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Three most common myths about employee engagement

Lynne Rawlinson


Employee Engagement has become one of the most frequently used buzzwords in today’s business world. Hundreds and thousands of articles and books have been written on the subject, a lot of research conducted and published, many talks, workshops and seminars given – you name it.

It is a well-known and commonly accepted fact that engaged organisations are much better off than their less engaged counterparts. The benefits of having your team fully present, focused, energised and connected to the company’s purpose are backed up by the following statistics:  87% increased employee retention, 21% improved productivity levels, 10% increased customer retention, 22% greater overall profitability – not to mention happier and healthier staff, ability to attract higher quality talent, great public image and reputation.  

This is something we all want for our businesses but, despite all the good intentions and widely available advice and resources, only a few manage to get it right.

The fundamental reason for it is that the concept, purpose and place of Employee Engagement are often misunderstood. Today we would like to expose some of the wrong assumptions we most frequently come across in our work with SMEs.


Myth 1: Employee Engagement equals Employee Satisfaction

Often, employee engagement is defined as employee satisfaction. However, these things are not the same – you can be satisfied without being engaged. If everything is just all right – work, salary, management, resources, etc. – all employee satisfaction surveys will come back with high scores but it wouldn’t mean that people are truly engaged.

Is it really great, not just OK, to work here? Are all the people working together towards the same goals? Is it fun? Does everyone feel that they have a voice and are heard? Do they feel shared accountability for success? In order to find answers to all these questions and assess whether your organisation is really engaged, you need to measure the right things and to do it frequently. This is why a standard annual employee satisfaction survey is often the wrong tool that gives misleading results.  


Myth 2: Employee Engagement is all about employees

Employee engagement is sometimes believed to be the same thing as employee well-being. These concepts are related and work powerfully together, but they are not interchangeable.  Employee well-being deals with how an employee feels whereas employee engagement is about how employees are connected to their role, their work and value within their company.

The key elements of employee engagement are sharing the common purpose and values, belief in making the difference, and understanding what your company does, who for, and why. This is the reason why employee engagement is not just about employees – it takes engaged leadership to make it happen – for a small business it is the owners. The owners of truly engaged organisations share the same characteristics: they are brave, caring and identifiable. They are not afraid to hear the truth about how things really are – they actively seek it, they don’t see employees as just a commodity, they are happy to take responsibility and are committed to take action.

Furthermore, businesses don’t exist in vacuum; their performance largely depends on their relationship with various subcontractors and suppliers and, most importantly, customers. When taking feedback from your team, you should take into consideration how engaged they feel in relation to your customers and suppliers.

The best employee engagement tools are not limited to just dealing with employee matters, they go far and beyond those. For example, Engagement Multiplier – the tool we currently use as Business Doctors – measures scores against six dimensions: Engaged Purpose, Engaged Ownership, Engaged Leaders, Engaged Employees, Engaged Customers and Engaged Individuals.


Myth 3: Employee Engagement is important because it improves the bottom line

Benefits of having a highly engaged team are numerous and often lead to spectacular financial performance. So, every business should strive to increase its employee engagement in order to get better financial returns, right? Wrong!

David Chambers, Chairman of Lindum Group which consistently has been on the Sunday Times list of Best Companies to Work For, said, “When you start investing in your people you may get financial rewards, or you may not – you never know – because this is not why you are doing it.”  It is important to remember that even though engaged organisations do have greater profitability, it is the result rather than the cause.

So, where to start if you want to create an engaged company?

  1. Get clear on the values, purpose and vision of your business. Communicate them to your team, customers, suppliers, partners and larger community
  2. Create an actionable strategic plan to achieve your vision and make sure that every member of your team has the right role in it
  3. Measure engagement regularly and provide your team with safe environment that guarantees confidentiality and anonymity of their feedback – cannot stress enough the importance of confidentiality
  4.  Show that engagement is a permanent focus, not just a passing trend. If your employees believe the new engagement program is just the fad of the moment, you run the risk of disengaging them further
  5. Take action. Once your team has given you feedback, identify some simple actions you can take to show that participation does, in fact, create change
  6. Reward contribution and celebrate success