Employee engagement has been around for some time, proving that it’s no flash-in-the-pan trend. As a concept it’s very simple: care about, measure and work to improve the experience of your employees, and they’ll be more productive and loyal in return.
But applying this on the ground can be challenging, with operational concerns often coming first. We must also remember that many managers have never been trained in engagement and learn their approach from those that manage them – with mixed results.
Productivity is still dropping in the UK, and although engagement is only a small part of the overall puzzle here, it’s something worth considering refreshing if you’re concerned your firm’s output is languishing too.
There are some commonly held myths or ideas about employee engagement, things that you hear time and again if you work in the industry as excuses for not taking it seriously. As an ongoing series of blogs on the topic, we’ll start by looking at some of the most prevalent myths and help debunk them.
Myth 1) Engagement is for HR to do.
This idea is perhaps the most harmful to engagement as a whole. The notion that it isn’t an operational matter because it’s not rooted in facts and figures can mean both leaders and people managers alike view it as HR’s responsibility. Even the largest organisations can’t make an impact on engagement without manager and leader buy in – this is one of the most talked about issues in the industry.
– A leader’s job is to set a visible example, communicate the company’s vision and inspire a productive culture.
– People managers are the interface between engagement strategy and employees, a challenge for time-poor operational leads – but one that must be met. Surveys reveal that people managers have the greatest influence over engagement.
Myth 2) Engagement isn’t a priority, especially in times of change.
Engagement is very easy to put on the back burner, especially during times of significant change. But in the fast-paced modern business world change is the new norm. Whether you’re responding to the disruptive competition that digital technology has enabled or adapting to new environmental regulations, there will always be change on the agenda. Engagement needs to align to change and support people through it – in fact, it is perhaps most important in times of change when people are feeling less confident in their roles and the future.
Myth 3) Engagement costs money.
Particularly relevant in SMEs where the budget for this type of activity may be minimal or non-existent, this idea can cause engagement activity to capitulate before it even starts! The fundamental tenets of engagement theory don’t cost money, although some investment in the right areas can certainly help. If your organisation can’t fund an expensive engagement survey don’t worry. Having managers and leaders take the time to talk to people shows much more real, human concern than a survey in the inbox, the work can be shared and is free. Recognition, honesty and hands-on coaching are also free and are amongst the crucial drivers of engagement in any firm.
Our next blog will look at a leader’s role in employee engagement in more detail…