SHRM 2016: Why Your Employees Just Aren’t That Into You

Does each of your employees know how their job contributes to the big picture? Are you truly interested in their input? Speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) 2016 Convention in Washington, DC, where employee engagement was a major theme, David Lee said the answers too often are no to both of these questions.

Lee is an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial best practices to optimize employee performance. In an interview with XpertHR, he said, “If you want your employees to have their heart and soul in their work, then you need to engage their heart and soul.”

According to Lee, a big problem in today’s workplace is that employees often don’t see how they matter. Some managers point to employee indifference and an unwillingness to go the extra mile as major challenges. But when he hears this lament, Lee says the problem often rests with the managers themselves.

“Managers often don’t understand what truly motivates people,” Lee explains. When employees experience defeat over and over, he contends that leads to “learned helplessness” or apathy. “Employees are taught not to care,” he says. There are a number of ways in which managers themselves create this condition, including:

  • Leaving employees in the dark about what’s going on;
  • Creating unrealistic deadlines and demands;
  • Thwarting employee ideas; and
  • Creating a culture where input is not solicited.

Also speaking at the SHRM Convention, employee engagement and workforce trends thought leader Bob Kelleher noted that 51% of the American workforce is disengaged according to a Gallup survey. “Employees with lower engagement are four times more likely to leave their jobs,” said Kelleher, who called the statistic troubling.

He explained that engagement is an emotional connection. “Your employees can be your brand ambassadors so it’s important to keep them engaged,” said Kelleher. To the extent a business succeeds on this front, he pointed out that it will help on the hiring and retention side.

At the same time, Kelleher noted there are misconceptions about what employee engagement means. “You don’t want a culture of entitlement,” said Kelleher. “Engagement is helping an employee reach their potential but making sure they help the business too.”

The good news is there are solutions. David Lee listed the following steps managers can take to make it more likely their employees will go the extra mile, including:

  • Involve employees in problem-solving and improvements;
  • Make appreciation part of your culture;
  • Celebrate the awesome (“Here’s what we mean by great customer service!”); and
  • Show you care about your employees as human beings.

“Caring doesn’t mean you have to be buddy-buddy or go off to retreats in the Poconos,” said Lee, “but when you’re talking to somebody be mindful of the human element. If I say it this way, how is it likely to affect them?”

For his part, Bob Kelleher told his audience that any time someone goes through a change at work they want to know what’s in it for me. That’s why Lee says it’s important when change is occurring to ask employees, “What do you think we can do to make this better since you do the work day-in and day-out?”

In today’s culture, an employee engagement problem can soon be on social media for all the world to see. Glassdoor has become a popular vehicle for rating companies, but Kelleher notes that many managers dismiss low ratings as the complaints of a couple of disgruntled employees rather than an important engagement issue. “Three out of four applicants visit glassdoor before they accept a job. It’s no different than selecting a restaurant,” says Kelleher. “You need to take this [a low rating] seriously.”

XpertHR has an employee engagement survey form that is designed to help HR and senior leadership better understand how your work environment is perceived and the extent to which the employees are engaged. What steps have you found to be most successful in boosting employee morale and engagement? Let us know by sharing a comment below.



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