15 Employee Engagement Truths Employers Ignore at Their Own Peril

Given how much time and money has been spent on employee engagement — and how little has been shown for it — it’s clear that most employers are not doing enough of the right things  and/or, they are doing enough WRONG things to counteract  their positive efforts.

If we hope to see results from our employee engagement efforts, we need to focus on the basics. We need to ask ourselves if we are violating basic fundamental principles of human nature and how it influences engagement.

Implementing engagement programs without addressing these foundational flaws is like painting a rusted car. You can buy the most beautiful, expensive paint but … it will never stick.

Your efforts at boosting employee engagement will never stick if you violate the principles on the list below.

While many of the following truths may seem self-evident to you, think of how often they get violated, even by very bright management teams.

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I recommend you share this article with your team and ask: “Which of these are we violating, and, are we willing to do something about it?

15 hard truths about employee engagement

  1. Goodies, gimmicks and gala events don’t create high employee engagement. Intrinsically rewarding work experiences do.
  2. Being the managerial equivalent of a parent who spoils their kids doesn’t create high employee engagement. It creates childish, entitled employees.
  3. Everything matters when it comes to employee engagement. Everything matters because every interaction, every communication, every decision has the potential to affect employee engagement — for better or for worse.
  4. Engagement is built – or damaged – one conversation at a time.
  5. Most of the answers about how to improve employee engagement reside in your employees. So ask, and then act on what you hear. Oh, and the only way you will get useful information is if you know how to make it safe for employees to speak candidly.
  6. If you don’t ask for employee feedback, you are asking for trouble.
  7. Only ask for input if you are going to use it.
  8. Don’t expect employees to care about you or your goals if they don’t feel you care about them.
  9. Don’t try to make employees FEEL like they matter; design their jobs and give them enough autonomy so they CAN matter.
  10. You’re a business, not a rehab center for troubled employees.
  11. You’re a manager, not a therapist.
  12. Uncertainty breeds fear. Fearful employees don’t focus on their employer’s goals, they focus on their fears. Remove the unnecessary uncertainty caused by poor communication.
  13. When employees have a strong “Why” they can deal with almost any “What.”
  14. If you want to improve employee engagement, you need to be willing to look in the mirror – especially if you are in senior management.
  15. If you are a lower level manager and want to improve employee engagement, there’s a lot you can do if … you focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t.

Again, I recommend you share this article with your team and ask: “Which of these are we violating, and are we willing to do something about it?”

And if you have more truths to add to the list, let us know in the Comments section.

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," and Dealing with a Difficult Co-Worker, volume one of the Courageous Conversations at Work series, as well over 100 articles and book chapters.

You can download more of his articles at HumanNature@work, contact him at david@humannatureatwork.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/humannaturework.

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