Employee Engagement

10 Things that stop employee engagement in its tracks

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Is employee engagement a bit of hot-button issue at your company’s HR meetings? Do you get slightly sweaty at the thought of having to account for lacklustre employee experience reports when you meet up with management?

You’re not alone - human resources departments throughout South Africa are experiencing the same kind of thing across all industries.

Which of course begs the question - what is up with South African employees lately?

According to a recent survey by Universum SA that unveiled South Africa's most attractive employers for 2019, out of the 23,000 working professionals who participated in the survey over half were unhappy in their jobs and looking to change employers within the next 12 months. On average, job satisfaction levels were sitting at 6 out of 10. Just to be clear - those stats are not great at all. 

Want the cold, hard truth? Here’s the deal...

Thanks to the advent of global connectivity and an increased focus on work-life balance and mental wellbeing, prospective job seekers are becoming more discerning about where they choose to hang their hats and how long they choose to stick around if things don’t seem to be working out. This is especially true for South Africa’s sought-after top talent.  

As such, forward-thinking enterprises need to ensure that they create a working environment in which talented employees can thrive. Keen to do so? Let’s start with what you should not be doing.

Here are ten less-than-rosy corporate culture traits that will actively keep your employees from becoming engaged and growing into their best work selves: 


1. A lack of core company values

Ever heard the saying ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’? This holds true in a personal capacity, but also when it comes to company culture. Being sans core values means your culture is likely to progress without any sense of direction, which will lead to the formation of unwanted subcultures that can undermine your business’ success.


2. Managers who don't lead by example

Your managers are supposed to provide your employees with direction. If they are flouting your core values left, right and centre your workforce will follow suit and a divide is likely to form between leadership and staff. 

READ: A toxic work culture is bad for business - here’s how to improve yours


3. Ambiguous job descriptions

When individual employees feel unsure about their job descriptions overall employee engagement always suffers. So-called ‘fluid’ job descriptions leave a lot of room for misinterpretation of responsibilities and unsure footing in the workplace. 


4. Focussing more on office hours than work output

Clock-watching is no fun, no matter who’s doing it. By placing a larger emphasis on scheduled office hours than work output, you are essentially creating an environment in which your employees will also be watching the clock like hawks, bolting out the door as soon as they’re ‘allowed’. 


5. Paying employees under market value

You get what you pay for. While we all understand that the economy is unstable and that almost every South African business is under pressure to keep their overheads low, paying your people less than market value is a surefire way to stop employee engagement in its tracks. 


6. A thriving gossip culture

Gossiping is a natural human tendency, but if you allow it to run rampant at your place of business it can lead to the formation of cliques, which in turn leads to a prevailing culture of mistrust among your employees.  


7. Loads of churn

When your company’s employee retention rate is in the toilet, it leads to a very manic working environment - people are arriving and leaving all over the show and frequent handovers lead to important things falling between the cracks. Worst of all? Your clients notice and it doesn’t look good.


8. A lack of recognition

When employees’ efforts are not met with sincere recognition (or even worse - a manager or higher-ups take credit for the work of their team members) it can lead to a ‘why bother’ culture which will undermine employee engagement at every turn. 

READ: 8 Ways an employee engagement strategy can create a more results-driven company


9. A lot of action at the office over the weekend

Many business owners seem to think it's fantastic when employees work overtime or come into the office over weekends of their own accord. However, it can actually point to a lack of work-life balance among your employees, which is not a good thing in the long run, since it will almost definitely lead to burnout (or a nasty stapler-throwing incident). 


10. A bad rep out on the streets

Word of mouth is a powerful thing. If your company is being badmouthed on platforms like Glassdoor, where current and former employees anonymously review companies, you can bet your bottom dollar you won't be attracting players from the big leagues. 

There you have it - ten corporate culture traits you should be avoiding at all costs if you want to boost employee engagement at your place of business. Just to recap, here’s what you should be doing:  


  1. Be clear about your core company values.
  2. Ensure that your managers live up to these values. 
  3. Provide clear job descriptions. 
  4. Place more focus on work output than office hours. 
  5. Pay your people what they're worth. 
  6. Keep the gossip mill under control. 
  7. Work on employee retention. 
  8. Recognise and reward good work. 
  9. Encourage a healthy work-life balance. 
  10. Keep tabs on your company's external reputation. 

Following these guidelines will allow you to focus on sustainable drivers of engagement and boost business outcomes by improving employee satisfaction at the hand of a positive, tailormade employee engagement strategy.

If you are serious about turning up the cohesive team-building potential at your company, we recommend that you take a look at our eBook "10 Steps to building a successful recognition program".

We know that it will help you to take your recognition efforts to new heights. Simply click the button below to get your copy 👇

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