The #1 Employee Engagement Mistake

I am continually surprised by how many organizations think that employee engagement has to do with extracurricular programs like company picnics, or internal perks like an on-site coffee bar or billiard table.

While there is nothing wrong with any of these things, it is a serious mistake to think that they deeply impact employee engagement, particularly if leadership is not practicing the basics every day.

A friendly supervisor at the company picnic who tells your family what a great worker you are cannot make up for poor input and inconsistent feedback about your work the rest of the time.

Billiards, Two Guys Fotolia_86707599A manager cannot make up for his lack of availability to meet with you about an important project by challenging you to a friendly game of billiards. Why does he have time for that and not what’s most important to you?

Too often the perks offered to employees to promote employee engagement have the same effect as putting an ice pack on a broken leg. It might feel good momentarily but it’s not a long-term solution.

True employee engagement has to do with how you involve your team day-to-day in the work. Are they only given “marching orders” or are they able to have input into the parade route? Do you honor and tap their knowledge and experience or are they treated like novices? Are they given honest and useful feedback about their performance or do you disrespect them by telling them “good job” when it was, at best, mediocre?

Employee engagement has to do with attention:

  1. Attention to employees’ capabilities
  2. Attention to their performance
  3. Attention to how they need to be developed; and
  4. Attention to your own development needs in the areas of delegation, feedback and how to approach leadership in a more lighthearted manner

Short-term, quick fixes cannot increase employee engagement—at best it creates a voracious appetite for, “What have you done for me lately?”Providing your team instead with opportunities to truly get involved in the work is what they most want. Doing so fulfills the definition of engagement which, in this context, Merriam-Webster defines as: b:  emotional involvement or commitment.

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