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.

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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.