Six Myths of Employee Engagement

May 5, 2016

Six Myths of Employee Engagement

With today’s global ability to produce carbon copy technology and business models, people truly are a company’s real competitive advantage. Businesses that want to accentuate and optimize their competitive talent advantage focus on employee engagement strategies that improve overall workforce productivity and return on staffing investments.

A major disruption to employee engagement is the adverse impact of the unhappiness epidemic across many companies.

When employees are disengaged or disenfranchised with their work, performance plateaus or greatly diminishes. When there is awareness about what causes unhappiness at work, a company can do something about it.

Studies have shown that the drivers of employee engagement have everything to do with how an employee feels about work and feels at work. It begins with the employee feeling connected and invested in the company mission and direction, and continues with the employee having trust in the company’s leadership.

The first step in creating and inspiring engagement in the workforce is to debunk the pervasive and misleading myths about employee engagement.

There are six myths disrupting companies’ ability to keep people engaged.

1. A Flexible Work Environment Fosters Productivity.

While remote work opportunities reduce the carbon footprint and avert hours wasted in traffic, more often than not, companies do a poor job of looping remote workers into the day-to-day activities of the business. Unfortunately, a very typically adverse impact of remote work for the employee is out of sight, out of mind. Research shows that remote workers and workers with flex-time schedules receive less coaching and mentoring and miss out on the institutional knowledge-sharing and socialization that happens in the typical course of a shared workspace.

2. Strong Paychecks Equal Strong Loyalty

Not all people are primarily motivated by money, and more often than not, fair and sustainable pay is not a motivator, it is a table stake. For years, company leaders have approached solving the employee retention problem through monetary rewards and incentives. While this economic motivator works for 20 percent of the population, most organizations are finding that employee spiffs and salary increases alone are insufficient in reversing the turnover trend. For 80 percent of the working population, the money is not a lever that leads to engagement and buy-in. Forty percent of people want workplace rewards in terms of more educational opportunities, rewarding and challenging projects, and a sense that they can further their knowledge and career path as a result of working with a specific company or in a certain role. Another 40 percent of workers want to feel emotionally connected to the mission and service of the organization and to the customers they serve. Increasing their customer-facing opportunities is much more rewarding than a few extra bucks in their paycheck or a receiving a Starbucks gift card.

3. Employee Independence Is Necessary for Performance

Another myth is that all employees need autonomy and independence, and the more hands-off that management is, the better the employee will perform.

The reality is that autonomy and independence are not values that everyone shares. To one employee, being left alone can be a true benefit, and she may thrive when left up to her own devices. To another, it is a recipe for feeling disconnected, isolated, and ignored.

4. A Job Is Just a Job

Today’s workers re much more attuned to work-life fulfillment than ever before. Employees want and need so much more than a job for a paycheck. A striking majority of workers have said they want purpose and meaning in the work they do, and that they feel happier at work when they know that what they do matters to the success of the organization.

5. Employees Should be Satisfied with Their Current Position

High-performing people need to see a pathway for themselves in the role they own and in the company they work for. Engagement research shows that when people see a pathway for their growth and development they provide a higher-level of consistent results for the team. When employees feel that a company is invested in their growth, they are more committed to their role and more connected to how they impact the success of the company.

6. Your Company Is Enough to Keep the Employee

The sixth myth is that people go to work for a company and their loyalty to the company and brand is enough to keep them engaged and retained. What has become painfully apparent over the last decade is that people don’t leave companies—they leave managers. When a good employee does not have a strong relationship with their manager, no incentive or brand loyalty will keep the employee fully engaged. People need to feel appreciated, respected, acknowledged, and important; when their direct manager does not provide meaningful assignments, regular feedback, and mentoring, engagement is thwarted.

Taken together, all of these are important components of an effective employee engagement program, alone they are insufficient to drive employee connection and engagement. When compensation, flexibility, time off, autonomy, and career path are not coupled with alignment, skilled people management, and a good match, those incentives wind up costing companies millions and derive little to no benefit in the long run.

A well thought out, deliberate employee engagement program considers who people are as individuals and allows for customization in the approach to assigning work and giving feedback. Individualization is a 21st century shift from the one-size-fits-all management of the 80s. A main component of a well-built employee engagement program includes highly competent management team who embraces coaching and mentoring.

When a manager takes the time to offer professional development opportunities, communicates how the employee’s role contributes to the overall organizations success, and rewards for great performance, employees feel valued and appreciated—and engagement soars.

The Authors: 

Magi Graziano, CEO of KeenAlignment, is a leading talent management expert, keynote speaker, and author of The Wealth of Talent. She has more than 20 years of experience in hiring strategy and talent development. A pioneer in her field, she has developed a talent strategy system that gives business leaders the actionable steps they need to align their corporate strategy with their people strategy and thereby maximize employee effectiveness and engagement and develop high-performing teams who consistently elevate the customer experience.