The Biggest Challenges When It Comes to Getting Employees Engaged

TeamBonding works with companies across the country looking to build stronger teams within their organizations, so naturally, employee engagement is a topic that comes up often. It’s a term that’s been buzzing over the past couple of years as organizations search high and low for the perfect formula to decrease turnover, increase enthusiasm and maximize productivity amongst employees.

With countless views on ways to increase employee engagement abound, we wanted to take a look at the other side of things and identify specific barriers that business owners and managers are facing. We surveyed 500 small-mid sized business owners and managers across the US and asked them to identify the number one challenge when it comes to getting employees engaged. These respondents either own or manage a business with fewer than 100 employees. Here’s what they said.

1. (31%) Getting employees off their phones

Turns out, when it comes to small businesses, forget the complex problems of solving engagement for virtual workers or getting multigenerational workers to integrate into cohesive teams. They just need some help getting their employees to put down their phones! Is it really a surprise that the majority of respondents reported this as their biggest challenge?

Mobile devices have turned us into screen-addicts, averting our eyes and attention at a startling rate. This is an especially big problem when we begin to look at low wage jobs and positions in rural areas. Small business owners and managers that are making less than $24,000 themselves a year, or those living in rural areas, were the most likely to list it as their biggest employee engagement problem (44%).

Young business managers also find it most difficult to get workers off their phones with 34% of 18-34 year olds reporting it has their largest roadblock to employee engagement. Workers phones are consistently integrated into both personal and work life, it’s hard to incentivize workers to step away from the device and into a conversation with a fellow employee. Especially when 74% of employers report that their organization use or plan on using a BYOD program (bring your own device), the odds of getting distracted with social media or unrelated apps gets higher and higher.

Finally, women managers and small business owners (34%) were more likely than men (28%) to note that getting employees off their phones was the biggest challenge in getting them engaged.

One potential solution to this problem? Embrace employees’ device addictions rather than trying to cure them. For example, utilizing mobile scavenger hunts or mobile-friendly engagement surveys can help build a compromise and solution to the over-used phone issue. And if that doesn’t work, you can always just create a policy.

2. (24%) High turnover & getting new hires engaged

Losing employees more frequently in the worker-friendly job market and having to get new employees engaged more often is also a considerable issue for small business owners and managers. It’s most pressing in rural areas (29%), where it’s probably harder to find new talent that fits with an organization.

Turnover rates as a barrier to employee engagement were of most concern to managers and business owners in the midwest and south, and of least concern to those in the northeast.

That’s one reason it’s important to factor company culture into an interview process, then get creative with the flexibility options for your employees. In other words, give your employees reason to stay. Then work on the engagement from there.

3. (23%) Getting multi­generational employees engaged

The third most pressing issue for small business owners and managers is the battle between Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials being waged within multi-generational workplaces.

Generational differences can be a stumbling block that hinders employee engagement within an organization. On one hand, you have 45% of Baby Boomers & Gen X complaining about millennial’s lack of managerial experience while, on the other hand, you have millennials who just want some flexibility and fun.

It was interesting to see that getting multigenerational employees engaged was actually the most pressing employee engagement issue (28%) for respondents that were 35-44 years old. These folks find themselves toeing the line between the two diverging generations in the workplace.

So what’s the best thing to do in this situation? Find common ground. Satisfy both sides by creating activities that all can partake in. Food and laughter are pretty effective across generational lines. So is getting outdoors!

4. (22%) Getting remote and virtual workers engaged

While the trend of remote working was the least pressing challenge for respondents, there were groups that found it more challenging than others. Managers and owners that earn more than $150,000 a year (presumed to be working within larger organizations) found it to be the biggest hurdle to achieving employee engagement (43%).

While sweet in the sense that it breeds more freedom for workers around the world, its lack of in-person interaction can become a bitter challenge for many companies seeking strong employee engagement. In fact, 65% of remote employees report that they have never had a team-building session.

To address this issues, owners and managers may want to embrace the small talk and chit-chat online. When workers aren’t in the same office they  don’t have the interactions that allow them to truly relate to each other on a personal level. Opening up internal communication platforms like Slack and HipChat, and encouraging workers to express themselves outside of work dialogue (hello GIF’s!), is important.

Another idea? Coffee Shop Days! While remote workers and work-from-home freelancers may appreciate their time outside the office, they can become bored and lonely. If you have workers on your team working remotely, consider suggesting a Coffee Shop Day a month where you join them and work alongside for the day.

Finally, there are actually virtual team building and engagement activities out there that stimulate a day in the life of a virtual team.

employee engagement stats preivew

See full employee engagement infographic >

David Goldstein

Founder & COO

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