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Wikipedia defines employee engagement as a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees. Even before the pandemic, employee engagement was at the top of HR leader’s lists to understand, achieve, measure, boost, etc. While we don’t have a secret formula to unlock employee engagement in one fell swoop, we can help you understand why your employees aren’t engaged, so that you can take steps to improve your current HR processes.

In working with hundreds of organizations to implement industry-leading HR cloud technology to achieve their HR business goals, we’ve learned that each organization’s culture is different. Some are more prone to change while others resist. Some are at the forefront of innovation and technology, while others are plugging along with manual, paper-based processes, or antiquated, disparate systems. However, one common challenge continues to resonate with HR leaders, despite the culture of the organization, and that’s its employees and their level of engagement.

To help you get to the bottom of why your organization struggles to achieve engagement from your employees, we’ve pulled together six (6) common reasons for you to consider.

#1 Employee Objectives Are Not Aligned With Goals

Regardless of generation, every employee wants to know that their work matters and that what they do on a day-to-day basis contributes to the mission and goals of the organization. Often, leadership positions (Director level and above) understand how their responsibilities move the organization closer towards achieving system goals but that’s where it stops. It is critical for employees at all levels to alignment. As a leader, make sure those who report to you understand the organization’s goals, how your goals affect the system goals and how their goals make an impact. If you are not in the practice of setting goals for all levels of employees, perhaps you can start here. Help your team(s) understand the importance of setting and achieving goals. After all, if you find you are doing work that doesn’t impact goals on some level, it may be time to re-evaluate why you or your teams are spending time on those tasks at all.

Additional reading: Why You Should Be Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

#2 You’re Not Providing Continuous Feedback

Simply put, all employees want to know how they are performing real-time and if improvement is needed, being given that feedback at the appropriate time is critical to affect change. Annual performance conversations are a thing of the past. Can you really blame someone for not being engaged and motivated to do better when they hear their leader say something to the effect of, “I’ve been evaluating your work over the last 12 months, and you really need to improve...” That simple statement is already setting your team member up for failure and who can expect someone to be engaged in those situations?

Imagine the difference in engagement if you had been providing feedback throughout the year on what needed improvement in real-time? When evaluations are conducted, you can point back to specific conversations you’ve had as a recap – and it’s all been documented! There would be no surprises when you had to deliver the same message – room for improvement – because it wasn’t the first time you’ve discussed it. On the flip side, the conversation could look significantly different because of your real-time feedback, providing the employee an opportunity to take the steps toward improvement to move the needle to performing above expectations because they knew at the right time that change was needed.

Not only do we all need to know when to step up our game, but we need to hear when we’re doing a great job and be recognized real-time! Positive feedback is just as important - be sure you aren’t overlooking those strong performers on your team.

Whitepaper: A Modern Approach to Performance & Goals Will Drive the Business

#3 You Lack a Pay for Performance Culture

Most people want to do a good job. After all, we spend just as much time at work as we do at home (albeit, virtually these days). If we are doing a good job, we expect to be fairly compensated for our work. Nothing can be more frustrating than working hard and doing an exceptional job only to see you’ve been given the same x% increase for being an exceptional performer as your teammate who also received an x% increase for being a “meets expectation” level performer come merit season. What kind of message does that send?

Do you really expect your teammates to be engaged in that type of atmosphere? Chances are, it won’t take long for them to realize there are other organizations who do a better job of rewarding and recognizing excellent performance, and in this competitive talent market, you can’t afford to lose your best employees.

Recommended Blog: Compensation Strategy 101: What It Is & How to Create an Effective One

#4 There’s No Clear Path for Advancement

Hopefully, as an organization your goal is to grow your talent. After all, it’s more expensive to be constantly recruiting external talent than it is to grow your own in house.

Employees want to grow their career and advance within an organization. That can be so difficult in a place that hasn’t laid out a career ladder and clear path to advancement. Have you ever applied for a transfer in your organization only to be told you aren’t qualified but have no idea what you need to do to become qualified? Do you need to take additional education courses or gain hands-on experience? What skill or qualification is needed for you to achieve the next level in your career progression?

As a former recruiter, I’ve seen this time and time again. How do you help teammates reach the next level of their career when you can’t tell them what the next level is or how it’s defined?

Not only does a clear level of advancement help employees keep their future in mind, but it can also help leaders with succession planning.

Blog: Why Do I Need a Succession Planning Strategy?

#5 You Have a Culture that Hoards Talent

We almost included this with “no clear path for advancement” but we see this happen so many times; it should be a topic by itself.

Nothing can tank engagement faster than an organization who is unwilling to share talent amongst the organization or support growth outside of the organization when necessary. Have you ever experienced or worked for a leader who would try to prevent employees from leaving their department or company by being unsupportive of growth even resorting to giving less that favorable feedback to other leaders to keep the talent they have? Believe it or not, it happens! This is certainly an extreme situation, but there are many organizations whose culture is not supportive of development. Of course, we understand when you have talented high-performers you want them to stay in your department (and organization) but when you lose sight of an individual’s career goals and are no longer supportive of your team member’s growth, you create an environment where it’s near impossible to promote true engagement.

Organizations that have engaged employees have open conversations about career growth and development and seek to provide those experiences for their employees. Employees are more likely to stay with an employer who helps them grow their career across the organization, and sometimes that means supporting team members in opportunities outside of the company. In doing so, those same people may return to your organization down the road in a leadership capacity with diverse experiences to offer a fresh perspective.

#6 You’re Not Providing Training or Learning Opportunities

Is your culture one of continuous learning? Do you provide on-demand learning or training opportunities for your teammates? If not, it could be hurting your engagement.

Perhaps you have a team member who shows a lot of potential but needs to improve on how to deal with change. Do you simply offer that feedback, or does your organization offer ways to build that skill? Do you have a program for new managers or is it trial by fire?

Providing education and learning opportunities for teammates is key to engagement and development. For that team member who needs change management education, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go into your learning management system and assign learning courses for that employee to complete? Or for that new manager, having an “academy” style course to learn your organization’s way of leading along with key resources and opportunity for networking with peers could be an excellent way to increase engagement, and to set your teams up for success.

Blog: Building Engagement Through Employee Learning

Whether you’ve mastered each area of talent to create an engaged culture, or still need improvement in key areas, it’s important to recognize that engagement is active. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it requires commitment to providing an environment and culture where employees feel valued and supported. By evaluating key areas of your HR process (goals, performance, learning, career development, succession, compensation, etc.), you’ll be able to determine if you’re meeting the mark and leveraging best practices to keep your employees engaged.

Not sure where to start? We’d be happy to listen and provide feedback (see what we did there) on where you can improve and move the needle on your company’s engagement. Contact us today for a free 30-minute discussion.

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