Ping pong tables. Pet insurance. Parental leave. For two decades now, employers have added to their suite of benefits in hopes of retaining their talent. It isn’t working.
Employee disengagement has continued to creep up, even as employers have thrown more perks at the problem, remodeled their office spaces, and introduced remote work options.
Still, employee turnover has persisted.
Because the perks aren’t addressing the real problem.
As a workforce consultant and researcher, I’ve learned there are several myths and misunderstandings as to what drives employee engagement and how to achieve it.
What so many employers struggle to understand is that society’s relationship with work and employment has forever shifted. The era of punching the clock is over. People are no longer dependent on employers for money or jobs. Today, there are ample jobs and opportunities available, and people are free to pursue their interests and passions. Employees don’t have to endure an unhappy work environment, and they expect to be in the company of others who respect and value their skills, ideas, and opinions.
Here and now, work is about relationships more than it is about the work itself. Employee engagement isn’t influenced by money or other benefits. Employee engagement is about belonging.
Here are five myths organizations repeatedly mistake as truths when trying to improve employee retention and engage their teams.
Myth #1: Employee engagement happens naturally
Research indicates most CEOs only look at annual employee engagement surveys once a year and don’t discuss engagement with their employees. Employee engagement doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t a one-and-done process. Relationship-building must begin on day one of an employee’s job and be a continual effort. Companies that understand the importance of employee engagement go beyond the annual survey or company picnic: they re-design jobs, change the work environment, continuously develop managers, and invest in their people.
Myth #2: Employee engagement is an HR effort
In the past, executives were detached from employees, and relationship-building was a task assigned to an individual or department. As a result, many companies delegate employee engagement initiatives and tracking to the HR department. This approach no longer makes sense. Achieving higher engagement requires a commitment from everyone, prioritizing and driving relationship-building throughout the entire team.
Myth #3: Young people are impossible to engage
Young people have no concept of loyalty, want constant feedback, want everything online, don’t value experience, have no work ethic, are demanding, annoying, and lazy. If your organization is struggling to engage young talent, look within. Do you make excuses and blame others? Does the organization have a culture that’s open to new people and new ideas? Are people treated fairly and with respect? If you can’t confidently answer yes to all of these questions, the problem may lie within the organization.
Myth #4: Hire for skills
Companies with highly engaged workforces tend to be passionate about their missions and diligent about making sure the people they hire to work there feel the same way. In the past, when a job was just a job, skills were enough. Now, screening for culture and job fit takes precedence. You can teach someone job skills, but you can’t teach someone to feel passionate about the work, company, or mission.
Myth #5: More fun = more engaged
Employee engagement is the outcome of creating an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun. Engaged employees feel an emotional connection to the work and the team. Contrary to popular belief, that connection isn’t solely influenced by ping pong tables, snacks, and beanbag chairs. Employee engagement is the result of a great relationship – one steeped in trust, belonging, respect, and security. Fun is only one small part.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has with an organization and its goals. This commitment means engaged employees care about their work and the organization. Employee engagement thrives on emotions, experiences, and relationships.
Do you know what inspires your employees or what hurdles prevent them from becoming engaged employees? If not, you should find out.
Engaging people is impossible until you understand them, which can only come from time spent pursuing a relationship with them.
I recently presented a keynote on the topic of generations for directors of summer camps. It was nostalgic, reflecting on the time I worked as a camp counselor. Sadly, what was true then is still true today: People leave the industry because they are overworked, lack training, and lack a sense of belonging.
Turnover is happening right now across all industries and geographies for these exact same reasons. Will we ever learn from our mistakes? It’s not about money or perks. It’s about putting people first. As soon as employers do that, we won’t have a talent problem anymore.
Is your organization ready for the future of work? Let’s work together to tackle turnover and employee disengagement.