How To Address The Root Cause Of Your Employee Engagement Issues


Employee engagement is one of the most critical factors in an organization’s success. Without a motivated staff that’s excited about their work, you’ll find yourself with low performance, productivity and quality — and very high turnover.

Unfortunately, fostering engagement is easier said than done, and it’s even harder to turn engagement around when it’s in decline. The best thing a leader can do is get to the heart of the issues that are hurting engagement and attack the root cause.

We asked members of Forbes Coaches Council to share some strategies for solving employee engagement problems. Their best answers are below.

1. Find activities that take your team out of their usual surroundings.

When it’s all work and no play, life and work can get boring, and we become disconnected from those around us. Be intentional about choosing a team-building activity, such as vision boards or water parks — something or somewhere that takes you out of your usual surroundings. You start to see skills and personalities surface that you may have missed. – Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC

2. Enlist your front-line staff.

A critical component to deepening employee engagement is empowering front-line staff to come up with the solutions. Are staff not feeling heard by leadership? Enlist them in creating communication methods that close the gaps. If they need a greater connection to the company vision, have employee advocates come up with ways to understand and report on leadership strategies. Shift the ownership. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

3. Dig deep, and listen intently.

Question everything as you dig deep into understanding the issues. Listen intently from a very curious place. A client organization recently discovered their vacation policy forcing employees to use vacation time wasn’t eliminating burnout; it was the source of stress creating it. It also didn’t save money but actually cost more to backfill roles. Based on employee feedback, they eliminated the policy. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Executive & Leadership Development

4. Be committed to acting on feedback.

Many organizations are using engagement surveys, and what happens when the results come out? The leadership delves into the data and comments — but what are you as a leader doing to truly act on the feedback? Instead of getting defensive about what the results are saying, commit to action. Make some significant changes, not just tending to the “low lying fruit.” Feedback is a gift; accept it. – Kathy Lockwood, Blue Water Leadership Coaching

5. Treat employees like you treat your customers.

True leadership success is measured by employee engagement and employee satisfaction. When employees are engaged and satisfied, they are productive and give clients and customers an exceptional experience. Here is the secret to developing an engaged and satisfied workforce: Treat them like they are your customers, and watch how they treat your clients and customers. – Chris Cebollero, Cebollero & Associates

6. Conduct exit interviews before an employee actually leaves.

Exit interviews are a cop out. They are often too little, too late. It’s a way for companies to gather insight on how they are performing without having to be held accountable. If organizations wish to truly get to the root cause, they should be asking employees on the regular what is and is not working, then making changes and reporting back on improvements to the employees who work there. – Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, Kyle Elliott Consulting –

7. Conduct an internal analysis to find your own best practices.

Many organizations are consumed with applying “best” practices to engage employees. What is best for one organization or a randomized sample of organizations may not be what is best for your particular organization. Sponsor, inspire and reward true innovation, rather than applying consulting firm recommendations without doing an internal analysis. – Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner LLC

8. Establish a culture of trust.

No relationship, professional or personal, can thrive without trust. Trust is a domino effect. A company’s CEO needs to acknowledge shortcomings and commit to changing the culture publicly. Outside consultants are critical for individuals to speak openly about problems without risk of getting fired. The CEO and their leaders need accountability to implement recommendations in a timely fashion. – Jennifer Musselman, Jennifer Musselman

9. Gather firsthand accounts from employees.

If you ever want to see how or why your employees’ engagement is lacking, just ask them. Their firsthand accounts of what is or is not working will help you determine the best course of action. Engaged employees equal engaged customers and clients. – Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.

10. Give employees the tools they need to succeed.

Leaders are asking their teams to be creative, innovative and agile without acknowledging that their existing structures are still risk averse and value stability and predictability. This “just do it” attitude causes a feeling of helplessness and lack of control, which leads to lack of engagement. Leaders can provide the “how” — the specific tools — so their team feels success is attainable. – Rachel Bellack, The Improv Advantage

11. Truly live your company’s mission, vision and values.

Companies often represent their mission statement with words like transparency, collaboration and diversity. Many don’t follow through with the actions to positively affect their culture. Engage with your talent. Take the time to listen and understand their aspirations. Ask how your company can support their goals. This care can reinforce a ‘relationship matters’ attitude. – Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals

12. Encourage open and safe conversations.

Conduct forums that encourage employees to be open and feel safe talking about work situations and career development. Really hear what is being said and make changes accordingly. Your employees are your internal customers and you lose valuable talent and knowledge if you don’t listen and come up with a plan that addresses employee pain points. – Katrina Brittingham, VentureReady LLC

13. Be brutally honest.

One of the top issues I hear about when it comes to employee engagement issues is that there is no transparency within the organization. Resolving employee engagement issues often requires brutal honesty coupled with the safe environment necessary for people to be honest. Unless you actually solve the root problem, your issues will persist. – Rubi Ho, The Rubi Ho Group

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