. Instead of forcing a new initiative on workers and expecting them to buy into it, employers should take steps to learn what employees are interested in, including any courses they’d like to take in order to help them reach their long-term career goals.

Related: The Secret to Employee Engagement

Training and development.

When employers hear they need to invest in training their employees, they often start signing up their teams to random courses. They assume a leadership or teamwork course for the entire staff will suffice. By not taking the time to individualize the experience to each employee, the entire team may feel as though they’re being sent to yet another mandatory training class that wastes their time.

The problem is, most employers feel that bringing in instructors to teach a class only one person can benefit from is a waste of money. Online training is an attractive option, with many sites offering a wide variety of courses that can appeal to various types of employees. In addition, employers who want to bring specialized trainers in can group employees by the types of training most beneficial to them and conduct in-house training sessions with those groups.

Related: Is Better Employee Engagement the Solution to Hiring Woes?

What employees can do.

If you’ve been at the other end of these failed initiatives, it may seem as though there’s little you can do to change things. However, being fully engaged can help with your own career. Employee engagement has been connected to business success. If you’re happier and more productive it’s generally going to boost the company’s bottom line. If you positively contribute to the business’s growth, you’re more likely to get promoted -- or even earn a helpful reference.

Instead of waiting for your bosses to offer learning opportunities, you should seek out your own career development options. You should take the time to consider where you’d like to be in your career in five to 10 years and start building the resume that helps you achieve those goals. Even if you see no advancement potential in your current company, you should consider how certifications and experience might look on a resume.

Related: Employee Engagement Is More Important Than the Customer

Online courses to increase engagement.

Both employers and employees can benefit from finding a resource that offers courses on a wide variety of career development and job-specific topics. Dale Carnegie Training has a series of courses specifically geared toward employee growth. Your boss can subscribe to this series and invite you and your team to choose the courses that appeal to you.

Sites like Lynda.com and Udemy give you plenty of choices, as well as personal development options. For employers, granting access to these platforms and letting employees choose classes on their own can be a strong motivator. For employees, sometimes even a personal development course can break up the monotony of the workweek, helping increase productivity.

With the right approach, engagement programs can boost your morale and productivity. Explore these options with your supervisor, because achieving personal and career goals will not only make you happier at your job, but it may make your boss satisfied too. A happier employee is more likely to get the job done and do it well.