They are doomed to failure.
Arms-length employee engagement strategies are those littered with surveys conceived and, too often administered by third-party agencies working at arms length, and displayed in dashboards and discussed in principles that you can overlay or paint on to the same behaviors and tactics and misaligned incentives and communication that created the disengaged workforce in the first place. Their messages are marked with buzzwords and PR department wordsmithing. Pretty on a website. Empty in the halls and cubicles.
I see and read a lot of these. For too many, the tone reflects an Us vs Them hierarchy with Us being the visionaries and solutions and Them being the trogolodytes and problems Us endures to reach their goals and receive the rewards Us finds meaningful.
Every initiative has its first steps. After 60 - 70 years of corporate management philosophies marked by treating employees as cogs on an assembly line, easily replaceable, and incentivized as you incentivize a machine - order it to run faster, longer; feed it more fuel; program in a new behavior - it is understandable that management and executives continue to see employees as machines or wants to see them as employees but continues to use language that reflects the entrenched mindset of employee-is-cog, a resource to be ‘managed’ and controlled.
Every journey begins with a first step. Many stumbles and failures will occur. There is nothing wrong with failures and stumbles in life. Matter of fact I fail often, even daily sometimes. I take the hit, apologize to those who’ve suffered, assess and correct. Repeating the same mistake makes me pay attention. Pain is life’s way of getting our attention. It forces me to pay closer attention to the steps I take to correct my actions. Make them smaller, take them faster or slower, pay closer attention to their results and THERE there’s the disconnect.
Learning a new habit requires 60 days for people wanting to change. So, how long will companies and their management, forced to change, require?
It may take awhile. The difference with arms-length employee engagement strategies and their predictable failures is the too-frequent lack of learning post failure. The failure serves not to teach but to reinforce preconceptions.
The employees nod their heads at the empty promises and the lack of follow-through. Same old - same old, they’ll say. Same zebra, different stripes. Management doesn’t care. This is another buzzword they’ll throw around on posters and powerpoint slides.
Management and executives will nod their heads and say I knew this employee engagement thing was useless. It’s a job; we pay them. If they don’t like it, find somewhere else. The good ones do.
Before you start slapping on, painting on, an employee engagement strategy ask yourself a few questions:
Are you engaged? Are you engaged with yourself and your strengths and talents and motivations?
- You can take the StrengthsFinder Test to help answer this question.
Are you engaged with your employees? Forget platitudes and surveys.
Do you know their name? Do you use it?
Do you stop by and say hi?
Do you share your failures?
Do you forgive them for theirs?
Do you make their meetings meaningful?
Those are meaningful, cost-effective ways to engage with your employees. Today. No meetings, no board approvals, no powerpoint presentations, no employee manual changes, required.
If you’re not engaging with them like this, in ways that are meaningful to ... them, why should your employees consider YOUR new employee engagement strategy and its many-questioned survey administered by a third-party who’s only engagement is with its goals, meaningful to them?
Moving past arms-length employee engagement strategies means engaging with your employees, bringing them inside your comfort zone, and ... nothing. You're either engaging with your employees or you're engaging with a stranger about your employees.
Which one do you think will work?