What do your employees even do?

My inbox and timeline are consistently filled with employee engagement tips. Every day I get something from a vendor or two trying to pitch an HR Tech tool to solve employee engagement or a white paper on effective employee engagement strategy. No matter how well written or how well thought out these tools are, they almost always miss an important factor.

The secret?

Just kidding, I’ll tell you

You can’t solve employee engagement without the employee. I know you just rolled your eyes (I can see you) because we already know this, but I see it all the time. You have a meeting with great discussion about what to roll out next, how to bridge the gap, and timelines for the next three emails but you still don’t include the employees. If you do include employees you get feedback and say “oh, we can’t do that” and immediately pivot and go in another direction. Your employees deserve more information though, why can’t we do that?

The absolute number one thing missing from a more effective employee engagement strategy is you knowing and understanding what the employees at your organization do. No one believes that you value them once they figure out that, at best, you know their job title. No value, no engagement. When you roll out initiatives that have nothing to do with actual employee pain points, you are likely making engagement worse. You shouldn’t make employees adapt to how corporate wants things done and figure out how to serve your customers; you should let your employees serve your customers and let corporate adapt to the needs of the employees.

I absolutely do NOT mean survey your employees, I mean TALK to them

Throwing an ice cream social or sending company swag or buying a new tech tool only puts a band-aid over the real issue. Put the brakes on all the planning you’re doing right now and take some time to get to know your employees. Really find out about the work they do, and why they do it. Build from there. Then at your next ice cream social (if you must have one), celebrate their work, celebrate them.

I’ll always tell y’all that we over-complicate the HR function, we add unnecessary layers and extra meetings but employee engagement talk has gone too far off path. You can’t solve your employee engagement issues by talking to other HR Pros if you haven’t talked to your employees first. When you do talk to your employees, make sure you listen- don’t explain away their feedback and mold it to fit what you think the problem is, really listen to them. I’m telling you once you build this foundation, your employee engagement has potential to soar. That’s when you need to consider the tech tools to ENHANCE it, don’t kid yourself for one second into thinking that technology = engagement because it does not. Its only a piece of the puzzle and no one is really interested in using your tech tool if they know you aren’t really interested in them.

Would your employees hire you?

I enjoy a good conference, and I especially enjoy a good speaker who is reinforcing things I agree with in a room full of thousands of people. I realize that means I’m participating in a self-serving conference experience and not necessarily something that pushes me out of my comfort zone and grows me professionally, but it hasn’t always been that way for me.

When I started attending conferences, I was learning new things in every session. I was opened up to a whole new world of HR and how we can improve what we do and how we do it. Having been in the conference loop for the last 10 years now, I’m realizing that I’m either picking sessions that sound like something I would agree with, or we’ve been basically saying the same things for the last 10 years.

I don’t say that lightly. I think there is still a lot of value in the conversations we are having, but we need to be mindful of the conversations and if we are evolving them or not. We also have to consider, who are we sending to these conferences? If I am hearing the same content for years, maybe it’s time to send a lower level HR professional for them to get inspired and hear this content for the first time.

For all of us who have been listening to the same ideas and agreeing with how things should be for the last several years, it’s time to change the conversation. It’s time to take what you are hearing at conferences and put it to work.

I get it, it’s not easy to do. You have to go to work and pitch the executive team on the things you want to do. You have to sell hiring managers and line managers on it. You have to instill confidence in the team that will have to carry out what you are recommending, but don’t over think it. Lets not make this more complicated than it has to be. Consider one thing, if the employees at your organization had the opportunity to hire you for their HR needs OR outsource it, what would they do? Would they choose you? Why or why not? What can you do about it?

It’s easy to hear speakers say things that you think are wonderful ideas, but the only way to know if it will work in your organization is to talk to your employees. Find out what they need, find out what they aren’t happy with, just talk to the humans that you are a resource for.

If you don’t care if they would choose you or not, its time for you to get out of HR. We wish you well and hope you have a wonderful experience in your next career choice, but its time for you to leave us now.

Where do we go from here? #SHRM15

#SHRM15 the conference is a wrap! We had a lot of fun, it was really hot, I met great people, hung out with old friends, and had a classy time!


Now that we’ve learned lots of great tips and tools and received some wonderful advice, it’s time to get to work! Where should we start? Well let’s talk about engagement.. Engagement is something we learned a LOT about this week. Let me recap:

  • Throw employee engagement surveys away
  • Use these tools to increase employee engagement
  • Send employee engagement surveys more often
  • Employee engagement is all wrong
  • Rebuild your employee engagement

we are screwed

All of these tips are from different sessions that happened at #SHRM15. Depending on who you listened to, you could be totally confused now. If you are confused, let me help you out. Let’s start with what your organization needs. What metrics are you not happy with in your organization? Where can your organization stand to improve? What works for my organization may not work for yours, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share what we did with you. I share with you what worked for us, what challenges we had to overcome, why certain things worked better than others and then you get to decide what applies to your organization and which route you are going to try. Don’t get caught up in the mixed messages you hear at conference, rather listen closely and take notes as these presenters are sharing with you what works for them and/or their clients. Identify your internal pain points and use the best practices shared with you at conference to start building the answer for your organization.

I love conference and I get a TON of great ideas while at conference and I know you get a ton of ideas as well! What are some ideas that you had while at conference this year? What are you planning on implementing in your organization now that we are back to work?

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All this talk about employee engagement and how can you better engage your workforce and other nonsense just makes my head hurt. I love our blogosphere and I love hearing others stories from the workplace, but for crying out loud if you want to know what your workforce wants get off your ass and go to talk to them. Don’t you dare send them a survey. “We want to know how we can better provide engagement for you, our valued employee. Please take a few minutes to complete the included survey.” Don’t guess and don’t try to interpret their actions. Just talk to them. There are several things that we can use best practices to guide us on, but for the love of Mike if your people are the difference in  your organization then aren’t you saying your people are different from the people in every other organization? Yet you are trying to treat them the same as every other organization treats them? Maybe your organizations difference isn’t your people, but how you treat your people? Chew on that.