3 Employee Engagement Mistakes to Avoid

Ann Rhoades is a celebrity in the world of employee engagement. As an early employee at Southwest Airlines, she worked under the title Vice President of People and has been quoted saying, “The CEO and I hated the phrase ‘human resources’ and couldn’t spell personnel. We wanted to focus on engaging and paying attention to our people and when you call it the ‘people department,’ those are the values it gets across.”

Ann-RhoadesShe went on to co-found JetBlue Airways with the same dedication to employee engagement and today still sits on the board of the high-performing airline. A few years ago, she came out with Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition, an excellent reference for business owners looking to build engagement.

Even with her positive message, Rhoades recognizes that it can be easy to stray from engagement best practices when running a business. Here, she shares a few mistakes to avoid.

Failing to survey employees

When initiating an employee engagement campaign, it can be helpful to poll your employees on work satisfaction. Rhoades recommends using answers to customize engagement strategies. At JetBlue, Rhoades and her team would administer what she calls “speak-up surveys.”

“We would ask them, ‘How long do you intend to work for JetBlue?’” she remembers. “If they say that they plan to stay for the long haul, you know they are engaged. Another good question is, ‘How well do you like your supervisor?’ or ‘When speaking to others, do you speak highly of your supervisor?’

These questions are important because 80 to 90 percent of employees leave jobs because of their direct supervisors.”

Worried that your employees won’t answer honestly? Rhoades recommends using services like SurveyMonkey to poll staff anonymously.

Focusing on mistakes

Just as positive employee recognition is important to building engagement, negative reinforcement oftentimes kills engagement.

“Don’t just talk to your employees when they are making mistakes,” Rhoades advises. “Spend time praising them when they do a good job. If you constantly berate people, it will not inspire them to engage in their jobs.”

Rewarding with money

While a few extra bucks can brighten anyone’s day, Rhoades doesn’t believe monetary recognition has a lasting impact on increasing employee engagement.

“People want to be recognized in authentic, meaningful ways like receiving thank you notes or being applauded in front of their peers,” she says. “Monetary rewards are simply not significant.” 

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