It doesn’t carry quite the same intention as when Jean-Luc Picard drew it up, but “Engage!” is truly a command all business leaders need to follow.
To engage employees is essential to maintaining productivity, fostering a thriving company culture, and reducing turnover. According to a recent Gallup poll, while employee engagement is on the rise, 53 percent of employees remain unengaged.
It’s not news to savvy organizational leaders that they need to create an atmosphere of high employee engagement. The question is how to do it. Spending time and resources on initiatives that don’t wind up engrossing and motivating employees is a big waste.
Here are seven of the biggest mistakes business leaders make when trying to engage employees.
1. Assuming they understand what employees want
Employee engagement is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To determine what could work for your employees, you need to ask those who will be affected. Employee engagement surveys are key to identifying what your workers want and need to stay motivated – and what they’re not currently receiving.
These surveys don’t have to be complex, but they need to dig into exactly why an employee does or doesn’t feel engaged. Administer it as an anonymous request so everyone will be honest.
Failing to survey employees before embarking on a plan to increase engagement is setting your endeavor up for failure.
2. Putting the wrong people in charge
Bad managers are one of the biggest reasons employees check out mentally. Leaders who are dishonest, unorganized, hog the recognition for themselves, steal ideas, or just plain micromanage suck the life out of their subordinates.
Employee engagement will suffer with leaders who are unprepared or unmotivated to perform well, or who don’t have the skills to lead a team successfully. Increasing engagement may mean making some tough decisions about managers who aren’t getting the job done.
3. Setting vague goals
Working toward a common goal helps employees stay focused. A big mistake while attempting to engage employees is taking shortcuts with information about company goals. Consistent communication is key in keeping the team informed and involved. Updates via emails and in-person meetings ensure that employees feel they’re an important part of the company’s success – which urges them to work harder and be more committed.
Like vague goals, another mistake leaders make when engaging employees is…
4. Creating task-based strategies
A company’s core values should be woven into the fabric of every employee’s job. Attempting to increase employee engagement by putting them on projects that move the needle isn’t enough if they don’t know how it ties into the company’s mission. The attitude of “do your job and don’t worry about anyone else’s” does little to increase your employees’ interest or pride in their jobs.
5. Thinking money will do it
Everyone likes money, but it isn’t everything. Big raises and bonuses don’t increase an employee’s satisfaction as much as some think it does. A recent study by Udemy showed that 42 percent of millennials said the most important work benefit is learning and development opportunities. Other compensation like work flexibility, vacation days, recognition with prizes and awards, and career development opportunities may be just as – or perhaps more – important than a raise. Leaders who only focus on the almighty dollar may end up with a disengaged team.
6. Punishing employees for mistakes
An atmosphere of fear does little to encourage creativity and productivity. If an employee misses a deadline or doesn’t hit the mark on a campaign, some leaders automatically decide that punishment is a good way to handle the issue. While disciplinary problems must be addressed, performance-based punishment not only frustrates the person being disciplined, but it strikes fears into other team members. No one likes to sit at their desk and wonder, “What if I’m next?” Ruling with fear will never lead to high employee engagement.
7. Showing lack of trust
Finally, leaders make missteps with employees by micromanaging them. They may think they’re staying highly involved, which should engage employees, but that’s not usually how workers digest it. A manager watching over your shoulder only gives evidence they don’t trust you to perform well, take your job seriously, and deliver results. Failing to show trust in employees turns them off and decreases their engagement.
Bottom line: Don’t fall into a trap
There’s no doubt that hitting a high level of employee engagement is crucial to driving production and building a company that can be successful in the long term. But it’s just as easy to decrease engagement if you’re not self-aware. Figure out where you’re overstepping and only advocate for initiatives that inspire and motivate your employees.
As one of Picard’s predecessors once said – sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.
Ken Silber is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Wonderlic and believes Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek film.