Please. I mean it. Stop. I’m trying to help you out here.
It starts with an email or announcement in a meeting. Good so far, right? The organization is going to survey its employees to determine how engaged they are, or what their ideas for products and services are, or what they need most from their leaders, or something else along those lines. Now, is there anything wrong with asking those types of questions? No, of course not. I’m a big believer in doing what it takes to engage employees in a lot of different ways, including those mentioned above; although I’m not sure why we have to wait for a survey to ask those sorts of things.
But here’s where the madness begins, and I bet if you ask your employees they’d back me on this one. What on God’s green earth happens to all of that information? And if the first thought that popped into your mind was that it was safely saved in a file somewhere on your computer so you can reference it, then you’re already missing the point, because that’s exactly where your employees know it is too.
The problem is that that’s where it tends to stay. Oh, sure, appropriate lip service is paid to “processing the information,” and “circling back” around to their ideas. The organization probably thanks them for “reaching out” with such great ideas, and there are assurances made that soon there will be action taken on some of their thoughts.
At least nothing of any real significance.
Believe me–the employees know the drill by now. Morale dips. Survey goes out. Assurances are made. Nothing meaningful happens. Seed of cynicism is sown. Morale dips further. Consultant comes in. He/She suggests cultural change or adjustment. Executive heads nod. Assurances are made again. Nothing meaningful happens. Aforementioned seed of cynicism grows. Morale dips yet again. Executives host town hall meeting. Employees present complaints and ideas. Executive heads nod, this time with thoughtful expressions on their faces. Assurances? Check. Then? Nothing. At least nothing substantive. And that cynicism? It’s alive and well now, fed by a cycle of experiences that have driven employees to believe certain things about the organization.
So here’s my suggestion: stop. Unless you’re ready to commit to the sort of change your employees are clamoring and longing for, just stop. If you’re not really, truly prepared to invest the emotional and mental energy into cultivating an engaged workplace, then don’t even pay it lip service. I’d be willing to wager that employees would respect executives and managers a lot more if they didn’t get the feeling that those surveys and town hall meetings were little more than something a leadership team does to temporarily assuage their consciences and allow them to sleep better at night because they’ve “engaged” their employees on some level.