Busting the myths around creating employee engagement

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Annette Franz

Customer experience blogger and expert Annette Franz discusses what employee engagement is and what it is not. And, more importantly, how employers and employees can work together to achieve it

I recently saw a note from a reporter with a reputable online publication asking for sources who had used company perks, as well as app, to track rewards and perks in the workplace, noting that he was writing an article about employee engagement.

It's great that there's an ongoing spotlight on employee engagement because it's still at an all-time low. But let's just all say it in unison one last time: perks and employee engagement should not be used in the same sentence. One has nothing to do with the other.

SEE ALSO: 7 Transformative ways to encourage employee engagement and drive an exceptional CX

What is employee engagement?

Here's what employee engagement looks like, according to Gallup: Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.

What is employee engagement not?

Employee Engagement is not:

  • a strategy
  • amandate
  • employee motivation
  • employee recognition
  • something that is "done"
  • an organisational competence
  • a morale booster
  • performance goals
  • a reward programme
  • an investment
  • an incentive
  • a survey
  • a training programme
  • technology-driven
  • a management style
  • a party every Friday afternoon
  • unlimited free food and similar perks
  • a plaque on the wall
  • a shirt with your logo on it
  • education reimbursement
  • employee satisfaction
  • employee happiness

The list goes on. I'm not making this stuff up. These examples all come from well-meaning bloggers and reporters over the years who want to create a quick fix to engage employees, but there is no quick fix On top of that, a lot of what is written about what employee engagement often defines the "employee experience" in general.

A confluence of passion and purpose

No one can make an employee engaged. Perks and rewards do not drive employee engagement. That engagement comes from within the employee, and yet the company has a role in it as well. When there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organisation does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment – then we have employee engagement.

What can employers do?

Employee engagement involves two parties: the employee and the employer. What's the employer's part in this equation? It's all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:

  • Hiring the right people for the right roles
  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose and values of the organisation
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company performance and how employees' contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance and more

What can employees do?

Employees obviously have ownership in this thing called engagement: it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:

  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose and values of the organisation – and ensuring alignment with all of them
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes

I'm sure there are more conditions for both sides of the house, but as you can see, neither side lists anything about perks!