Why Are Employee Engagement Initiatives Falling Short Of Expectations?

Posted by Matt Manning on 1 December 2015

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The field of employee engagement has steadily gained momentum as business leaders are recognizing the link between happy employees and satisfied customers. However, the consensus among the many research sources tracking employee engagement show that there is a large gap between the amount of resources being put into these programs, and their actual effects on creating engagement.

APPrise Mobile recently conducted a survey with 300 communications professionals to determine the efficacy of their employee engagement initiatives. The study found that while 71% of businesses have completed an employee engagement initiative, only 33% of the employees would classify themselves as fully engaged. This study also showed that 50% of employers conduct regular baseline surveys, with the most common engagement strategies including having an open door policy, allowing telecommuting / flex time, and instituting training courses. Their argument is that the real issue lies in the platforms being used. They state that 91% of participants believe that the way in which a company communicates with its employees impacts engagement, with most companies typically relying on “old-school” forms of communications like emails and face-to-face discussions. With millennials set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, they posit that the future of employee engagement is in mobile-based apps.

While this is a valid point regarding millennial consumption habits and their preference for digital devices, it does ignore a number of other factors at play as to why engagement has remained stagnant despite increased investment. The first is the need for top-down commitment across all departments. When employee engagement is viewed as a one-off initiative controlled only by one group (typically HR or marketing), other departments will fail to see how this issue impacts their team. Therefore communication plans will just add to the noise without providing context, and inhibit company-wide acceptance.

The next factor is the length of the program. The most effective employee engagement programs are ongoing and measured over time. It is not a one-off where you can check the box and be done. This process requires a long-term commitment to measure, learn, and implement change. Finally, engaging communications must tie their core messaging directly to brand values, identity, and external messaging. This allows employees to rally around a central theme that is relevant and consistent with what consumers are expecting. For instance, with the McDonald’s tagline “I’m Loving It”, that slogan is just a hollow promise if McDonald’s did not align employee behavior around bringing joy.

As you can see, employee engagement is enhanced by cutting edge technology, but it is only part of the battle. Truly effective communication must be ongoing, consistent across all business units, and have a direct link to organizational identity and brand values.