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4 employee engagement myths debunked

Myths can be hard to dispel once they are unleashed. And once out there, it's hard to know fact from fiction. They can also be costly for companies who end up believing them. So we thought we’d take some time to look at 4 of the biggest employee engagement myths out there and try and get to the truth.

1. Measuring employee engagement automatically increases it

Once you start measuring employee engagement and sending out surveys, people will start letting you know about their biggest frustrations and concerns. And in most organizations, it’s up to HR to process that data. The data is then usually monitored privately, behind the scenes. All pretty standard.

Without open communication, people begin to feel like no one is listening and that filling out the engagement surveys was a waste of their time. So the surveys start having the reverse effect and end up lowering engagement and trust. That's why it's so important to let people in your organization know that their input is valued, processed and will result in action. Don't leave them hanging.

Not only should HR process the data and take measures, but managers must engage with employee engagement as it benefits them most. Accepting engagement as their responsibility makes managers more able to do something about it and ensure engagement levels remain high.

2. Engagement is a huge time-consuming task

Another misconception is that increasing your engagement is a big hassle. Not true. Just listening can change a lot. And engagement problems aren’t usually that big, but the expectation to do something about them is. 

Yes, HR projects on employee engagement take time. That’s because, if we fill out a survey, we want to see results and change as soon as possible. So they’re not as straightforward as they seem. And yes, HR can also do a lot based on the survey results, but they also have a responsibility that any action taken pleases everyone. So, expect some difficulty and plan time for taking action. And most importantly, communicate this. Your people will be more patient if they know something is being done.

Let managers handle employee engagement

Take away a huge amount of frustration by giving responsibility for employee engagement to your frontline managers. They know the people, the problems, and the consequences of unengaged employees. If they keep track of the pulse of their teams, they’re best placed to act quickly.

3. Everyone cares about employee engagement

Because HR is concerned about engagement, they automatically think everyone is. The truth, however, is, not everyone cares about how engaged people are. 

Why might managers not care about engagement? The three most common reasons are:

  • Managers aren’t engaged. They’re there just for the paycheck. This kind of thinking will drive a lack of engagement within their teams.
  • Managers don't understand the impact of engagement. Short-term goals take center-stage because the manager has their own agenda, e.g. targets, volumes, etc. They’re stressed and not focused on how this impacts their team. Caring about engagement must be company-wide and must become part of the culture. Only then can you tackle short-term thinking like this and help managers learn to genuinely care about engaging their people. To do this, HR will have to actively build this culture.
  • Managers don't know what engagement is. This lack of knowledge leads to them not seeing the point of focusing on it. Engagement is HR's job. Wrong. Its essential managers know what engagement is, that it’s their responsibility, and why they need to keep their people as engaged as possible.
4. Engagement surveys = science facts

Many organizations pay for huge survey questionnaires and think this means any responses they get are scientifically correct. 90% of the time, this isn’t true. Surveys may give that impression by asking a lot of questions. It’s then down to people to understand what these results mean, and there may be no single or simple answer.

Our advice in this situation is don’t overestimate your engagement survey’s scientific value. Whether you’re asking 10 or 100 questions, you’ll still measure your organization's pulse, and often asking fewer question can help you focus on key issues and give you more time to take focused action.

Raise your expectations of what employee engagement can do for you and your people

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