If you Google Employee Engagement, listen to the news or read HR articles or forums, you'll see that employee engagement rates are at an all time low. But why remains the big question? What is the root or this engagement or disengagement? Is it the employer or the employee's responsibility to generate engagement? There are so many myths about employee engagement which need to be bust, where organisations need to take charge and change the perceptions in order to put the employee first and boost and maintain levels of engagement. Often, it may be a case of differentiating between fact and fiction in this realm, but a subject which needs to be a core business focus, as really low levels of engagement can lead to employees jumping ship or not being productive. Employee engagement is a prerequisite for employee retention. If employees are engaged and happy, they are likely to remain in their roles, put in the extra effort, be a great team player and be an active member of the greater whole. According to the Gallup 2019 State of The Global Workforce, in the UK only an astounding 11% of employees are engaged, 68% identify as "not engaged" and demonstrate little energy or passion in the work and 21% class themselves as "actively disengaged".
So, what is Employee Engagement?
Employee Engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisations and its goals and values. This commitment alludes to the fact that the employee really cares and takes pride in his/her job and the greater organisation. They want to be a part, they enjoy what they do, they feel valued and cared for and are willing to go the extra mile. Engaged employees often do not just work for the next pay cheque, but work towards helping the organisation achieve their targets and goals.
Below are 5 very common myths which need to be questioned in order for employee engagement levels to soar:
1. Employees should only act professionally in the workplace, without bringing their emotional baggage
Employees are human, not robots – believe it or not! It’s virtually impossible for employees to 100% negate all the emotions they’re experiencing during the workday and act strictly professional. Emotions do not have an on-off button, so it may be hard, circumstance dependent, to fully remain in work mode. If your employee is having a difficult time, either personally or professionally, chances are it will be evident in their mood, their productivity levels and their level of motivation. There may be a slump in their workload, they could be preoccupied with other issues and will not be fully receptive to the task at hand. Work may be a very good distraction to get their minds off the issue, in a positive way. The best thing to do to increase employee engagement is to be supportive of your employees’ emotional needs and offer them the necessary support they need. Employee wellbeing if a core focus of many large and small businesses, where the holistic wellbeing and health of employees are recognised and taken care of. One way to do this, could be to implement an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which will demonstrate your duty of care as well as will ensure they have 24/7 help and advice, from telephone counselling to GP call backs and medical advice, legal advice to personal coaching tools and more. Organisations can offer flexible working, should a particular employee require. Employees should be confident enough to express how they are indeed feeling and shouldn’t have to worry it will jeopardise their role.
2. More money engages employees
Yes, this is true to some extent. However, employees are now looking for something deeper than just remuneration at the end of the month. Cash isn't always king. Employees really want to be motivated, feel like they have a purpose and are contributing to the greater whole. Often a sense of purpose may be overlooked in today’s profit focused world. Money will help employees month to month, but if they are not being treated with respect, trust or dignity, are these employees really engaged? Employers should create a network of connection points where employees feel connected to the greater whole, that they belong and are acknowledged and accounted for. According to Gallup, “money can improve daily emotions, but only up to a certain point. Once employees reach that plateau, this element of their emotional wellbeing doesn't get commensurately higher, no matter how much more they make.” Often, the ripples of motivation and engagement fade after a week or two of a salary increase. Therefore, there’s a big opportunity for employers to engage their teams long term without a big monetary implication, but rather through clever, thought-out ways of recognition and morale boosting activities.
3. Employee engagement requires a massive budget
Employee engagement doesn’t need to break the bank. Often the simplest methods are free! Respecting an employee or listening to their concerns can boost their morale and engage them more than swanky office spaces, for example. Often the low-cost or no-cost actions can have a bigger impact on how employees feel and thereafter perform. It is also worthwhile to invest in a recognition platform where employees can be nominated and recognised by the team at large, either formally or informally. These platforms range from offering virtual e-cards for a job well done, to a winner's wall where employees can be showcased for a particular achievement or milestone and more. Employers can add in financial and non-financial awards and rewards as they go as well as tailored to their particular team. Often an initial investment in a recognition scheme can boost and maintain engagement levels in the long term, as recognition is a key prerequisite for authentic engagement.
4. Disengaged employees are bad employees
This is absolutely not true. There are so many reasons why an employee can become disengaged, but still remain really productive in their role. Employees will still get their tasks completed, will be present in the workplace, but may not display as much passion and determination in what they're doing. Disengagement doesn’t happen overnight, so employers can intersect these junctures and intervene with initiatives, which rather will induce engagement and minimize disengagement. Some very common reasons for disengagement are poor communication from leaders within the business, where employees feel they are left in the dark, so to speak, and are not kept in the loop transparently. Employees may start to feel a lack of career growth and stuck in their boxes; so employers can offer training courses, shadowing and mentoring opportunities or even paid tuition for their employees. Lack of recognition is another biggie for disengaging your team, so taking the time and resources to stop, recognise and acknowledge team members and what they require. Once levels of disengagement dissolve, employees will once again feel engaged, motivated and rearing to go, knowing the business has a vested interest in having them there.
5. Employee engagement should remain a silo function of HR
Employee engagement needs to transcend all hierarchies across an organisation in order to be the most effective, but it shouldn't be limited to only the HR function. Managers also need to be the wardens of engagement within their team and be an example for the greater business at large, but so too should employees encourage engagement with their peers. The organisational conditions need to be right for engagement: leaders should be responsible for emulating the culture they want for the business where engagement is a priority. Managers need to immerse themselves in all aspects, including formal and informal meetings, team outings, volunteering opportunities, recognition initiatives and more. If management preach and do not act accordingly, employees will see engagement as non-transparent. HR can indeed be the gatekeepers of employee engagement, by setting out things for the rest of the organisation to take part in, but it is the responsibility of the whole team to engage one another.
If you'd like to find out how to engage your employees by delivering the right experience, download our Employee Experience slide deck.
5 myths about employee engagement