Employees

Five Mistakes that Hinder Employee Engagement

Knowing how to engage employees requires a careful understanding of what employees value in your organization and amplifying it
Five Mistakes that Hinder Employee Engagement
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MD, BI WORLDWIDE India
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's not news that employers care about engagement, while employees care about happiness. While the two may seem like different subjects, they are very closely related. The more engaged employees are, the happier they are, which is what most organizations vie for anyway. If you're looking to ramp up your employee engagement, here are some common but not-so-evident mistakes which employers make that you want to avoid.

Playing the Waiting Game

Many organizations take the easiest route or a standard non-specific approach with their employee engagement strategy. All they're looking for is quick results. You can’t blame them; they're probably coming from a place of misguided advice, where some rewards and recognition experts had them believe that a simple plug-and-play program would drastically transform their workforce. Then there are engagement strategies that are a product of the waiting game. Mostly led by business leaders who wait until the last moment or dire situations to have engagement strategies come play the superhero and upturn distressing employee satisfaction, motivation or retention numbers.

If you're approaching employee engagement programs as a quick fix or damage control solution then you're doing it all wrong. The 'cross the bridge when we come to it' approach doesn't work with employee engagement because engaging employees is not as simple as the flick of a switch. Employee engagement, in fact, goes by the principle of readiness. This means it works best when leaders prepare for it, much before they need it. Knowing how to engage employees requires a careful understanding of what employees value in your organization and amplifying it. You also

want to find out what is lacking in your organization and making it available. By making step changes that are tuned into the current state of your workforce, you can inch toward where you would want them to be in the future.

Leadership Lost in Translation

There's no better way to say it – engagement gets lost in translation; a great many organizations with great leadership vision and culture ideas don't see it translate to a great workplace simply because the essence is lost, watered down or misinterpreted as it passes down the levels of hierarchy. And the same goes with engagement programs that start off on a promising note with the right ideas and objectives, but post the initial fanfare of the launch, the reigns are handed down to program managers to only focus on transactions and execution There is little direction offered and a weak process to review progress. The result - the program shows less than impressive results and the strategic vision is lost in translation.

A successful engagement program needs the leadership team to be actively involved, whether it is in educating program managers on the greater vision or guiding them on executional aspects and taking strategic calls.

Managers Winging It

A big chunk of operational responsibilities in employee engagement programs are given to line and functional managers. Who else knows team members better, right? While it's good to trust managers to do their job well, where organizations go wrong is in assuming that managers will figure it all out by themselves, wing it and bring the program goals to fruition with ease. The problem with offering managers complete flexibility and to take the 'do as you please' approach is that most of them are probably not prepared for it or do not know how to go about it, while some others may be disinterested or unfair in their proceedings. This can end up doing more damage than good to your workplace engagement. So how do you go about it? Equipping your managers with the right means and measures to recognize and motivate their teams is the first step. Remember, they are facilitators of the program and it's your job to offer them the right engagement framework. The next step is to train managers on when/how they should be engaging their team members. While you're on it, watch out for dysfunctional managers, we've all heard of and been around. Statistics show that 28-36 percent of employees work with leaders who have a dysfunctional approach. It's important that leaders redress such dysfunctional behaviour in managers at the earliest and ensure that they are using their R&R budgets impartially and effectively, at the right moments. How you groom your managers can make or break your engagement program.

Building on Idiosyncratic Biases

At the start of any employee engagement program, one of the main focus points is going to be defining pain points that are getting in the way of employee engagement or building a happy workplace and addressing it through the program. The truth is that there are many factors that affect employee engagement and workplace happiness, as experiences and opinions of employees vary. The mistake that many program managers - who are also employees at the workplace make, is in defining the program goals based on just their personal observations and insights. And there are some who totally believe that their program is right on track, as they've chalked out program objectives based on internal survey results. But how telling are these employee surveys really? Statistics show that only one-third of employees participate and actually give candid answers in these surveys. More often than not employees aren't brutally honest in these surveys, and you'll find program managers who are relying on just these results solving the wrong problem, as their employees are perhaps looking for something else altogether.

Survey results aren’t everything, it takes good research - whether it’s sit-down one-on-one meetings or group discussions or simply what you pick up at casual watercooler conversations with employees to understand what is really affecting their morale, expectations and engagement. HR managers need to empathize with their audience and broaden their research to truly understand what employees need, and the direction that their program should take. Of course, we're not saying write off your survey results entirely; you want to factor them in while developing your program - they offer a great starting point on where to look.

Rewards curated to engage workforce are another territory that is riddled with idiosyncratic biases. Program managers look at their personal preference and likings while curating rewards for employees. They look for convenience rather than effectiveness. The result - rewards fail their very purpose, and don't do enough to engage, let alone motivate employees to earn it. Instead, if you focus on rewards that are effective, promote re-consumption and are memorable long after, now there's a winning impactful rewards program that keeps employees engaged now and in the future.

ROI Gone Astray

Often, you'll see employee engagement programs launched with great enthusiasm, but the same enthusiasm doesn't carry through during the course of the rest of the program. Many organizations look at employee engagement programs as merely checking things off the list of what great workplaces do, and expect the program to fuel itself once launched and keep engagement running in the workplace. Launching engagement programs and laying down the initial strategy is merely 10-20 percent of the initiative; measuring, modifying and sustaining it are the better part of the efforts needed to sustain a successful initiative.

If you feel your engagement program is not having the desired impact, it's time to take a look at which of your goals and objectives are not being realized, and why. Most organizations do not have dedicated people to measure the impact and take accountability for program goals, due to which it falls through. Little or lack of communication also affects engagement success. What you want is for HR professionals in the organization to tie the program goals with their KPIs, measure participation and impact, and communicate with participants at regular intervals to have it on track. That's when you know you are getting the results you want.

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