8 Reasons Employee Engagement Efforts Fail - Part 2

We’re Baa-aack!

Thanks for coming back to dig further into the key reasons we believe that we have made so little progress in moving the dial on employee engagement in the past 30 years.

As a refresher: We are back at pre-COVID levels of employee engagement in the US (Gallup Oct ’20). That means about 1 in 3 works are engaged. 1 in 3. Ugh.

Study after study supports that higher engagement drives increased customer satisfaction, increased productivity and profitability, and lower rates of turnover, defects, and safety incidents.

So why so little progress?

In Part 1 of this blog, we covered the first four reasons:

#1 There is no Engagement Strategy.

#2 Most Engagement Efforts Do Not Address The #1 Reasons Employees Leave.

#3 Missing the Human Touch.

#4 Technology Driven versus Technology Supported.

Now let’s dive into the Final Four reasons:

#5 Engagement Efforts Do Not Address Key Aspects of Employee Experience

McKinsey, Gallup, Forrester and more have done extensive research on the key aspects of the employee experience that people care about and which impact engagement. While there are minor variations, they all come down to some form of the following:

1. Organization will be successful.

2. Growth and Development

3. Safety and Security

4. Social Cohesion

5. Trusting Relationships

6. Purpose and Valued.

7. Technology

8. Work Environment

We mentioned in #1 the lack of a strategy to guide the path of a number of engagement efforts and tactics. There is not a single one of these eight areas of the employee experience that are easy. If you don’t have a strategy and roadmap, it is inevitable that something will be missed.

Think of it like each of these eight items are a major aspect of planning a wedding: Dress. Location. Officiant. Etc. While a wedding is still a wedding without hosting a reception. The question is whether it was designed that way and expectations set accordingly, or was the reception just forgotten.

Many engagement efforts at companies are missing one or more of these eight areas. And it isn’t by design.

Or, worse, effort is put towards something that doesn’t really make a difference or won’t impact engagement in a meaningful way.

I once had a technology leader who felt strongly that we needed to be like Google to compete with Google for tech talent. Here was the problem with this theory: We weren’t Google. If we worked so hard to represent ourselves as “like Google” and they joined us only to find no nap pods or ping pong tables, much less lacking a tech-centric work environment, those people were going to be right out the door and we would be back at square one.

Whether talent will expect nap pods is entirely dependent upon the expectations set by a company …through their brand experience, mission, values, culture, leader messages, and the messages talent got while going through the hiring process. Basically, what promises were made and does your experience…in these eight areas…. match up?

Last, but not least on this point, a lot of leaders think that addressing engagement is about the latest, greatest replacement for a happy hour. Social Cohesion is one of the eight areas and an area that people are missing right now, so doing a virtual murder mystery or virtual scavenger hunt isn’t a bad idea. In fact, go for it! It will be fun! Do that with eyes wide open that the one virtual social event ..or even a number of social events….will not, in and of themselves, move the dial on engagement.

#6 Does Not Address Leaders Not “Walking The Talk”

Speaking of promises, how many leaders do you think are aware of the promises made by a company? Sure, many can recite their mission and values. What about their purpose? Brand Promises? Leader Messages? What was said last week in the All-Team Meeting?

From my experience working with leaders from all companies of all sizes and industries, the answer is: very few.

A key aspect of the employee experience is whether employees experience the promises made by a company and its leaders as being realized in the eight areas of the work experience they care about.

I believe most leaders want to be great leaders and good stewards for the company. But how can leaders ensure these promises are kept if they aren’t even aware of what they are? How can leaders “walk the talk” with their people if they don’t know what the talk is that they are supposed to be walking? With everything that is asked of leaders, why would leaders prioritize walking the talk and advancing the culture if it isn’t prioritized and made a bit easier to do?

Few companies have collected their promises into a single place for easy reference. As a result, most leaders do not know the talk to walk.

If these promises have been gathered and leaders are aware, seldom do we see the deep work done to create a shared understanding of what keeping these promises looks like, sounds like, and feel like. Left to their own devices, each person interprets for themselves. So, inadvertently, leaders aren’t Being The Talk.

The outcome? Leaders lead with their own interpretation of the promises they can recall or their point of view of the experience they want to create. The experience of working in one division, function, or team is different from the next. Some teams are ones you want to be a part of, and some teams are the ones you want to avoid. Most engagement efforts do not tackle this common phenomenon in any meaningful way.

#7 Engagement Tactics are Not Tangible or Actionable