Stop Trying so Hard to Increase Employee Engagement

The following is a guest blog post, written and contributed by Tim Sackett, SPHR, SCP

It goes against every HR bone in your body, doesn’t it!? What do you mean “stop trying to increase employee engagement!?” We have to increase employee engagement, it’s really our only job in HR!

Let’s say you’re a 91 out of 100 on your employee engagement scale, meaning 91 out of 100 employees are engaged at some level. Do you really think moving those last 9 will make that much of a difference? What happens when you get to 100 out of 100? How will you continue ‘perfect’ engagement?

The reality is chasing engagement is a losing proposition that you have very little control over. Sure, you don’t want terrorist managers running rough-shot over your employees, and we don’t want awful policies that burn people out and turnover our best talent. All that being said, you will always have a certain level of your employees who will be disengaged.

No matter what you do! You can pay them to not do any actual real work, bring them coffee and donuts in the morning, and someone would complain that you actually made them show up to the office to get paid for doing nothing and the coffee was too hot!

What should you do instead?

Set great goals and establish what needs to be done. Do this goal setting with the employees who are going to actually do the work, so they have a say and agree that these goals are reasonable and attainable.

Then set really great measures to achieve these goals. Again, do this in combination with your teams so they have a say and actually understand what is being expected of them.

Give your employees the ability to build their own development plans and train your managers to be career-agents for these employees, helping them reach their career goals.

Employee engagement isn’t hard. There are many tools that can help you track employee engagement “metrics” but it’s easy to get caught up in those metrics and forget about the actual people. If you’re looking for a tool to help you, look for one like Trakstar that combines engagement with performance management and goal setting. That way, you can have a place to communicate the important things like company vision and how employees will be measured from above

Ultimately, your employees don’t want Taco Tuesdays and French Fry Fridays, and all the other soft, touchy-feely crap we think drives engagement (although I’m all for Cookie Mondays!). What employees want and what will keep most people at a solid rate of engagement are 3-4 things which tools like Trakstar can do:

  • What are we doing? (Clear vision, direction, goals)
  • What is my part? (How will I be measured? What does great look like in my role?)
  • Where do I go from here? (Career development and progression)
  • Do I actually like working here? (Manager who cares. Employees I consider friends.)

If all you do is run around all day, every day, trying to make employees happy, you will fail miserably. You don’t have the ability to make someone happy, that’s something only they can decide. But you do have the ability to provide clear vision, clear goals, clear measures of success, and a future path. While this doesn’t sound like ‘happy’, it will equal engagement.