The challenges of engagement

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. If it were, everybody would be doing it already, and it would have passed from ‘worthwhile’ into basic human existence. As the amount of writing about it shows, this extends to employee engagement.

Many of the challenges in employee engagement come from conflicts of interest – between different processes, different objectives and even different groups of employees. So where do these conflicts arise?

Recruitment and retention

We’ve looked previously at using engagement in recruitment and retention. But the sad truth is that the two can come into conflict.

Good engagement with new recruits will leave them feeling like they know the company from the start and already belong, like it fits their view of the world. But if this means that they come charging in like they own the place it can create disgruntlement among existing employees, whose engagement relies on some sense of ownership over their environment.

This is especially true if there is a gap between the experience of recruiters and employees in the teams new employees are entering. This can be minimized by ensuring that HR understands the working culture of other teams, and lets them take the lead in recruitment.

Different employees

What engages one employee may put another off, and no program of engagement is going to hit everybody’s buttons first time. An attempt to create a more engaging culture may even lead to some losses of staff in the short-term, as they find that the newly revitalized organizational culture does not suit them. This is no bad thing, as they are likely to have been a bad fit for your vision, but it will mean a period of disgruntlement and hurt feelings.

For those who remain, personalization will help you to meet the differing needs of employees. Just be careful to give everyone access to the sort of personalization that suits them, and to be open about the process, or this may create jealousy at differing treatment.

And remember, personalization can be very time consuming – you will need to find the balance between this cost and the engagement you achieve.

Dense culture versus accessible culture

Think about what happens when you meet new people socially. If you’re introduced to a tight-knit group of friends then the experience can be a little alienating, their close bond and in-jokes making you feel excluded. But that closeness is great for them. It adds to the richness of their interactions and emotional experience.

The same thing applies to corporate culture. The richer and more engaging the life of your workplace the more satisfying it will be for existing employees. But this will also mean that new recruits have to work harder to feel involved, and are more likely to feel left out. Make sure that induction includes the soft side of your organization’s life, helping new employees to settle in, join with social outings and find out about the intricacies of your corporate culture, as well as the practicalities.

Taking the time

And of course, any commitment of time and resources to employee engagement conflicts with the desire to spend that time and resources elsewhere. But what you get back in return, the productive, positive employees who stick with you, will more than make back that cost.


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Other Articles in this Engagement Series:

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