Employee Engagement: Five Pitfalls to Avoid

Employee disengagement is perhaps the defining business issue of our time. It is also one of the most difficult to fix. Why? Because meeting the psychological needs of a diverse workforce is an incredibly complex task.

And while there are you can take to engage your workforce, they require the right planning, foresight, and implementation to succeed. If you rush in headfirst without a clear strategy in place, your efforts could backfire completely. Here are five common mistakes to avoid.

1. Your culture exists ‘on paper’ – but not in reality

The importance of strong company culture cannot be understated. In a world where social and environmental issues matter more than ever, customers and employees are drawn to businesses that align with their own values. But many businesses are guilty of ticking the culture box, treating the issue as a PR exercise rather than a business imperative.

These companies say all the right things on their job ads and web pages but fail to translate those words into action. Employees may learn about the company’s core values during a stuffy onboarding session, but that’s the last they hear of them.

Not only is this approach dishonest, but it is also destructive. In the age of online reviews, businesses no longer have a place to hide. You can no longer get away with saying one thing and doing another. To drive engagement, your core values must be put into action. They should be the driving force behind the decision-making process, and a reference point for expectations around behavior.

2. You introduce check-ins – but fail to train your managers

The shift from annual appraisals to real-time check-ins is one that all businesses should make – but not without proper planning and preparation.

Check-ins allow employees to get regular facetime with their managers, where they can discuss job satisfaction, goals, performance, and professional development. While this is an excellent way to boost engagement, nurture better relationships, and foster a culture of openness and honesty, it is not guaranteed to succeed – everything hinges on the quality of your people managers.

Gallup estimates that managers account for a whopping 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Clearly, regular check-ins with a bad manager would do more harm than good.

If you are going to introduce real-time feedback and support – and you certainly should – you must ensure that your managers are equipped with the skills to handle this more hands-on approach to performance management.

3. You give people more freedom and autonomy – but fail to provide clear goals and feedback

Most employees crave the freedom to just get on with their jobs. They want to be empowered to direct the course of their work, and to make decisions about when and where they get it done. But allowing your people more freedom and autonomy doesn’t mean they no longer need support, feedback, and guidance.

For employees to be able to ‘get on with it,’ they first need clarity around what ‘it’ is. That means defining clear goals at both a personal and organizational level. When goals are vague and feedback lacking, work can quickly become directionless and detached from the bigger picture.

To get the most from their teams, managers must strike the right balance between hands-on and hands-off. That means doing away with micromanagement and the constant need to interfere, while still providing a solid framework of support, feedback, and goals.

4. You adopt a remote workforce – but fail to meet their psychological needs

Thanks to modern tech, businesses can now dip into a global talent pool of remote employees, contractors, and gig workers. While this approach brings huge benefits for both parties, some managers may be guilty of assuming that remote workers don’t need engaging.

Just like their office-based counterparts, remote workers need clarity around goals, discussions around performance, and access to people and information. On top of this, remote workers have their own unique engagement issues – how do you make dispersed and distant individuals feel connected to their colleagues and the business itself?

The answer is through a combination of technology and good management. With the right platform, you can enable people to connect, share ideas, and collaborate across teams and locations – regardless of location.

5. You spend big attracting top talent – but then fail to invest in them as employees

With talent in high demand, businesses spend a small fortune attracting the best and brightest candidates, but then undo all that good work by failing to invest in their development as employees.

In truth, many businesses still see learning and development as a cost, not as an investment. This causes them to skimp on their offerings, and to see learning opportunities as a company perk. In reality, however, learning and development (L&D) is not only an excellent way to engage your workforce, but it is also essential for the survival of your business.

In a constantly changing world, L&D is the only way to keep up with shifting trends and new ideas. Your employees no longer see it as a perk but as a necessity. If you fail to invest in their development, they’ll be forced to move on, and all that money you spent recruiting them will go to waste. 

Final thoughts

There is no quick fix to the engagement issue. Tackling it requires a joined-up, holistic approach, underpinned by a workplace culture that puts people first.

If you rush to introduce new technologies and processes without doing the groundwork first, they may be doomed to fail. But with the right planning and preparation, those practical steps will combine to have a positive impact on your employees’ experience of work.


Nick Edwards - http://www.praguecopywriter.com/

Nicholas Edwards is a freelance writer and editor based in Prague, the Czech Republic. When he's not helping local businesses master the English language, he loves writing about the future of work for People First. 

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