Employee engagement: It’s time to bust some myths

Amy Jordan
Amy Jordan

Employee engagement — it’s a buzzword that seems to be on the rise lately. But what is it, and why should you care?

By one estimate, only 33 percent of employees are engaged in their work, costing their companies between $450 billion and $550 billion each year. These costs can be seen in increased absenteeism, turnover and work-related injuries as well as decreased productivity, customer service, and sales.

Engagement is important. What’s even more important is that you walk into the complex arena of employee engagement with your eyes wide open and avoid these four engagement myths:

Myth No. 1: Employees will become more engaged if they receive more money. Would you suddenly love your job more if you made more money? Probably not. It’s true that before you can move the needle on engagement, employees must make enough to meet their basic needs. Once that’s achieved, additional money might spark a better attitude in the short term, but won’t engage a person more in the long run. It’s important for supervisors and managers to understand engagement involves more than a pay raise. Meaningful work is the key. Everyone wants to feel connected to the mission and understand how their work contributes to the greater good. Help employees understand why their work is important. Solidify your vision and share it.

Myth No. 2: Employee recognition programs are ineffective and do little to engage or retain employees. Recognition constitutes a founding principle in the efforts of engagement. No matter the job, people always respond to appreciation, respect and a simple thank you. Take a marriage, for example: If your spouse told you once or twice a year how much they love and appreciate you, would you be engaged in your relationship? Most likely not. While a manager-staff relationship is far from a marriage, it takes good ongoing communication and appreciation to assure success.

Myth No. 3: The firm is successful, and that success will retain engaged employees. While this might help to attract employees, it’s essential to focus on creating an engaging experience in which employees feel heard, seen and valued. Have you ever heard a person say: “I left the company because the product we made was not the best in the market.” Most have heard this, however: “I left the company because my boss was a real jerk.” And there’s this: “I left the company because the company culture was terrible and no one was a team player.” While past success is something to brag about, it’s important to spend energy on what’s going to help you succeed in the future — great leadership and great culture.

Myth No. 4: Millennials are difficult to engage. There’s been so much skepticism circulating about millennials, but they’re like all the generations to come before them. It is easy for managers to place blame on influencers they can’t control. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota Labovitz School of  Business and Economics revealed seven significant similarities in the values held by current generations in the workplace: teamwork, flexibility in work scheduling, work-life balance, challenging work, training and development opportunities, involvement in the decision making process when it affects them and recognition for the work they do. To increase engagement, capitalize on the shared values of the generations in the workplace and stop emphasizing the differences.

Many companies fall short in their endeavors to create an engaged culture by just trying to make employees happy. Happiness is only one piece of the puzzle. Highlighting engagement as a business strategy is essential to placing the importance in clear focus and driving the ultimate employee experience.

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