Why Employee Engagement Ideas Fail | Leadership 101

Gotta love the internet. Type "employee engagement ideas" into Google and you will get about 4.4 million results.

Many of these web pages and articles tout "12 Ideas To Improve Employee Engagement" or "Top Ten Ideas To Improve Employee Engagement". 

When you dig a bit deeper and investigate the top ten ideas, they...surprise surprise...look very similar to 10 of the 12 ideas listed in the "12 Ideas..." article...and they are equally likely to flop when rolled out to employees prematurely. 

In fact, one of the most common complaints we hear from managers that have a genuine interest and desire to increase the level of engagement their employees experience is that all of their great ideas seem to go nowhere and they can't figure out why. 

One unfortunate senior manager commented that he had spent over $11,000 on employee engagement consulting a few years ago and has yet to see any meaningful widespread improvement.

Now, to be clear: this isn't to say that the aforementioned efforts to increase employee engagement accomplished nothing. Rather they failed to meet the engagement improvement project's defined short and long term objectives. 

Virtually every improvement project we have witnessed has resulted in affecting at least one person (although in some cases, not much more!)

The reason why many otherwise fantastic employee engagement ideas fail to achieve their desired outcomes is perhaps best outlined in our seminar, "Cart Before The Horse: Why You Must Clear The Old To Make Way For The New"

The primary message in this seminar is that to successfully change or improve anything, it is necessary to address, deal with, and clear the way of all of the old "stuff" that has been preventing you from moving forward.

Only then are you free to progress towards your desired new state of being unhindered and without the likelihood of regressing back to where you started or rendering your efforts ineffective.

It can be heartbreaking to see this initial step forgotten or simply omitted BEFORE any employee engagement idea is implemented because, more often than not, we know what the outcome will be.  

Consider a typical workplace that has issues with employee engagement (or disengagement, as it were.)  Employees that are not engaged are not happy. They speak negatively about their employer, their manager, and their role and responsibilities.

Employees can become resentful of what they perceive others have that they believe they don't. They are easily distracted and what work they do complete is often of mediocre quality.

Those employees that become apathetic rather than negative contribute little of value to the team or department which puts added stress on their coworkers to make up for the shortfall, leading to increased tension amongst employees. 

This can become a powder keg of potential conflict. 

Introducing any tactic to improve employee engagement into this environment is the equivalent to building your dream home on a junk pile. No matter how good the builder is, the quality of the materials used, and the care taken to build the house properly, it is only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down because the ground hasn't first been properly cleared of old debris and a solid foundation dug.

Most strategies and tactics to improve employee engagement focus on strengthening the connection between the worker and the business.

Common strategies include: linking employee performance to corporate goals; developing inspirational leadership; emphasizing professional development opportunities; and listening to employee input, to list a few. 

However, for any of these to succeed, employees need to be in a place where they want to become engaged.

They must have a desire to become a valuable, contributing member of the team again. 

Unfortunately, as long as all of the old negative attitudes, behaviours, and conflicts still exist, employees are simply too distracted to see the benefit of re-engagement. They aren't interested in professional development when they are still too focused on how they believe they were wronged by their coworker or manager.  

This is why it is so critical to implement a "pre-engagement" phase with the purpose of clearing all the old negative attitudes, resolving unresolved conflicts, and providing staff with the tools they need to effectively deal with any residual behaviours they may encounter, before attempting to re-engage staff. 

This preparatory stage will ensure that staff is mentally and emotionally in a place where they are willing to buy-in to the improvement idea and willingly participate.

Employee engagement ideas are extremely valuable tools that can be used by management to revitalize their employee base. 

The key is to properly prepare the workforce for the implementation of these ideas by first helping them to clear their ranks of their heads of all of the old perceptions (and people, if need be) that led them down the path to disengagement in the first place. By taking the time to properly clear the land and dig the foundation, the house you build will stand strong for decades to come.

Improving employee engagement first starts with the willingness of a manager to be seen as a true leader in the eyes of staff. Download the Cooperative Action™ Credo to learn 6 simple leadership behaviours that can help you to become a more trusted and respected leader to your employees.