5 Employee Engagement Pitfalls Senior Leadership Should Avoid

Levels of employee engagement across the nation, and even across the world, are dangerously low. According to Gallup, only 30 percent of employees worldwide feel engaged at work. That translates to three in every ten workers. It goes without saying that having 70 percent of your workforce feeling despondent and detached from their work is conducive to neither a happy nor a productive work environment.

According to Gallup, only 30 percent of employees worldwide feel engaged at work.

Click To Tweet

How do you rectify this? Many companies make the mistake of believing employee engagement is a job best left solely to the HR department. But the reality is that, in an actively engaged workplace, engagement starts from the very top. Only then can it trickle down into every facet of the company and create a cohesive and unified work environment. So as leadership, how do you make sure you don’t fall into the same engagement traps so many companies do?

Here are some of the biggest employee engagement pitfalls you should aim to avoid.

Pitfall 1: Not Taking Charge of Employee Engagement

As mentioned, employee engagement is too often seen as an initiative that rests on the shoulders of HR, or employees themselves. As a result, employees can feel an obvious disconnect from their leaders, and the company as a whole.

Instead You Should: Make sure you are involved in engaging your employees. Work with HR on specific initiatives to help every employee to feel engaged, and offer your help in carrying them out.

Pitfall 2: Too Many Ineffective Surveys

Tracking engagement levels is obviously very important. Without measuring engagement, you have no way to know how your employees feel and what you need to do to improve. However, sending out too many surveys, especially those that are overly long or ask the wrong questions, can frustrate employees and have the exact opposite to the intended effect.

Instead You Should: Create shorter, more effective surveys, and send them out at more natural intervals. For example, replace lengthy multiple choice surveys with three or four “short answer” questions, and send them out quarterly instead of every week or month.

Pitfall 3: Failing to Adapt to the Modern Work Environment

One of the reasons employee engagement is so low across the board is too many employers stick to tired and outdated methods. Similar to what is seen in employee onboarding. The American workforce is evolving, and with it has come a whole new set of employees who have different motivations and work philosophies. Where money was once the biggest motivation, it is no longer the case. You can no longer throw bonuses at problems and expect they will be solved.

The American workforce is evolving.

Click To Tweet

Instead You Should: Use your engagement surveys to uncover your employees’ real motivations, and target them specifically. Look into gamification as a method for engaging your millennial workforce.

Pitfall 4: Ignoring Red Flags and Warning Signs

As well as engagement surveys, there are other ways to know if employee engagement could use a boost. One big red flag is a high turnover rate. Some employers will brush off a high employee turnover as nothing to worry about, as long as they are still attracting talent. However, the reality is that high turnovers are not only expensive, they can be a huge warning sign that something is broken within your company.

Instead You Should: Work to boost employee engagement, and make an effort to keep your best employees for the long run. If you have a high employee turnover rate, conduct exit surveys to see what is wrong.

Pitfall 5: Being Afraid to Spend Money

While proper employee engagement often comes from more than just money, you have to be willing to spend some to see real results. Employees need to feel valued, and since employee engagement has monetary value, you should start to think of employee engagement initiatives as investments. You cannot run a successful company if you are repeatedly reluctant to spend money on your workforce. Your employees will soon notice your hesitation to invest in them.
Instead You Should: Set aside a small part of your budget for engagement initiatives. Whether you spend it on company events, bonuses, or a gamification app, find some way to show your employees that you care whether they feel valued or not.



Blake Beus is a Director of Learning Solutions with extensive experience in healthcare and financial services. What Blake enjoys most about his role at Allen is helping organizations implement initiatives that have a real impact on the business.

  • Happiness 1st

    Why did you use a 2013 Gallup statistic for employee engagement rates? Although not as bad as 13%, the most recent numbers (32% in 2015) are just as unsustainable.
    The #1 factor that impacts employee engagement is an employee’s core self-evaluations and the only employee engagement improvement strategy that I know of that addresses employee core self-evaluations that I am aware of is the one offered by Happiness 1st Institute based on research described in my book, Empowered Employees become Engaged Employees.

  • Yuvarajah

    Spot on pitfalls that can certainly make a difference to the courageous and humbled leadership. On Pitfall 2, what would be an effective survey tool?. Would you rate Gallup’s 12 Questions as effective?. Thanks

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe ExchangeGain Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us

    Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.