How To Deal With Employee Engagement Issues

When you are onboarding a new employee, you may notice that they are disengaged at the start – and this can happen for many different reasons. It is important to be aware of these signs, and know how to handle these situations as they arise. 

The employee says “The role isn’t what I expected”

Dissect this concern. What part of the role is what they expected? What part is not? Have a realistic dialogue about any duties of concern to the new employee. Put yourself in their mindset. They left a job for this one with an understanding of the role from their perspective. If it’s very different than what they expected, their disillusionment is real. Feeling duped, some jump ship right away, others start a covert job search. As the Leader or Manager, engage in the issue.

  • Identify favourable duties that balance out the less-favourable ones.
  • State the necessary: “This part of the role is cumbersome but necessary and represents a third of what you do. The other two thirds is right up your alley and will go well. Does that balance work?”
  • Write a short list of what they were told/expected versus the reality of their role. Did a miscommunication occur? It’s possible that the new start was given misinformation, and things won’t improve. You have to determine if you should part ways early on.
  • Make sure the employee feels valued in the job they are doing. Perhaps the real issue is that they feel that what they are contributing is not meaningful, or their supervisor is unsupportive.

The employee says “I don’t feel welcome, I don’t fit”

The issue with this concern is that it’s often not said out loud. Normally, both the employee and employer can feel it. If you observe that socialization is not going well, ask other employees for help. Sometimes they’re focused on their work and don’t realize the new start feels left out. Ask for the team’s commitment to create engagement. Look for personality traits that could be causing the issue. Perhaps the employee is quiet in a gregarious group, or the new start is loud in a hushed environment. Identify small improvements such as the location of their desk relative to others—another employee that is similar in nature can help the newcomer adjust. Establish positive relationships with occasional socials, even a simple lunch or shared desserts.

As the manager, be clear about values in the office: it’s possible the office grapevine has taken over, or negativity is excessive. Get on top of the politics and re-set positive expectations in terms of behaviour.

The employee says “I don’t know what is expected of me”

This is one of the most common concerns we hear. The new start says they believe they are doing a good job, but they aren’t sure. Managers should spell it out: ‘Here’s what you’re excelling at and here’s an area you could develop further.” Saying it clearly will allow the new start to feel secure, and to try harder. Most importantly, don’t ignore the warning signal that something isn’t comfortable for the new start!