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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.

Learn more about employ­ee engagement

Take a look at our free col­lec­tion of resources on employ­ee engage­ment to find out how it links to per­for­mance and how you can improve engage­ment. Our range of resources includes our pop­u­lar eBook on Pow­er­ing per­for­mance with engaged employees.”

The key to employee engagement

Learn more about employee engagement from our collection of free resources. You'll discover how you can boost performance and productivity through improving employee engagement.

Find out more