4 Engagement Myths HR Leaders Fall Victim To
A hot topic for well over a decade – more and more organizations are attempting to “do” engagement. Few have figured out how to move the needle in a meaningful way, and many are falling victim to several engagement myths.
Some claim engagement is a fad that will soon disappear, and those voices raise some valid questions and concerns:
- What does employee engagement really mean?
- Are engagement measurements and benchmarks credible?
- Will an engaged workplace help us attract and retain top talent?
- Does engagement even affect our organization’s bottom line?
These questions hold weight because the practice of engagement is distorted within many organizations. Employees are asked to provide feedback through an annual survey. Leaders analyze the data and might develop a few goals and action plans. But nothing really changes. Survey data is quickly forgotten, and when next year’s results come in the cycle repeats itself – everyone is frustrated by the utter lack of progress.
Let’s set the record straight. There are a lot of conflicting opinions around employee engagement, and it can be difficult to discern the truth among all the noise. We’re going to address four common engagement myths you might have heard from the engagement naysayers and provide the data you need to overturn them.
Myth #1: Engagement can’t be clearly defined or measured, so it isn’t valid.
Reality Check: You can’t put a one-size-fits-all box around engagement. It’s human, and — like humans — it’s complex and constantly evolving. But you can define and measure the things that matter to you.
We’ve seen more than one argument that employee engagement is a hoax because no one can clearly define or measure it. But we think this is a cheap shot at engagement. Engagement is fuzzy, but it’s not undefinable. There are many concepts in our world that seem difficult to define: love, happiness, art, and life – the list goes on. These things are fuzzy because they mean different things to different people at different stages in different places. But just because something is hard to define, doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.
At Quantum Workplace, we have our own definition of engagement, but we don’t claim our way as the only way to define it. We personally love that the concept of employee engagement is continually evolving. If it didn’t, workplace relationships would become stale, organizational progress would stall out, and the status quo would never be challenged.
Myth #2: There’s no proof that engagement impacts business outcomes.
Reality Check: Employees who aren’t engaged won’t work as hard or stay as long as employees who are engaged. We’ve got the data to prove it.
There’s a lot of evidence out there that proves the impact of engagement. We could write an entire ebook about the existing data! One study from Gallup shows business units that score in the top quartile in employee engagement perform better than those in the bottom quartile in many areas, including:
- 41% lower absenteeism
- 24% lower turnover (in high turnover organizations)
- 59% lower turnover (in low turnover organizations)
- 10% higher customer metrics
- 17% higher productivity
- 20% higher sales
- 21% higher profitability
- 70% fewer safety incidents
Disengaged employees, on the other hand, are very expensive. One study estimates that actively disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $450-550 billion every year.
And disengaged employees are typically not shy about their eventual departure. They might not tell you outright that they are looking to leave, but they will tell you indirectly in engagement and pulse surveys, and 1-on-1s. Focusing on engagement and empowering your managers to foster meaningful relationships with their direct reports, will help you be more effective in impacting your more positive business outcomes.
Myth #3: A competitive salary and good benefits are enough to keep employees happy and engaged.
Reality Check: The modern employee will prioritize a stellar work experience over higher pay.
While it is important to provide employees with a living wage and good benefits to meet their needs, pay and benefits can only go so far before employees start craving that meaningful connection to their work, team, and organization. Money doesn’t magically make work worthwhile.
Today, employees want more than pay – they desire meaningful work, strong teams, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. They want varied responsibilities that push, challenge, and stimulate them.
Compensation obviously plays a role when employees choose their place of work, but recognition, personal development, and a priority on work-life balance can be the deciding factor between two positions with similar pay.
With more than 6 million jobs available in America, employers can’t afford to ignore engagement altogether. Employees have options, and they know it; 63 percent of employees believe they would find a job as good as the one they have if they left.
You risk losing your top performers if you don’t keep them engaged, even if their pay is at or above market value.
Myth #4: Engagement is HR’s responsibility.
Reality Check: Every employee in every department at every level plays a role in organizational engagement.
Every person in your organization impacts employee engagement — in the quality of relationships they build, their approach to teamwork, and the general attitudes they bring to the workplace. Employee engagement is not just HR’s responsibility – everyone plays an important part, and everyone should be held accountable for the success of your organization’s efforts.
The role of leadership
Organizational leaders are employee engagement advocates — they are the influential campaigners and top promoters of an engaged culture. Leadership not only needs to buy in and support employee engagement — they also need to set an example from the top down. Depend on leaders to set the tone, cast a vision, communicate changes made, and update the organization on progress.
The role of HR
HR should take ownership of employee engagement initiatives and hold managers and employees accountable. This team is behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly, including selecting the right employee engagement partner, implementing tools and processes, and managing day-to-day needs and happenings related to engagement efforts.
The role of managers
Managers interact with employees more than anyone else. It’s up to them to build good relationships with each employee, recognize solid performance, provide critical feedback, and to help employees develop and grow. They must create an environment where every individual can thrive and be truly engaged. They also serve as sounding boards and microphones for employee concerns and suggestions.
The role of employees
Employees are your voices on the front lines and your main line of sight into the employee experience. Rely on employees to provide the honest, candid, and actionable insight your organization needs to improve. Then challenge them to participate in employee focus groups to brainstorm new and creative solutions to address their primary concerns.
Employee engagement doesn't always provide a straight and narrow path to workplace success. And these engagement myths are an unnecessary distraction for moving your organization in the right direction. Learn more about how you can get your team on the right track and forge a new path for engagement in the recent webinar, How to Take Your Employee Engagement Strategy to the Next Level.