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How To Screw Up Employee Engagement, One Step at a Time

Disengaged employees make for unhappy pictures and an unhappy workplace. And vice versa.

Few people understand that employee engagement is a process, not an event.

The idea that engagement can be achieved through a one-time fun activity, needs to be debunked.

No one falls in love with their job on their annual day, do they?

Aspects such as taking ownership, being loyal and dedicated to work need to be constantly nurtured. Which is why I repeat, employee engagement is a process, not an event. A process that needs planning and investment (of time, energy and resources) from the company’s management.

A botched-up employee engagement program can destroy your employee morale, cost you their respect and more importantly, their productivity.

Here are a series of potential landmines you should sidestep when you set foot in the employee engagement arena.

1) Adopting employee engagement initiatives, without any forethought on the outcomes it should deliver.

2) Involving your team and miscommunicating your vague ideas of employee engagement to them.

3) Following a cookie-cutter approach to “identify gaps” with a pre-designed survey.

4) Handing over the responsibility of employee engagement to your juniors (who are still clueless about what employee engagement actually is).

5) Breed ineffective and often-confusing practices, into an already decaying culture.

How NOT to screw up your employee engagement program:

As a first step, learn more about employee engagement (here, and here).

Then, understand why you want your employees to be engaged.

Do you want them to be more productive? Or feel more responsible and more clued in towards their work? Be clear about your objective, and draw up a broad strategy.

And then, do what SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society with 285k+ members in 165 countries) recommends:

Communicate the strategy:

Once you’ve identified what employee engagement can do for you, communicate its importance to your team in such a way that it relates to a tangible metric. Address what will be measured, how it will be measured (existing data, surveys), and what steps could be taken to address the possible outcomes.

This is necessary to get a buy-in from your immediate staff. Because chances are, they are the ones who will drive the engagement process on your behalf.

Identify engagement drivers

Do not stretch yourself too thin and try to fix everything in one go.

After an initial survey, be sure to identify the parameters that drive maximum engagement. For instance, the survey might show that a pay hike may not be as important to your employees, as much as a holiday on Christmas. A new uniform may not make them as happy as “bring-your-family-to-work” day every month. Know your drivers of maximum engagement, and assess if you have the resources to execute them.

Identify measurable outcomes:

Employees who are driving as well as taking part in engagement processes must see and feel the outcome at fixed intervals. So, rather than linking the outcome of employee engagement to higher profits, link it to something that is more routine: a reduction in accidents on the shop floor, better customer service, better attendance rates. Nail the outcomes all the way down to the department it impacts. Connecting engagement to relevant organisational outcomes then justifies the use of resources to pursue engagement goals.

Create an action plan:

Your engagement-related goals should be linked to engagement drivers. Provide information about how and when to measure the progress, and explicitly mention the specific resources needed to pursue each goal.

Sustain the strategy:

Go beyond just making plans, commit to making this a long-term effort. Measure outcomes regularly. Hold town-halls, inform employees about the progress, take their feedback on it. Get the leadership team on this, to integrate employee engagement into organisational policy.

The comics are sourced from the very cool Dilbert series by Scott Adams and the very topical Today at Work series by John Junson.

If you’re thinking of crafting engagement strategies that are sure to deliver results for your frontline employees, check us out on At Noticeboard, we make engagement of frontline employees easy, and their empowerment, a possibility.

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