Employee Engagement: From Mythology to Reality

Everywhere you turn there’s another story about employee engagement: How To Keep Your Employees Engaged, Six Quick Steps To Employee Engagement, or Do This One Thing And You Can Increase Your Employee Engagement. Employee engagement is the latest fad of management discussion. It’s what all of the cool kids are talking about now.

I’m a fan of less talk and more action. The truth is that it’s not really about employee engagement. That’s just the symptom that managers want to relieve. They’re searching for a silver bullet that will make them the hero and get them results. The truth is it’s about finding the right person to accomplish the right goal. It really is as simple as that. If your employees don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish and why, then all of the “tricks to employee engagement” won’t help alleviate the pain. Actually, these ploys may make it worsen.

Employees want to know that they are making a difference and that the work they do is on target with expectations (and the overachievers will want to exceed that mark). An unclear target brings feelings of uncertainty and hesitation, which will lead everyone to frustration. Have you ever worked with someone who gave you the instruction of, “I can’t really communicate what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it,” and you walked away wondering how you were going to figure out what the goal is? This is a guessing game and the height of frustration for the person at task.

Steps for Moving to an Actionable Solution:

  1. Clearly communicate your vision and mission. If you can’t do this, then reassess if these have been clearly defined.
  2. Tie your vision and mission to the goals of the employees. Meet with each employee to help devise an achievement plan. This is not the same as a personal development plan, but rather from a project standpoint. This will allow both individuals to communicate and contribute, thus fostering ownership.
  3. Hold a periodic review and assessment with the employee. I suggest spending a few minutes each week dedicated to this. Again, this is not a personal development plan or an annual review meeting. This is simply a touch point to make sure that you and your employee are on the same page. It will provide each person with the opportunity to receive clarification on expectations, discuss and address issues, and be informed.

It’s not all about chasing the mythological beast of employee engagement. It’s about making sure that both you and your team fully understand the goals and the path to achievement. How are you going to move forward with your team?