4 ways your employee engagement programme could be doing more harm than good

Your team is one of your business’ greatest assets. Yet, according to Gallup, just 24% of employees in Australia are engaged – meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and innovating in their work and workplace – with 60% not engaged and 16% actively disengaged.


Many workplaces attempt employee engagement without considering the repercussions of getting it wrong. Here are some of the signs of negative employee engagement and how to correct them.

Introducing ambiguity

Employees love positive feedback, but praise has its downsides. A university study reveals praise is only effective if it’s perceived by the receiving party as sincere. And if you are too broad in your statements of praise, employees may be confused about the specific actions you’re trying to promote.

The key to avoiding ambiguity and making sure everyone is on the same page is to be detailed about positive behaviours. Managers should also commend great work when they see it happening, rather than saving up those instances for performance reviews.

Beware of anonymity

Researchers believe anonymous feedback can create three serious risks:

  1. It reinforces the impression that it isn’t safe to openly speak up.
  2. It can start a ‘witch-hunt’ to find out who said what, detracting from key issues.
  3. It discourages a level of specificity that’s required to effect meaningful change.

To avoid the trust deficit that can result from anonymous feedback, it’s important to create a work culture fuelled by meaningful interaction between management and staff. Conduct events such as roundtables, be grateful for feedback and demonstrate transparency from the top down.

False empowerment

Research from Griffith University shows that empowerment is often incorrectly defined and can create false expectations. This can lead to inconsistency and a poor customer experience, potentially harming your bottom line.

Sometimes empowerment is a privilege. Unfortunately, not everyone can be autonomous in their role, and not all employees can be equally empowered. For newer, less experienced and less capable team members, it’s critical to set boundaries when it comes to what they can and can’t do independently. Creating clear delegations and escalation points, as well as solid training, will help staff understand their appropriate decision-making capabilities.

Lack of understanding and productivity

Targets and measurements are great for assessing employees, but are they hampering what you’re actually trying to achieve? It’s easy to get bogged down in meeting KPIs and giving scores, but if they’re not actively pushing individuals and teams toward success, they can be destructive and time-consuming.

A key trend in business is scrapping or radically altering performance reviews. Some global giants have introduced systems of continuous feedback, rather than once-per-year reviews; or are instead looking to the future, rather than assessing past performances. Even if you’re holding periodic reviews, much can be learnt from new ideas about the best ways to engage with talent.

Setting up for success

Futureproofing your employee engagement is all about planning and creating a positive, communicative culture. As the saying goes: to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.

Recommended resource: We’ve put together a complimentary guide, The Most Impressive, the Most Unexpected, the Most Innovative Employee Benefits and Perks to deliver exclusive insights about employee benefits benchmarking.


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