5 common employee engagement challenges and how to overcome them

If you were to build an engaged workforce – not only in word but also in deed – you would simultaneously be building a powerful employer brand. That's because engaged workplaces are so rare these days. People fortunate to be working in one subsequently speak about it favourably to their friends and family.

This means it isn't a fancy website or swanky videos or staff discounts that'll attract the most talented candidates to your organisation. Sure, that stuff helps, but what has a genuinely profound effect is each existing employee's willingness to be a public advocate of the organisation. Here, then, are five common engagement challenges with some suggestions on how to overcome each of them.

The difficulty with motivation

Too often, leaders implement a one-size-fits all motivational approach that engages some people and disengages others. What they ought to be doing is discovering each individual's unique motivators. For some, it will be variety in their work. For others, it might be a challenging job, or recognition, or more autonomy. Or, as can be seen from our research on employer branding, that the main motivator for Gen Ys is the opportunity to develop their skills.

The prevalence of insecurity

Our research reveals that job security is a big concern for employees around the world (including India). So how do you create job security in environments that are characterised by constant change and unpredictability? Well, you can't. If there's insecurity in your industry, there isn't much you can do about it. You could, though, focus on what you can do. You can provide timely information. You can check in with people to make sure they're okay. You can provide them with coaching and training on how to be more resilient. You can instill hope and optimism by setting inspirational goals, utilising people's strengths, providing feedback, using positive language, and articulating a clear action plan on how the instability will someday be overcome.

The relentless desire for career progression

Here's an obvious statement. Employees, in the absence of career progression, will leave. That we know for sure. You can keep them longer, however, if you regularly give them experiences to add to their résumé. It sounds ironic but it's true. The more employable you make them, the less likely they are to resign (because they know how rare it is to get that kind of development elsewhere). This is a key point because, our research reveals that a prominent reason why employees resign is because their career growth has stalled. 'Growth' is an interesting word. People can still feel as though they're 'growing' professionally without having to step up to another rung on the corporate ladder.

Negativity

Employees are more influenced by their colleagues than by their leaders. It's known as the 'contagion effect'. If they enjoy working with someone, higher rates of engagement are likely. But if they work with someone who's negative and indolent, disengagement will quickly set in. Immediate conversations should be held with people who are persistently negative – irrespective of their quantitative performance. Sometimes they're not aware of the impact their attitude is having on their colleagues. At other times, their negativity is a cry for help, to which you can provide support. Whatever the cause, ignoring the issue disengages others. 

Poor leadership

Our research reveals that baby boomers are more likely to resign due to poor leadership more so than any other generation. An employee's immediate supervisor wields an enormous amount of influence over engagement. The little things they say and do every day end up having the largest impact. That's why it's important to be careful you aren't simply promoting the most technically proficient people to leadership positions. The only individuals who should be given the privilege of leadership should be those who have the character for it. This means they love people, they're authentic, they're ethical, they're focused, and they know how to inspire performance. Then, once they're in that position, it's only fair they're provided with the development they need to excel as people leaders.

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