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10 Barriers to Employee Engagement

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If you’re strug­gling to engage and moti­vate your work­force, check out our bar­ri­ers to employ­ee engage­ment to see where you could be going wrong.

Engaged employ­ees are employ­ees who are involved and enthu­si­as­tic about their work and work­place. Although every sin­gle com­pa­ny wants involved employ­ees, many com­pa­nies around the world are still see­ing crit­i­cal­ly low lev­els of engage­ment. In fact, employ­ee engage­ment is an ongo­ing HR focus and con­cern.

In the past, we have cov­ered how to improve employ­ee engage­ment and how employ­ee engage­ment impacts per­for­mance and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Below, we will look at actu­al bar­ri­ers to employ­ee engage­ment — what might be pre­vent­ing you from hav­ing an active­ly engaged work­force and what you can do about it.

1. Ter­ri­ble Work-Life Balance

2. A Tox­ic Work Environment

3. There’s No Sense of Community

4. There’s Too Much Red Tape

5. Your Soft­ware Is Too Complicated

6. You Don’t Con­duct Reg­u­lar One-on-Ones with Employees

7. Employ­ees Lack Devel­op­ment Opportunities

8. Employes Lack Clar­i­ty about SMART Objectives

9. Employ­ees Aren’t Aligned to Organ­i­sa­tion­al Objectives

10. Lack of Employ­ee Recog­ni­tion and Reward

1. Ter­ri­ble Work-Life Balance

A notable bar­ri­er to employ­ee engage­ment is a poor work-life bal­ance. Com­pa­nies who open­ly encour­age a first-in-last-out cul­ture, and those who dis­cour­age hol­i­days or lunch­es away from the desk, are doing them­selves a huge dis­ser­vice. Employ­ees need a per­son­al life. They need time away from the office to rest and recu­per­ate so they can come back even more moti­vat­ed, refreshed and rar­ing to go.

To pro­mote a good work-life bal­ance, com­pa­ny lead­ers need to walk the walk. They need to be seen leav­ing the office at a rea­son­able time. They shouldn’t be chained to their desks through­out the day and they should take their full annu­al leave allowance. Com­pa­nies can also intro­duce flex­i­ble work­ing options to show they gen­uine­ly val­ue a healthy work-life balance.

2. A Tox­ic Work Environment

Many ele­ments can cause a tox­ic work envi­ron­ment for your employ­ees. It could be bul­ly­ing is over­looked. Maybe you encour­age employ­ees to work so hard they are burn­ing out. Or per­haps you are still using a rank and yank” employ­ee rat­ing sys­tem — a sure-fire way to dis­en­gage your employ­ees. Make an effort to ensure every aspect of your employ­ee expe­ri­ence is moti­va­tion­al and con­ducive to great performance.

To dis­cov­er how your employ­ees feel about your cur­rent com­pa­ny cul­ture and their employ­ee expe­ri­ence, you can con­duct employ­ee sur­veys and focus groups. Of course, you can also dis­cuss issues in your one-on-one per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions. Take feed­back on board and explore how you can make changes to make the envi­ron­ment more pos­i­tive. As you move for­ward, with every deci­sion you make for your busi­ness, you should ask — How will this impact the employ­ee expe­ri­ence at this company?”

3. There’s No Sense of Community

Are there any work socials at your com­pa­ny? Are there oppor­tu­ni­ties for live­ly water­cool­er con­ver­sa­tions and have your employ­ees bond­ed? These are impor­tant ques­tions to ask. Your employ­ees spend 40 hours a week at work and are social crea­tures. We need to feel social bonds at work and we need to feel part of a large, well-func­tion­ing team. Ques­tion whether you have a good sense of com­mu­ni­ty at your com­pa­ny and, if not, explore how you can rem­e­dy this. You might con­sid­er vol­un­teer­ing as a com­pa­ny, sched­ul­ing reg­u­lar socials, or order­ing lunch in one day a week, allow­ing employ­ees to catch up.

4. There’s Too Much Red Tape

Are your employ­ees tied up in red tape? Is it a tri­al to get even the sim­plest task com­plet­ed, due to need­less rules and pro­ce­dures? Not only can this hold up progress and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, but it can affect employ­ee engage­ment lev­els. Need­less bureau­cra­cy is a huge bar­ri­er to employ­ee engage­ment and one that is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple to remove. Try your best to keep sim­plic­i­ty at the heart of your work­place processes.

5. Your Soft­ware Is Too Complicated

Soft­ware should be user-friend­ly. It should be intu­itive and require lit­tle to no train­ing. Employ­ees who are con­stant­ly strug­gling to nav­i­gate your soft­ware will grow tired of it in time. Con­sid­er replac­ing your soft­ware with sim­ple and effec­tive tools your employ­ees will enjoy using.

6. You Don’t Con­duct Reg­u­lar One-on-Ones with Employees

Nev­er under­es­ti­mate the influ­ence and impact a good man­ag­er has on employ­ee engage­ment. As one of its top five rec­om­men­da­tions for improv­ing lev­els of employ­ee engage­ment, Gallup rec­om­mends coach­ing man­agers to hold them account­able. But for man­agers to have a real bear­ing on employ­ee engage­ment, they need to have reg­u­lar con­tact and communication.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with employ­ees is some­thing we’re par­tic­u­lar­ly pas­sion­ate about at Clear Review. That is why we are strong advo­cates of a con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment approach, a sys­tem that involves ongo­ing per­for­mance con­ver­sa­tions. This inter­ac­tion will help employ­ees build strong rela­tion­ships with their man­agers, in turn, facil­i­tating dis­cus­sion regard­ing strengths and per­for­mance con­cerns. Reg­u­lar one-to-ones also ease the deliv­ery of effec­tive feed­back, which is nec­es­sary for opti­mal per­for­mance. Mod­ern man­agers sim­ply can’t be intim­i­dat­ing, dis­tant author­i­tar­i­ans. They need to take on more of a coach­ing role to ensure employ­ees are engaged and enthu­si­as­tic at all times.

7. Employ­ees Lack Devel­op­ment Opportunities

If you want moti­vat­ed, ded­i­cat­ed and engaged employ­ees, you need to offer clear routes for per­son­al and career advance­ment, as well as ongo­ing train­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. Oppor­tu­ni­ties to devel­op will demon­strate to your employ­ees you are invest­ed in them and their career. If there are skills or per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives the employ­ee wish­es to improve upon, have con­ver­sa­tions on how the com­pa­ny can make this hap­pen. If there are avenues the employ­ee can pur­sue to advance with­in the com­pa­ny, make sure they are aware of them.

If you neglect pro­gres­sion in any way, the employ­ee will be left feel­ing they’re stuck in a dead-end career and become demo­ti­vat­ed. This will like­ly result in either an employ­ee who isn’t con­tribut­ing as much as they have the poten­tial to, or in an employ­ee who will jump ship to explore oppor­tu­ni­ties elsewhere.

8. Employ­ees Lack Clar­i­ty about SMART Objectives

At the very least, for employ­ees to be engaged, they need to know and under­stand their goals. How can they be pro­duc­tive and pas­sion­ate about their roles when they don’t know what is expect­ed of them? To coun­ter­act this, SMART objec­tives need to be a focal point of your per­for­mance man­age­ment process. This col­lab­o­ra­tive goal-set­t­ing process should put your employ­ee in the dri­ving seat. Dis­cuss their strengths, skills, and pas­sions and allow them to write their own objec­tives. This will result in an employ­ee who feels an own­er­ship over the direc­tion of their career. They will be more pas­sion­ate about deliv­er­ing on objec­tives they have set themselves.

Learn more about how to set mean­ing­ful SMART objectives

9. Employ­ees Aren’t Aligned to Organ­i­sa­tion­al Objectives

It has become wide­ly recog­nised that trans­par­ent lead­er­ship is the key to devel­op­ing a cul­ture of trust and respect between man­agers and employ­ees. Trans­paren­cy allows for employ­ee align­ment, which is crit­i­cal in terms of employ­ee engage­ment. For an employ­ee to under­stand how and why their efforts are rel­e­vant to the organ­i­sa­tion as a whole, man­agers should take the time to pro­vide con­text and dis­cuss organ­i­sa­tion­al goals. This way, an employ­ee feels they are val­ued and respect­ed. They are also bet­ter able to design their SMART objec­tives to align with com­pa­ny goals.

10. Lack of Employ­ee Recog­ni­tion and Reward

Recog­ni­tion is impor­tant to employ­ees, and it is increas­ing­ly clear it is a huge dri­ver for employ­ee engage­ment. Even the most engaged employ­ee can become demo­ti­vat­ed and frus­trat­ed if their efforts go unac­knowl­edged. If employ­ee recog­ni­tion isn’t some­thing your com­pa­ny pri­ori­tis­es, this is some­thing that needs to change. 

When an employ­ee recog­ni­tion pro­gramme is in place, employ­ee turnover can reduce by as much as 24%, staff frus­tra­tion lev­els are 28% low­er, and engage­ment can increase by an incred­i­ble 60%.

Recog­ni­tion doesn’t need to come at a high cost. A sim­ple thank-you can go a long way, and​“employ­ee of the month” pro­grammes are a sim­ple way of giv­ing a shout-out to a high per­form­ing employ­ee. If your team has exceed­ed expec­ta­tions or put in a lot of effort, you could pro­vide a free lunch as a cel­e­bra­tion. Get cre­ative and put effort into intro­duc­ing and main­tain­ing a cul­ture of appre­ci­a­tion and encouragement.

To find out how Clear Review, our inno­v­a­tive per­for­mance appraisal soft­ware, can boost the per­for­mance, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and engage­ment of your employ­ees, book a per­son­al demo today.