New employees are easy to engage. Companies welcome new recruits with open arms as they explain the company’s mission-vision-values and goals, outline employees’ work duties, introduce them to their managers and co-workers, and perhaps even assign them peer mentors. I’m simplifying the onboarding process here, but new employees receive a fair amount of attention to engage them from the start.
This level of attention wanes the longer employees are on the job, and that’s when the potential for becoming invisible sets in. To illustrate, I often ask attendees in my internal marketing workshops about their job descriptions. Less than one-third typically respond that their job descriptions are up-to-date. In some companies, employees only get reminded of their fit within the organization and what’s expected of them during the annual performance review – an event about as welcome as a root canal.
Gradual descent into disengagement
It’s not that employees are clueless about their roles or that managers are purposely keeping them in the dark. (I know, I’m giving employees and managers the benefit of the doubt here.) The reality is that marketplace changes – including increased competition, evolving customer needs,and financial pressures – also prompt changes in company goals and strategies. Yet revised strategies and adjusted expectations of employees don’t necessarily filter down to everyone in the organization. With managers struggling to cope with limited resources, information overload, and demanding bosses, who’s got time to update job descriptions? Or keep employees in the loop by addressing their questions and concerns in staff meetings?
To learn what’s going on in the company, some employees will take the initiative to approach their managers. Over time, however, these employees may become frustrated and disengage if they have to continually seek out company and job-related information. Meanwhile, other employees will:
- Tap into the company grapevine to get information
- Hunker down and keep doing what they’ve been doing until they’re told differently
- Grow frustrated and eventually leave or retire on-the-job.
To prevent employees from becoming invisible and disenfranchised within the company, managers need to proactively share what’s happening in the company and why. They also need to reinforce employees’ alignment and fit within the organization, including how their efforts individually and collectively contribute to the bottom line.
“Don’t make your employees guess about whether they’re doing enough or fulfilling [the company’s] expectations… Make people feel like they are in the loop, and they’ll feel more engaged… ”
– Alan E. Hall