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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

5 Myths of Employee Engagement

The field of employee engagement has taken a beating in the several years. As we recover from the global pandemic, employee engagement should be front and center. We need strategies to keep people focused, happy and productive, all of which naturally contributes to talent retention, innovation, productivity, revenue, customer satisfaction and a positive workplace culture.

Although employee feedback is crucial to helping organizations understand the experience of their people, the truth is that for many organizations, insight into employee engagement is lacking. That’s largely due to a number of outdated assumptions or myths about how to create engagement programs and the surveys supporting them that stop us getting this right.

There are many myths and half-truths about employee engagement. Below are five of the most common ones.

1.     Disengaged employees are bad employees

It’s easy to blame people for not being engaged with your company. However, there are several reasons why a good employee may feel disengaged at work. Are they in the right role with the right responsibilities? Do they understand the company mission and vision? What is their motivation for doing a good job?

It’s not uncommon for people to fall into a state of complacency in the workplace. Inertia takes hold, and they believe that things won’t change because they’ve always been a certain way. Processes won’t adapt to changing circumstances. “This is how we’ve always done things” feels like a very safe reason to avoid conflict and accept undesirable circumstances. However, once someone has some autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose, they can move mountains. “I have the freedom to make things better, the skills to make things better, and the desire to make things better! I’m going to make things better!”

2.     Satisfied employees are engaged employees

Employee happiness or job satisfaction are concepts often conflated with employee engagement. However, it’s absolutely possible to be completely happy with your job and completely disengaged from your company. People can be happy with their coworkers, their day-to-day tasks, their compensation, and so on, but not care much about the company’s higher level goals. Some may even feel safer not sticking their head up and forming a stronger connection to the company. Why commit to more work to meet company goals when you’re doing perfectly fine for yourself by keeping a low profile? Some people that fit this profile may not care much about the company mission while deeply enjoying their work experience.

3.     Everyone is responsible for increasing their own engagement

Some managers believe employees are solely responsible for their own engagement. However, engagement is a two-way street. Just like any relationship, you need participation from both sides—in this case, the employee and the manager representing the company—in order to have a great relationship. Putting the onus on employees is a bit lazy. As a leader, you must reflect on your contributions (or lack thereof) in facilitating employee engagement.

Or put more simply, if you want an engaged team, you yourself must be engaged.

4.     Leaders are inherently engaged

Speaking of engaged leaders, not all leaders are automatically engaged with the company. Your level of engagement will fluctuate over time, so it’s entirely possible a once-highly-engaged leader no longer feels the connection they once did. With leadership promotions come responsibilities that are neither enjoyable nor avoidable. Leaders are more likely to hear negative news—problems, deficiencies, and gaps that need to be filled—than they are to hear positive news. After all, leaders help guide teams when they need it, and most people don’t ask for help when things are going well.

Additionally, leaders are less likely to receive praise than individual contributors. It’s uncommon for employees to thank their boss for doing a great job with corrective action. Or intervening in something they believe they could have handled themselves. Or declining a raise request. These things are difficult for leaders and can eventually wear them down.

5.     Engagement is the result of a good culture

Building a great company culture is no accident. Neither is a high level of engagement. Both are the result of a disciplined leadership team consistently promoting their desired behaviors and attitudes. The key word is discipline. Company culture and employee engagement are not natural outcomes of a one-and-done attempt to make things better. Leaders are responsible for regularly engaging team members.

It’s often said that company culture can’t come from the top down. While this is true in one sense, it’s false in another. Certainly, every person on your team influences the culture that exists in your company. However, the actions and attitudes of company leadership demonstrate what is expected of people and what is acceptable. A leader who complains to his direct reports can expect that his direct reports will complain to their subordinates as well. A leader who praises his team and builds them up when they need help can expect team members to do the same.

Employee engagement isn’t a passing trend. It’s the key to productivity and an organization’s success. To be successful, though, organizations need to invest and create employee engagement strategies based on internal surveys conducted. Finding out what makes your team tick is the first step toward change and making a difference in your organization.

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