I have worked for many companies over the years, and I have seen what a difference engagement makes in the attitude and output of the employees. So why do so many corporations ignore it or treat it like an unimportant factor? In most cases, the leaders of the company have clouded judgment. Here are five misconceptions about engagement that need to be addressed.

1. Engagement is expensive. – Yes, it costs a lot to offer employees a performance bonus. Heck, it costs a lot to offer employees bagels and coffee. But what does it cost to replace a valued employee who leaves because they are disengaged and disheartened? A friend of mine worked at a company that took away the coffee, then the microwave, and finally they removed the bottled water. This was a multi-billion dollar corporation that could afford coffee for its employees. Short-sightedness on the part of some well-meaning bean counter caused the employees to feel undervalued, and they began quitting in droves, despite the job being a union job with benefits. How much did that coffee really cost?

2. Engagement is not a Key Performance Indicator – well why on earth not? The leaders of a company should measure engagement through a company-wide survey and see where they are at – baseline. They should re-measure every year to see if it went up or down. And they should see what their performance in other areas looks like, and whether or not it correlates with the rise or fall in engagement. Correlation is not causation, but there will be a connection – a very strong one – which points to engagement as a key indicator of future performance.

3. My employees are all disengaged, there’s no way to turn this around. – Really? If you run a shop that expects overtime, how much will it cost to order pizza for the people who stay late to get a job done? How about paying overtime to hourly employees and comp time to salaried employees? When you get an employee who wants to make things better, listen and don’t send them packing. There’s a million things you can do to increase engagement. It is true that it is much easier to discourage employees and cause them to disengage. Guess what? That means you are going to have to work harder to turn things around. Don’t you want your employees to work harder? Are you immune from this requirement?

4. I did an engagement survey, and everyone gave positive feedback. – Great! Were they assured their responses would remain anonymous? Did the questions give them an opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction if they had any? Have people been punished for giving negative feedback in the past? Was everyone given an equal voice, or were some voices weighted more than others? These are some questions to ask before resting on your engagement laurels.

5. Engagement has nothing to do with me. Are you an hourly employee who has no interest in staying at the company you work for now? Then engagement may not really matter to you. Do you love your company and want to make it better? Are you a manager with employees reporting to you? Are you a Director, VP, CXO? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then engagement is extremely important to your work life. Disengagement kills companies faster than bankrupt clients. Disengagement means that the sales force can’t really sell a good product, because they know that the people who make it don’t really care if it comes out good or bad. Disengagement makes the workplace toxic. Disengagement makes it impossible to find new hires to replace the excellent employees who jumped ship. You’d better believe it has a lot to do with you!

Get involved. Ask for the results of your last engagement survey. If the people with the results aren’t willing to share them, you know there’s work to be done.

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