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  • Writer's pictureLauren Pollack

Myths of Engagement

Strongly agree, slightly agree, or subtly agree?

Engaging with employees has gotten a bad rap. The usual mix of pulse surveys, chair fairs, and off-the-cuff comments from the squeakiest wheel can make us wonder if there is any value in engaging employees in workplace projects.

Insights from employee knowledge are foundational to developing a workplace strategy and ultimately a final design that is attuned to the employees' and company's goals. Still, we hear a lot of hesitation about "opening pandora’s box" by soliciting employee opinions. An overload of chaotic information doesn't need to be your reality.

With an effective structure, knowledge shared by employees can be synthesized into a valuable resource of insight and information specific to your company. The outcome of successful engagement can enhance acceptance of change initiatives and forecast the most impactful workplace investments.

If you’re saying it’s too early to involve your people- you have likely waited too long.

Here are the top myths about engaging employees in workplace projects:

Myth 1 | It creates unattainable expectations.

  • “If I engage them, they’ll expect something I can’t give them.”

  • “People will be frustrated if their suggestion isn’t selected.”

Engagement Reality - The themes discussed should align with the scope and desired outcomes of the project. This is not a free for all or a time to make selections.

Myth 2 | Surface level input is sufficient.

  • “I’ll wait and engage employees in picking finishes and selecting task chairs.”

  • “If we can’t really cater to their needs, what’s the point of asking for additional input.”

Engagement Reality - Employees are likely to be more emotional about surface level input when their core needs have not been met or asked for.

Myth 3 | Too many individual needs will surface.

  • “There are too many opinions, I can’t accommodate every voice we’d have a million different projects.”

  • “I don’t want to open a can of worms!”

Engagement Reality - Input from employee engagement is sorted into trends and themes uncovering deeper needs and information that will benefit the organization and employees. Employees benefit from being able to share meaningful information productively in a structured environment.

Myth 4 | The project will be slowed down or blocked.

  • “Engaging employees will slow down the process- needing to find time to meet and get approval from everyone.”

  • “I know what their feedback will be, and it’s crazy, it doesn’t feel worth my time.”

Engagement Reality - Engagement processes can be run quickly at scale in an organization. The goal is not approval but to be informed. The process should make decisions easier, more effective, and reduce buy-in delays.

Myth 5 | The project should be well defined before employees are engaged.

  • “I’m just getting the project underway- I’m not ready to engage anyone.”

  • "The project is two years' out."

Engagement Reality - Information from employees through structured early engagement is critical to defining a project. Engaging too late creates some of the challenges stated in the myths above.

Let’s be clear, engagement is not a free for all.

Connecting with your employees in preparation for workplace projects should be focused and structured to align with the desired outcomes. As an example, high performance workplace projects contain a selection of questions around likes, dislikes, and "less and more" of what they have already. Questions of this nature provide a framework to collect tangible information while leaving opportunities for facilitators to take in the "between the lines" commentary that is often just as informative.

Engagement processes can include workshops, interviews, and analytic platforms. The information gained will provide opportunities to discover more about employees' roles, activities, and interactions, as well as the types of work settings that will be most supportive. In this way, the guide rails of information sharing prevent overwhelm and unattainable employee expectations.

Workplace specialists can support your company in a methodical process that quickly gains information from across the organization. Engagement processes can be targeted around key information, providing guidance to identify and implement the right projects to support your business in long term success.

Communicating and learning from your employees has the power to help your company be a place that people want to be- a place you want to be.


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