There is often a disconnect between leadership and employees when it comes to employee engagement. Leaders are often guilty of thinking their workforce are engaged, and there are always one or two leaders that get a nasty surprise when the engagement results are announced. Leaders are naturally more engaged because they are the ones coming up with the ideas and strategies but are notoriously poor at communicating how this new strategy relates to individual employees. There is also another disconnect that is not always spoken of when it comes to employee engagement, and that is the role HR plays in ensuring the workforce is engaged. This has resulted in a tick the box exercise to employee engagement surveys for a lot of organisations.

Ignoring the results

There is a huge amount of work that goes into an employee engagement survey. The project management of the whole thing can take several months. So, I always wonder, why so few HR or leadership teams seem to do anything tangible with the results. Employees have taken the time to fill out a survey, provide comments and insights into what is and is not working. So why would someone not do something with that information? Your employees are specifically telling you what is and is not working!

I remember a specific example from a previous client, where employees had responded that 40% of them do not have any sort of meeting with their manager on at least a quarterly basis. Naturally, this also meant that the employees felt promotions were not decidedly fairly and that their performance was not assessed properly. The response from HR upon seeing the results, was that it’s the manager’s job to meet their team, so they don’t need to do anything as it didn’t apply to them. Likewise, the leader’s response was that they were too busy to meet their team members to discuss performance regularly. So, they just decided to ignore the results. What I don’t understand is that if an organisation does not plan on truly acting on the results, then why bother with the engagement survey in the first place?

Employees feel their opinion doesn’t matter

This then leads to a secondary outcome, that employee feel unimportant and that their opinions are not valued. After all, if an organisation asks for their views about what is and is not working well, so they can improve it. How else would you expect an employee to feel when the organisation then indirectly communicates that they are not going to do anything tangible with the results. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for HR when it comes to the annual engagement survey, is getting enough employees to complete it. After several years or sharing their opinions, they see no tangible action, therefore why should they bother to complete it again.

Not involving employees in outcomes

For the few organisations that do take some tangible action points, the mistake they make is not including employees in the solutions. Involving employees in the solution is a great way to provide employees with accountability and ownership, empowering them to feel like they do in fact contribute to the organisation. After all, it’s the employees that are involved in the day to day activities that are more likely to have innovative solutions, than those higher up the chain and not experience the issue on a regular basis.

One of the best ways to do this, is to analyse the results and highlight the findings and ask for volunteers from the organisation to tackle the problems themselves. This helps the employees feel like they can create positive change in the organisation and overcomes one of the biggest hurdles for inaction when it comes to addressing engagement issues. This issue is manpower. Most HR teams are overstretched, and leaders have a lot on their plate, so they often do not have time to get as involved as they would like. By having a group of people from the organisation to volunteer to fix the problem themselves, everyone wins.