EngagementRemoving disengagement from employee engagement programs

Removing disengagement from employee engagement programs

The benefits of employee engagement are unbeknownst to few. But what if the engagement programs themselves are flawed, and have an adverse effect? HRD Thought Leader Debra Corey addresses this risk and outlines how to avoid it.

30-second summary:

  • Employee engagement programs are necessary and effective, but often flawed
  • To combat this, employers must test every company rule with the employees in mind
  • They must rigorously test every system and process
  • Finally, they should be as transparent as possible, consistently communicating timelines.

I don’t need to tell you the importance of employee engagement – its effects on revenue and business longevity are practically self-explanatory at this point. As a result, we spend countless hours developing and delivering a wide array of engagement programs.

All well and good, but have we ever thought of the disengagement that we build into these employee engagement programs? This is something I talk and write about quite often, but a conversation I had recently with a friend brought it to the front of my mind.

This friend (let’s call them Alex) received a call from their boss, instructing them to put their goals into the company’s performance management system by the end of the day: doable in most scenarios, but Alex had just moved to a new team two weeks ago and hadn’t yet been given a chance to discuss or agree on any goals.

So what did Alex do? What most of us would do: fabricate bogus goals. HR insisted they had to be done by the end of the day: no excuses, no exceptions.

Hearing this story both embarrassed and frustrated me. It embarrassed me because I’m sure I’ve done the same thing to my managers and employees in the past. A deadline is a deadline, right? But it frustrated me because they let a deadline create such a senseless, wasteful and disengaging situation for their employees.

Unfortunately the story got even worse: Alex was faced with an array of technical hurdles when trying to access the performance management system. Though plenty of information had been provided on how it all worked, there appeared to be no link to access the system itself. Second, after eventually finding the link, Alex discovered that the system wasn’t able to handle the different computers employees were using, and had been optimized specifically for Windows systems.

Again, both embarrassment and frustration were the prevailing sentiments. Why? Well, if this had been a product that the company was selling to customers, they most definitely would have tested it to make sure that the user experience was as positive and intuitive as possible. So why hadn’t the same been done for their employees?

Both experiences, to external and internal customers, deliver an ROI to the business, so both require the same level of focus and attention, making sure that the experience is easy and seamless.

Like all employee engagement programs, this process was intended to encourage, motivate and grow employees. Unfortunately, instead it drove Alex (and presumably other employees) to distraction and made them feel forgotten and unappreciated.

Since this isn’t how we want our employees to feel, let me share with you three tips to prevent this from happening at your company, ultimately removing disengagement from your employee engagement programs.

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1. Question each and every rule

I’m a believer in rules: we need them to help treat people fairly and make processes run smoothly. However, I also believe that we often neglect to think the rules through before implementing them. This can slow our processes down, create roadblocks, and often spark unnecessary frustrations and disengagement.

Take Alex’s situation: sure, it was important for the company to establish goals and have them all in the system, but surely getting this done promptly was less important than getting it done in a proper, considered manner?

In this instance, wouldn’t it have been better to bend the rules? This would have given Alex extra time to settle into the new team, allowing time to establish goals in a more meaningful way. Bottom line: question whether a rule is a good one or a bad one – an engager or a disengager.

2. Test, test, and test again

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made over the years is not robustly testing my processes before they are rolled out. Yes, I’ve tested them within the HR team, but often not to a wider audience. Big mistake! We need a diverse set of eyes reviewing our processes to make sure that nothing is missing or wrong.

Take Alex’s situation. Had this approach to testing been applied, I’m confident that someone would have picked up on the flaws and pushed to get them changed. So go out there and test your processes over and over again, bringing in as many people as possible. Ultimately, you’ll be increasing your chances that a potential pitfall (and disengager) will be spotted.

3. Communicate timelines over and over again

And finally, when it comes to timelines, it’s critical to communicate them over and over again, doing so in a variety of ways to make sure they are acknowledged and actioned. Now I know this can be challenging, as often people look right past HR’s emails and notifications, but challenge yourself to get creative and find other ways to do this often and to everyone so that timelines are not missed or cause problems like they did for Alex.

To end, let me take you back to the beginning, to our objective of building and driving employee engagement, and encourage you to keep this in mind as you develop and review your processes. If you build in engagement and avoid the various pitfalls that cause disengagement, your people and your organization should grow and thrive by every key metric.

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