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Taking It Personal: Why Employee Engagement Is A Must

(5-7 minute read)

The numbers are dismal: 70 percent of employees are disengaged at work, according to the most recent Gallup poll on employee engagement. In other words, only 30 percent of employees are passionate about their work and are emotionally committed to their organization.

To improve employee engagement, employers often turn to technology tools such as mobile learning and gamification and behavior-reward strategies such as offering better pay and benefits. While these techniques can improve motivation and engagement, organizations shouldn’t rely solely on them because emotional experiences are just as important, if not more.

The Harvard Business Review reported that in a study of exceptionally engaged business units, respondents were asked to state reasons for their high engagement ratings. “Only 4 percent of respondents mentioned pay.” These employees are willing to trade higher pay for love, esteem and self-actualization, reinforcing that engagement is a personal matter—one that requires getting to the heart of why employees are disengaged.

Rethinking Employee Surveys

Online employee engagement surveys are frequently used to determine how many employees are disengaged, why they are disengaged, and what should be done about it. But, there are potential downsides to this approach. Employees may only be able to respond with a “Yes” or “No.” Even if individual comments are allowed, there might be limited writing space.

Plus, there’s the chance that employees are not being truthful. A survey by Rapt Media showed that one in four employees fib or outright lie on employee engagement surveys. This is especially true if the survey is not anonymous, in which case, the employee may fear retaliation for being honest.

Anonymous surveys, on the other hand, are a catch-22 in that employees may feel safer (to speak their minds), but it’s difficult to quantify the results on a micro level and formulate employee-specific solutions.

The Better Way to Get Answers

The reason an employee is disengaged may have nothing to do with work. It could stem from personal problems he or she is having. In this event, there’s probably nothing you can do to increase the employee’s engagement level. Still, effective communication with the employee is needed in order for you to know where the culprit lies and whether you can help eliminate it. This is brings us back to employee engagement essentially being a personal matter—the questions you must ask and the answers you seek reside in the emotional sphere. Therefore, face-to-face interaction is pivotal to engagement.

A survey by Forbes magazine showed that employees prefer face-to-face business meetings for the following reasons:

  • Build stronger, more meaningful business relationships (82 percent)
  • Ability to read facial expressions and body language (77 percent)
  • More social interaction/ability to bond with coworkers (75 percent)
  • Allow for more complex strategic thinking (49 percent)
  • Better environment for tough, timely decision-making (44 percent)

Also, in-person contact allows for fewer unnecessary distractions, making it easier to focus on the issue at hand.

In-person meetings let you engage in real dialogue with your staff. These interactions—which may take the form of employee focus groups or one-on-one sessions—should be held periodically. In other words, don’t wait for employees to exhibit signs of disengagement, such as lack of productivity and absenteeism, to take action.

By directly communicating with your employees, whether they’re engaged or not, you convey your desire to build a rapport with them. You might, for example, ask them how they feel about their work (do they find it meaningful?) and encourage them to discuss their career aspirations (what are their goals?). Through their answers, you can learn their personal views on job satisfaction.

Employee survey results can be used as your starting point in focus group settings. After guiding the group through the results, open up points for discussion and then take note of critical pain points and possible solutions.

For employees who are actually disengaged, one-on-one meetings are best. These employees are apathetic about their work and the organization. Therefore, they need individual attention in a safe place, where their voices will be heard.




December 20, 2018




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