Remember when you could just throw an Employee BBQ every few months and consider your employee engagement through the roof? Wait! What?… That was never a thing and employee BBQ’s aren’t the ultimate fix? It’s true that many companies have often thrown Employee BBQ’s for staff with hot dogs, a choice of pop and chips in hopes that it would increase engagement. But does that type of perk really impact engagement? Don’t get me wrong, an Employee Lunch is a nice perk for employees but if employees go back to their workspace and their leader is still kind of a jerk or they don’t feel the organization and their leader really cares about them, the engagement needle doesn’t really move. It’s a temporary distraction from larger issues.
With BBQ’s and lunches we may increase some camaraderie among employees and teams but they don’t have any other real measurable benefits. Employees don’t typically go back to work after a BBQ and do a better job than they were that morning. They do the same job, at the same pace and quality level as they were before. With Wellness programs, however, staff actually may go back to work with renewed focus and more energy after getting a treadmill workout in at the gym or going for a walk with a walking group at lunch. Employees do appreciate the investment being made in their health by their organization.
The focus on wellness at work is a great trend. Healthier employees are generally more productive and wellness programs can impact the bottom line with respect to lowering benefits premiums and turnover rates. Many organizations are offering massage sessions on-site, biggest loser contents, healthy lunches, expert sessions on various nutritional or wellness topics, etc. These are all great!
However, none of it matters at the end of the day if your leaders aren’t leading effectively. Yes, wellness programs demonstrate that the organization cares about the health of their employees. But if employees go back to work to find their leader is still a jerk, they still don’t understand what is expected of them or that their leader is annoyed they attended the nutritional lunch and learn or got a work out in at lunch, what does it matter?
Organizations often look for tricks to increase engagement numbers and so they offer quick fixes like BBQ’s or investing heavily in programs for wellness and then wonder why engagement hasn’t increased. Ultimately, an employee’s direct relationship with their leader will be the biggest indicator of their satisfaction and engagement level at work. Jim Harter from Gallup says that based on their research, “There’s simply no question that managers are one of the top root causes of low and flat-lined engagement”.
Organizations should absolutely continue to provide perks like lunches and invest in the health of their employees. However, if organizations want to impact engagement; if they want to impact the day to day satisfaction of their employees; they need to start with the foundation – It’s Leaders. Leaders who know what their role is, know how to support each employee on their team based on their individual needs and who genuinely care about their team, will increase engagement every time.
Jane Helbrecht is a Partner at Acuity HR Solutions. She leads the training and development function with a focus on Acuity’s Intentional People Leadership training program. For more information on Jane or Acuity HR Solutions visit https://acuityhr.ca/