February 10, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

The Employee Engagement Myths Holding You Back from Optimal Performance and Retention

February 10, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

The Employee Engagement Myths Holding You Back from Optimal Performance and Retention


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I had the pleasure of interviewing Don Rheem, author of Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience that Drives High-Performance Cultures, TEDx Speaker, and CEO of E3 Solutions, this week for the Future of Field Service podcast. He was filled with knowledge, passion, excitement, and thought-provoking points that I can’t wait for you to listen to when the episode is released. In the meantime, I wanted to recap some of Don’s points that really got me thinking. I promise, I’m not giving away the gold of the podcast episode – this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we covered.

Don started by sharing some of the science he explains in his book, which is fascinating. He revealed that focusing on employee satisfaction is a waste, because it is a byproduct of employee engagement. Similarly, a focus on having a good company culture is all for naught if the individual employees aren’t engaged. Don revealed that employees feel engaged when they are provided an environment and relationships that offer a sense of security and the ability for connection. Regardless of age, personality type, or demeanor, at a base level we as humans have commonalities in what we need from an employer to be engaged. We cover all of this in detail in the podcast, but I asked Don a question in closing around where companies commonly miss the mark when it comes to employee engagement and that’s what I want to share with you here. So here are four myths around employee engagement that could be holding you back from the optimal performance from and retention of your employees:

#1: You Know How Engaged Your Employees Are (Or Aren’t)

“Senior leadership tends to think that they have a pulse on the status of employee engagement within their company, and therefore they don’t need to take the time or invest the money in actually measuring engagement,” says Don. This is a big mistake, because you simply don’t know what you don’t measure – regardless of how tuned in you feel. Don says that measuring employee engagement doesn’t have to be expensive but is a crucial investment in beginning the process of understanding your baseline and determining if, where, and how you need to improve.

#2: Employee Engagement is an HR Issue

Another common problem is that leadership pushes the project of employee engagement measurement and improvement off on HR. “Of course, it’s important to partner with HR on a project like this,” says Don, “but pushing it off to HR altogether sends the message that senior leadership doesn’t care enough to be involved personally in something as important as employee engagement.”

#3: Our Employees Will Become More Engaged If We…

According to Don, one of the biggest employee engagement missteps is not understanding that it pivots around individual managers. The old saying, “employees start companies; they quit managers” is absolutely true when it comes to employee engagement. “Companies make the mistake of focusing on improvements at the employee level, but what is important to understand is that managers play the most important role. When we survey for engagement levels, we see huge swings among teams. It’s the same company, the same culture, and the same pay scale – the variance is almost always caused by managers,” says Don. Therefore, it is critical to focus your efforts on equipping your managers to provide an environment and relationships that foster engagement.

#4: Lack of Engagement Is an Easy Fix

Don says that undertaking an initiative to improve employee engagement isn’t at all worthwhile if you won’t commit to the work needed to make an impact. “This isn’t a passive project, it takes real effort. You have to commit to transparency – you need to release the results of your findings to everyone. Then you need to identify three things you found in the data that you know you need to do work on – tell your employees what you learned and acknowledge your responsibility in making improvements. Finally, you must act in those three areas and show how you’ve made progress. If your employees don’t see you actively taking effort, you’ll get nowhere,” says Don.