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Why Your Employee Engagement Activities Aren’t Working

(And How to Fix Them)

Is there a higher-than-average number of people "calling in sick" on your employee engagement activity days? 

Did you overhear something about a field trip to corporate’s paper-shredding department mentioned as a morale boosting idea? 

After a group activity, have your people quit speaking to each other? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than you seriously need to rethink your employee engagement strategy.  That’s right - strategy.  Worthwhile employee engagement activities mean at least some advance planning and serious thought on the behalf of you, the manager.

A Bad Example of Employee Engagement Activities

There are good ideas and bad ideas for almost everything in life.  The same goes for team building activities.  You want activities that are enjoyable, rewarding (both for your workers and in terms of future productivity), and engaging.  While not every activity has to be directly work-related, try to avoid events that push your staff 'excessively' out of their comfort zone. A little stretching is good, however the aim is to boost staff morale and engage - therefore people need to feel comfortable enough so they can 'connect' with their collegues.

What’s a bad activity look like:

  • It involves making one person (cough!  The boss!  cough!) look really good – and a bunch of people feel underappreciated.  While acknowledging above-and-beyond effort is one thing, it’s counterproductive to hand out awards to people who are just doing the work they’re paid to do – especially when it’s the boss or the boss’ friends.  Favoritism, anyone?
  • It involves cheap rewards for noticeable success.  Free popcorn for everyone because you met your quota is not an engagement activity.  It’s an un-engagement activity, because employees will be thinking that their efforts are worth – popcorn.  Make an effort! It doesn't have to cost lots of money, it just needs to show your geniune appreciation
  • It makes your workers feel massively uncomfortable/nervous/anxious.  It's about engaging, NOT disengaging!

Make Your Employee Engagement Activites Work!

So, what can you do to run a successful engagement activity?

  • Do It Regularly.  You probably didn’t wake up this morning and start running a marathon, right?  Nope, because to run 42 km's – or even a single km – you have to work up to it.  You need a regular workout to benefit.  Puffing through one intense run every year gets no results.  It’s the same with your activities; you need a regular schedule to be successful.
  • Have a Plan.  Give your events some thought, and keep your goal in mind.  If you’re interested in building team cooperation, you wouldn’t plan a trip to the pub - where the same people interact with the same old people having the same old boring conversations! You'd look for ways to mix people up and get them interacting in ways they don't normally do.  Think of your objective first, and find an activity that meets it.

  • Keep It Fun.  No matter how targeted and how regular your activities are, if they’re boring they won’t work.  So loosen up!  Make it fun and – dare we say it – enjoyable for your workers!
  • Get Your Employees Involved.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with a lunch or a movie now and again, but don’t make these your primary employee engagement activities.  Make it active, not passive.  Get creative juices going with games and projects that make people grin and laugh, not grimace and yawn.
  • Match Your Employees and Your Activities.  If you have a group of staid, mild-mannered employees, don’t shove them into a raucous game and say, There now! Have a good time!  And planning an all-chess outing for your creative team will probably lead to mutiny.  Match the activity to your group and – if you can – to the individuals in the group. 

By now, you’ve realised that successful employee engagement activities require planning, thought, and something even more important:  a real knowledge of the identity, likes, and dislikes of your staff.  Use this as a starting point, and watch your activity success grow!

mikesymondsroundMike Symonds is the creator of Funergizers. Funergizers is an easy, flexible and effective 'staff engagement program'. Containing a suite of tools, workshops and activities. Funergizers empower you to easily engage, energize and connect your staff.