20 MAY, 2015

Employee Engagement is Not a Program

This article from Fortune last week does a great job of describing what’s wrong with many companies’ employee engagement programs. They are just that—a program—layered on top of business as usual. I equate this to declaring that you want to be healthier and beginning to work out while still eating junk food every day. Sure, you might lose a couple of pounds, but most of your exercise is going to be wasted effort as you negate it with poor diet.

Building a company filled with engaged employees is no different. You can’t put employees last in all aspects of operations and then expect their highest level of performance because you give them some points, a pretty e-card, and a pizza party a few times a year.

Too many times, companies begin a program because they have to “do employee engagement” or improve engagement survey scores. Starting a recognition program will not improve employee engagement in real life or on paper if the company culture is a bad one. Not only that, the program will likely be unsuccessful.

The following basics need to be in place to lay a foundation for an engaged workforce:

  • Clear Strategy and Direction: Leadership needs to know where the company is going and how employees can help it get there. This is where a mission and core values come in.
  • Communication: Once the strategy is in place, the leaders need to communicate and reinforce it among all employees. Each employee should know how he or she can contribute, and what success looks like.
  • Employee Development: Help employees by offering training and helping them advance their own careers. Give people the opportunity to do what they do best every day and to stretch to try new things.
  • Supportive Managers: Managers must give their employees clear goals, offer frequent feedback, and be available for questions and collaboration.
  • Being Human: Recognize that first and foremost, your employees are people. Treat them that way, not like a line item or a “resource.” Make the work environment a pleasant one that people enjoy coming to each day.

If you have started to do the work to achieve foundational points above, a recognition and social engagement website can certainly help the process move along more quickly. It can offer a central place for communications and help build more positive relationships among peers. Recognizing employees who embody established core values will also emphasize those values to the greater employee population, which can help with culture transformation. However, thinking that a website can fix deep-seated problems between human beings at your company without any real-life effort is a mistake.

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