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Employee engagement definition can be explained in simple words: it’s the emotional commitment that employee has to the organization and its goals.
It means that emotionally engaged employees care about their work and their company and they don’t just work for a paycheck.
Unfortunately, we can observe many myths that arose around employee engagement over the years. It results in managers having wrong opinions about their employees and what motivates them. To set things straight, let’s break these myths and tell the truth about employee engagement.
1. Employees are happy because they’re lazy and don’t do much
Some employers think that people are happy in the workplace just because they’re lazy. They enjoy free meals, coke machines, company’s car and cell phone, but they don’t give much in return.
Rodd Wagner is the vice president of employee engagement strategy for the consulting firm BI Worldwide and the author of Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They’re Real People.
He says that there’s a terrible assumption about human nature, coming from the anti–happiness crowd. Employers “have a picture of a happy employee sitting on the back porch with their feet up reading magazine for 40 hours a week. The “pursuit of happiness,” as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, is not a hedonic sleeping in; it’s a purpose-driven happiness.”
In means that people actually like working, they like developing themselves and they like growing. All that they need are proper conditions and positive environment to achieve it. Without being stressed or yelled at, people can blossom.
2. High paychecks equal employee retention
At some point you can keep employees engaged in the company because of the solid paycheck, but you need to realize that not all people are primarily motivated by money. “Fair and sustainable pay is not a motivation – it’s a table stake.”
For a long time, companies solved the retention problem through money and rewards which worked just fine. But these days, employees expect something more: recognition, elastic work time, home office – the things that make their jobs easier to execute and help them to keep the work–life balance. They also require possibilities for self–development, in form of going to conferences or attending to courses for which a company covers all the costs.
According to Magi Graziano, the CEO of Conscious Hiring® and Development, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent.
For 80% of the working population the money is not a lever that leads to engagement and buy in. 40% of people want workplace rewards in terms of more educational opportunities, rewarding and challenging projects, and a sense that they can further their knowledge and career path as a result of working with a specific company or in a certain role. The other 40% of workers want to feel emotionally connected to the mission and service of the organization and to the customers they serve.
If money would be the only mechanism that makes people stay in a company, it could create a gap between new and old employees. You can only imagine how bad it is for employees morale.
Plus, when it gets really tough in the workplace, it’s often not the money that keeps people going, it’s the people, the atmosphere in the workplace, the possibility of growing and the passion they have for the job.
3. Employee independence is necessary for performance
Every now and then we can hear that employees value their independence and management should not interfere with their projects. They should only determine the direction in which employees should go and approves employee’s vacation. While this approach might work on majority of people, it doesn’t apply to everyone, especially to young people who still gain experience.
Here are some reasons. First is that some of the employees, when “left alone,” don’t do much until the deadline is close. The other reason is that some of them might feel thrown in the deep without manager’s supervision, which can be stressful. They might feel disconnected and even ignored. So yes, some people need guidance and a helping hand that they can depend on. Or they need someone who will control their progress toward their goals.
The advice here is to not throw all of the young employees to the “millennials” sack and claim that they work best when they can manage themselves. Managers need to know their employees and steer them in different directions, which is hard but doable and gives the best results when it comes to employee engagement.
4. Recognition programs are a relict of the past
Don’t ever think that! Recognition is a core of engagement and I don’t think that it will ever change. People, no matter how much money they get, always seek for appreciation, respect, a simple “thank you” when then work for somebody else. Can you imagine somebody who’s not getting these and is still engaged at work? I can’t.
Creating a recognition program is inexpensive and has a big return on investment.
When employees feel appreciated and at peace with work, they can focus on their job, instead of thinking about how bad they feel or what are the KPI of their tasks.
Where can you start? You can conduct internal and anonymous surveys among employees. You can ask about their needs, expectations, and improvements they desire. Since it’s anonymous, employees might tell you more than they would in 1 on 1 meeting, which is a good thing! But only if you’re willing to improve these segments in your company. Otherwise, after two surveys with no changes afterwards, employees will no longer trust you and they won’t be sharing their thoughts.
5. The company is enough to keep employees
Another myth is that people are engaged in work and stick with a company just because it’s a successful company. It might be true at the first few months of their work. Young employees are attracted by promising start–ups and want to be a part of something great. And let’s be honest, successful companies these days create amazing products that are easy to fall in love with. But even though employees want to be engaged in developing such product, they might leave the company despite it.
What became obvious last years is that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses. When a person is a good employee and loves their job, but completely don’t agree with their boss, they will never be fully engaged.
So, never assume that your product and a successful company is everything that your employees will ever need. They won’t have a problem working in a company with the product they might not like so much, but they will love people in it.
They won’t have a problem with changing a company, and work on a product that might not be that amazing, but the manager is.
There are a lot of myths when it comes to employee engagement. Some obsolete assumptions and schemes that are difficult to break. The truth is that most people like working and they value being a part of the team.
They just need a positive environment, recognition from their bosses and possibility to develop themselves.
If you want to blow the whistle on employee engagement myths read my post Employee Engagement Ideas You Can Use for Your Business.