Employee Engagement: Why It’s Not Working and What to Do About It

engage message cloud shape“Over a billion dollars in the US is being spent on employee engagement, so how come it’s not working?” That’s the big question David Lee asked his audience to begin his riveting XpertHR webinar, “Why Your Employees Just Aren’t That Into You… And What to Do About It.”

Lee, of HumanNature@Work, is an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance. And he made clear from the outset that he believes companies need to do a much better job of engaging with their employees.

Addressing workplace apathy, Lee said, “When we are careless in our treatment of others, we teach them to care less about us.” As an example, he cites managers who either do not respond to e-mails or do so without ever validating their employees’ efforts.

“Lack of appreciation is the number one reason people leave their jobs,” said Lee. “Employees are given lots of reasons not to care. Managers need to share stories of employees being awesome.”

He also suggested that managers need to “up their game, especially with millennials.” Lee explained that if a company’s millennial employees are not happy, then the other employees are quite likely not happy either. He noted that just because employees are not leaving does not mean they are content or invested in the company. Many employees simply become numb and indifferent, “the walking dead,” as he called them.

Fortunately, there are steps that employers can take to combat employee disengagement or, better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place. Among them, Lee mentioned:

  • Assisting managers by sharing stories that illustrate a positive impact;
  • Asking what has happened in their career that made them feel disengaged;
  • Helping managers at all levels cultivate interpersonal skills; and
  • Interviewing employees to find out what’s happening to reduce engagement.

Most importantly, Lee stressed that employees need to feel what they are doing makes a difference. That means making sure that all employees understand the company’s mission and vision, as well as what differentiates it from others. But, he added, employees also need to know their part in making that happen.

“So many employees don’t understand the goal of their business,” said Lee, citing a recent poll that showed only 37% of workers could say what their employee is trying to achieve and why.”

And while employee bonding experiences are always a positive, Lee cautions employers that it’s a mistake to think that a one-time event will fix employee disengagement. Speaking of a company cookout or picnic, Lee called that the cherry on top but noted that’s not the everyday experience. “You can’t just bribe employees with goodies or think of what event we can put on,” said Lee, who added that it’s what happens between nine and five that will matter most.

For more of Lee’s insights on how companies can do a better job of keeping their employees motivated, listen in to his XpertHR on-demand webinar.