6 little-known employee engagement challenges (and how to overcome them)

Organizations face employee engagement challenges due to several reasons. Here’s how to overcome the barriers to high productivity.

What we'll cover

A paltry 36% of US employees are engaged in their work, as per data from Gallup. On top of that, 11.5 million workers left their jobs in the time period between April and June of 2021.  

It’s no secret that engaged employees are less likely to skip work and are much more productive. They are also more likely to stay with their organization. 

So with roughly 2% of the entire US workforce quitting on a monthly basis, you can’t afford to ignore the employee engagement challenges in your company. Identifying employee engagement barriers in the workplace and addressing them should be your top priority. 

But what should you look for? What might be the issues in your organization hurting employee experience and retention?

This post will help you understand what those barriers are, and what you can do about them.

Let’s begin.

Employee engagement challenges that can make or break your business

A study shows that a highly engaged workforce can reduce a company’s turnover rate by 25 to 59%. And it all starts with identifying the barriers to high employee engagement. These are:

1. Excessive red tape

How many procedures and rules should an employee follow to get basic tasks done in your workplace? If there are too many, it will negatively impact employee engagement. 

According to the Employee Outlook Survey from the CIPD, unnecessary rules and procedures are the biggest hurdles to employee productivity. 

Your work environment is supposed to provide a smooth work experience where employees can get things done easily with minimum stress. This will require simplifying your work processes wherever possible.

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • See which admin tasks are taking the most time for both the admins and workers. Then reduce the number of sign-offs required to approve these tasks.
  • Implement a tool that can automate common workflows. With Blink’s micro apps, for instance, admins can create and share digital forms, collect data, and automate key workflows. 

2. Line managers and supervisors with poor communication skills

If there’s anyone in the ​​position to bring the skills and focus of team members into alignment with the goals of the organization, it’s the middle manager. 

In factories and other similar establishments, for example, line managers form a pivotal link between frontline staff and senior leaders. Yet they are often ill-equipped to engage their teams. 

The Management Empowerment Report reveals that just one-third of front-line managers received specific training to support employees. Most have been chosen for the role because they were good workers, not because they were good managers. 

Inspiration and transparency in communication are critical improvements a leader can make towards solving employee engagement challenges. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Open channels of two-way communication among the line managers and their teams. 
  • Provide managers with resources and tools to collect staff input with methods such as internal surveys and quizzes.    

3. Lack of one-on-one time

Only 21% of millennials and 18% of non-millennials meet with managers on a weekly basis. Most say they meet less than once a month. 

One-on-ones are essential for managers to get to know employees on a personal level and discuss their needs, concerns, and growth opportunities. They could be considered a key driver of employee engagement.

Not just that.

Without frequent one-on-one meetings, a manager’s ability to communicate effectively with employees about projects and performance is limited. And what suffers as a result? Employee engagement.  

So, to avoid barriers to good employee relations, you must make sure that the managers in your company meet regularly with the staff. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Direct managers to schedule regular one-to-one meetings with their team members. And make it a key performance indicator that determines their progress in the managerial role.  
  • Train managers to create an agenda in advance and approach these meetings as a consultant, not an authoritarian. Instead of just discussing technical details of the job, managers should help workers prioritize tasks and understand the big picture. 

4. Shortage of growth opportunities

A study by BlessingWhite found a lack of growth opportunities to be the most common reason employees leave their jobs. If you’re serious about removing employee engagement barriers, increasing development opportunities is a must.

Failing to consider workers’ career pro­gres­sion will trigger the feeling that they are stuck in a dead-end job. And sooner or later, they’ll jump ship to discover better oppor­tu­ni­ties.

In contrast, employers that encourage workers to learn new skills don’t just retain them longer, but also stand to gain from the new insights employees bring to the table. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Have a professional reinvestment budget. Allocate sufficient resources to invest in each employee’s professional growth plan. Case in point: Jake Goldman, from 10up. In his words: 

“We provide a dedicated budget accrued at $3,000 per worker per year. And we give managers and employees several ways to use these resources, from self-coaching and online classes to attending and speaking at professional events worldwide.” 

  • Start by outlining a path for growth that will keep employees engaged and help you retain top talent. Plus, offer support and training in the form of stipends or bursaries to help employees get there. 

5. Not enough transparency

Research shows the majority of employees (75%) care about the performance of their employer, but only 23% feel they have insight into how well the business operates. 

Transparency in the workplace refers to a genuine, two-way openness of communication between the workers and the management. And lack of transparency is an employee engagement barrier that can undermine the trust between employees and managers. 

So it’s essential to show your employees the bigger picture — how their work is tied to the goals of the company as a whole. It leads to a high level of communication and trust, which in turn fuels employee productivity and engagement. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Make sure workers are being kept in the loop about small or large matters concerning the organization. 
  • Regarding the decision for which the stakes are high, make it a point to explain the “why” behind them. This is a better approach than just laying down the new rules. 
  • Regularly share business performance reports with the employees, regardless of whether it’s struggling or doing great.  

Lack of reward and recognition

According to an Indeed survey, 30% of people who quit their job within the first six months would have stayed longer if they were recognized more for their contributions.

Employee reward and recognition are at the heart of impactful employee engagement strategies and high levels of retention. On the other hand, not having an employ­ee recog­ni­tion pro­gram in place will leave workers demotivated and dissatisfied with the organization. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Recognizing your employees doesn’t have to cost the world. Often a simple (and free) thank you can have a massive impact on engagement. Other ways to recognize your employees without breaking the bank can include a free celebration lunch or a monetary bonus for the employee of the month.
  • Make sure you celebrate big and small wins with your team, especially when they exceed expectations. Get creative and make the culture of encouragement and appreciation a central part of your organization. 

6. Employees feeling unheard

A study found that 82% of employees have ideas to boost business performance. But more than one-third of employees struggle to get these inputs to the upper management. 

This is one of the most critical employee engagement challenges because if employees are to be engaged with their work, they need to feel heard. 

A 2020 employee experience study found that organizations that act on feedback have double the engagement score of those that don’t. And this kind of engagement is possible only when senior managers listen to workers’ thoughts and opinions. 

How to overcome this employee engagement barrier?

  • Transparent,  one-to-one meetings can help workers feel heard, along with anonymous question and answer sessions and employee feedback forms. 
  • Adopt a communication or employee engagement tool that creates multiple channels between managers and workers. Blink, for instance, also lets managers create polls and surveys that can be used to find out what workers really think. 

Employee Engagement Challenges FAQs

What are the challenges of employee engagement?

There most common challenges of employee engagement are:
1. Lack of support from leadership
2. Communication gaps between employees and departments
3. Difficulty measuring employee engagement
4. Not having the right technology
5. Lack of growth & recognition
6. Poor work-life balance

What can hinder employee engagement?

There can be a lot of things that will hinder your employee engagement efforts. The challenges we mentioned already will all hinder your efforts, but others can include:
1. Choosing the wrong tools & technology
2. Not having, and sticking to your engagement strategy
3. Not adapting your approach if needed.
4. Not having complete buy-in
5. Recruiting the wrong people

Wrapping up: 6 little-known employee engagement challenges

High employee engagement is a big advantage that can help you stay ahead of the competition. But as you can see, accomplishing the same remains a challenge for many organizations. 

But that’s not to say it’s impossible.

Top workplaces have been successful at reducing employee engagement challenges with communication and alignment. And there’s no reason you can’t do the same.

These tips and best practices for employee engagement we have shared will go a long way in overcoming employee engagement barriers and creating a workplace where workers feel more included, engaged, and valued.

And while you work on implementing these strategies, an employee communication app can be a huge asset. Request a free Blink demo today!

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