After Onboarding, How to Prevent the Descent into Disengagement

New employees are easy to engage given the fair amount of attention they receive at the outset. They’re likely to be welcomed with open arms and treated to meetings with executives who explain the company’s mission, vision and goals; reinforce their value to the company; and introduce them to their respective departments to meet their managers and co-workers. Knowing where they fit in the organization and how they can contribute, these new employees are anxious and eager to get started.

This level of attention wanes the longer employees are on the job, and that’s when the potential for becoming disengaged sets in due to organizational complacency; i.e., “You know what you’re supposed to do, so do it. We’ll be in touch eventually.” To illustrate, I often ask participants in my internal marketing workshops how they get reminded of their fit and value in their respective organizations. Many of them acknowledge that their job descriptions are out of date. They also admit that job-related expectations and goals are typically discussed only during the annual performance review – an event about as welcome as a root canal.

More than organizational complacency

Another contributing factor involves marketplace dynamics. Evolving customer needs, competition, financial pressures, etc., also prompt changes in company goals and strategies. Yet revised strategies and adjusted expectations of employees may not be communicated top-down to everyone in the organization. Employees know things are changing within the company – but they don’t know the reasons for it and what they’re supposed to do about it.

To learn what’s going on in the company, some employees will take the initiative to approach their managers. Over time, however, they become frustrated if they have to continually seek out company and job-related information beyond the grapevine. Other employees just hunker down as they quietly disengage.

You can avoid this situation and keep employees engaged with this basic two-pronged approach:

  • proactively share what’s happening in the company and why
  • continually reinforce employees’ alignment and fit within the organization, including how their efforts individually and collectively contribute to the bottom line.

Onboarding new groups of employees may be once-and-done, but communicating the company’s purpose, its future, and how employees can make a positive impact, is ongoing.

“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


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