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The Engagement Strategies Every Leader Needs in Their Toolkit

Updated: Mar 30

Over the past 20 years, companies have thrown a great deal of money at the problem of employee disengagement and turnover. Companies invested in ping pong tables and remodeled workplaces and there have been thousands of articles and research papers written on the topic.

And yet, according to Gallup, the number of actively engaged employees in the United States has averaged less than 33 percent over the past decade. Despite all the research and writings and contemplation, we’re flunking employee engagement.

There’s a reason why work isn’t working, and it starts with the realization we’re not on the right path. Far too few organizations have modernized their workforce cultures. As a result, employee turnover continues to be problematic. 

Fact: Companies that rely on Industrial Era management practices struggle to engage the talent of workers raised in the Post-Industrial Era, also known as the Talent Economy.

What worked in the past isn’t working anymore. We need a better understanding of what employee engagement looks like in the Talent Economy, and what organizations must do to achieve it. 

Here’s a list of common workforce myths — mostly carried over from the Industrial Era workforce – contributing to widespread turnover, disengagement, and decline.

Myth: Employee engagement happens naturally

It’s called the Talent Economy for a reason. Talent is driving today’s economy, which means talent must be the priority. Employee engagement doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t a one-and-done process. It isn’t a program or initiative of the business; it is the business. 

Companies that understand the importance of employee engagement go beyond the annual engagement survey or company picnic: they re-design jobs, change the work environment, add new benefits, continuously develop managers, and invest in their people. Relationship-building begins on day one of an employee’s job and remains a continual effort.

Myth: Employee engagement is an HR effort

When employee engagement sits solely in HR, the team will inevitably realize the challenges associated with talent development and management, then will be forced to navigate the channels of the organization to get buy-in and approval for changes. This process creates delays and complications, and sooner or later the HR team gets frustrated and morale plummets. 

The outcome is never good when the ‘people people’ are feeling less than thrilled about their work. Remove the silos that prohibit your organization from approaching talent development and relationship-building efforts as a team. It takes the involvement of engaged leaders, committed to an organization’s long-term success, to make talent the priority throughout the entire organization. 

Myth: Younger generations are impossible to engage

Employee turnover is most acute among younger generations. This information spurs blame and stereotyping, as in ‘Young people have no concept of loyalty, don’t value experience, have no work ethic, and should just do what they’re told.’ 

Let’s be clear: an organization’s inability to engage talent comes down to the decisions and actions of the people working within it. Either you are working in an environment that is inclusive of young people or you’re not. The answer is apparent in whether the organization can recruit and retain the talent of young people.

Dedicate more energy towards planning for the company’s future. Be open to new people with new ideas. Involve young talent in the process of creating an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun. Make room for young people to succeed and participate, and they will wholeheartedly engage.

Myth: Hire for skills

In the Industrial Era, skills were enough. That’s not the case anymore. The most engaging companies tend to be passionate about their missions and they make sure the people they hire to work there feel the same way. Skills can be taught, but passion can’t. 

Myth: More fun = more engaged

Ping pong tables, snacks, beer, and beanbag chairs are fun. But your company doesn’t have to have these ‘perks’ to engage employees. 

Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to the organization, the team, and the work. You didn’t choose to be best friends with someone because he has a ping pong table in his basement. Playing ping pong table might make hanging out at his house fun, but that’s not why you consider him your closest friend. 

Perks can potentially serve for attraction, but they aren’t going to serve for retention. Employee engagement is the result of a great relationship, and fun is only one part of the relationship.

Myth: Engagement is driven by managers, not the CEO

We rarely hear people talk about leadership engagement. Perhaps that’s because we just expect leaders to be engaged and committed to the relationship they have with their employees, but data proves otherwise.

Leaders recognize listening to employees is important, yet many severely limit when and how much they listen and rely heavily on annual employee surveys to equip them with data. Important leaders are dialoguing with their teams on a regular basis via town halls, think tanks, video messages, and more.

We’re in the Talent Economy. People are driving today’s economy, which means we’re all in the relationship-building business. CEOs included.

It’s time to modernize and prioritize how you build relationships. Employee engagement is possible, but you’re not going to achieve it utilizing the same practices of the past. Let’s get to work on making work “work” again. Send us a message if your organization is ready for restructuring.


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