Nigel McPolin
Founder, etimes2 ltd

So many organisations say they do employee engagement.  They have that box ticked because they ran a survey within the past 18 months and, sure, they do employee engagement events like beer and pizza, Corporate Social Responsibility and other such activities.  Yet, their employees are not feeling empowered.

The problem is that many organisations set a budget aside for employee engagement (which is a very good thing to do, of course).  This money is typically spent on a range of events as mentioned above and employees are expected to become more engaged.  Managers look for higher productivity and performance as a return on the investment in engagement.  They also expect to see an increase on engagement levels in the survey.

However, when these gains are not realised, employers can lose sight of what is important.  They can tend to feel upset that their good intentions and investment in engagement has not been taken seriously by their employees.  They tend to miss the fact that if employees do not feel empowered, then they are unlikely to be engaged by any of these activities.

It should also be carefully noted that such activities and events do not empower your employees.

How do you know your employees do not feel empowered?

There are many signs that suggest your employees do not feel empowered.  Here are just a few examples:

  1. Them vs Us Mentality
free sample employee engagement report

Click here to download a sample employee engagement report

Do your employees feel separated from the decision making ‘parts’ of the organisation?  If so, they will not feel they have any stake in the organisation and, as a result, whether or not they exert enough effort will seem irrelevant.

  1. No Value in Contributing

Consider how often your employees suggest improvements or communicate good ideas that may benefit your company.  Talk to line managers in your organisation to determine if employees are willing to make suggestions.

If not, this can have two main causes:

  1. They have not felt rewarded or recognised in the past for making suggestions
  2. They feel it is not ‘safe’ to contribute in such a way.
  1. Just Getting By

Walk through your organisation and observe how people are behaving.  Do they seem determined to get the job done to the best of their ability?  Or, are they just pushing through the day, doing just enough to meet their obligations with one eye on the clock?

  1. Potential Wasting Away

Think of the people you have in your business and why you recruited them.  Are they realising this potential?  Or is it simply wasting away?

When you consider the outcomes of employees not feeling empowered, it is obvious that this carries significant costs for the organisation.  Are you willing to sit back and watch your employees doing just enough to get by every day?  Watching the talent that you invested in simply waste away?

What causes employees to feel disempowered?

Again, there are many causes of disempowerment among employees in a workplace.  Here are a few to look out for in your business:

  1. Lack of trust

If employees do not feel trusted, they can never feel empowered and can never be engaged no matter how much pizza you buy them.  Trust is the cornerstone of empowerment.

  1. Micromanaging / too much emphasis on control

leadership training employee engagementWhat is the leadership/management culture in your organisation?  This is closely linked to whether people feel trusted.  If your managers need to be in total control of everything and micromanage employees, this will cause a serious deterioration of trust.  Employees will respond by leaving all control and decisions to their manager which will slow down production.

  1. No value placed on innovation from managers

Employees need to feel that their suggestions are taken seriously by their own line manager and by the organisation.  How do your employees respond when prompted to make an improvement suggestion?  Do they respond enthusiastically, keen to contribute to company success?  Or, do they say ‘why would I stick my head above the parapet?’

  1. Too many meetings

Meetings suck the motivation out of employees.  They involve too many people, often going round in circles, and give power to those who wish to quell innovation and creativity.  Those who speak the loudest shall be heard.  What great invention was ever created by a committee?

If you really want to increase employee engagement, then you must create a sense of empowerment among your workforce.  This will not only increase productivity, performance and creativity.  It will also maximise your investment in pizza and beer, Corporate Social Responsibility and other worthwhile engagement activities.  These are all good and we would love to see you getting your return.

Look around your organisation.  What is causing your employees not to feel empowered?
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