Have you noticed the shape of the engagement curve by tenure?
In the organizations I have worked for, the engagement by tenure curve almost always had a flat U shape. Employees with a tenure of less than a year in the organization, had the highest engagement. Engagement drops steeply in the 1-3 year time frame. It stays low (plateaus) in the 3-5 year tenure band. And starts to go up again for employees with >5 years tenure.
The engagement level never comes back to the <1 year levels anytime during the employee’s tenure in the company!
We all understand that the first year is the “honeymoon” period for new employees. Optimism, novelty of the new workplace, conviction that they have made the right choice and manager attention all play a big role in keeping engagement high in the first year.
So why does this drop so steeply post the first year? And what can we do avoid this?
Data shows that the biggest reasons for the drop in engagement in the 1-5 years of an employee’s tenure are-
Gap in expectations- in professional growth
Most of us join a company with the expectation of career and professional growth. We expect our roles to expand and change on a regular basis. When this doesn’t happen, we are disappointed and engagement drops! More often than not, it is also because we are unable to have this discussion with our managers. Also, our managers sometimes quote “company’s policy” as the excuse, instead of having career discussions!
As managers, we have to become comfortable and proficient in having career conversations with our team. We owe it to them to be open with our feedback!
Regular 1:1s and clear performance discussions help the employee understand where they stand and what they need to do.
These 1:1s also help your team know that you care about them and their career.
Feeling of being taken for granted
New hires get the most attention from their managers. As time passes and the employee settles in the organization, managers assume that things are working well and shift their attention. This results in the employee feeling un-recognized, un-noticed and taken for granted. It’s normal for an employee to want attention and recognition from his/her manager. It’s important therefore, for us as managers to prioritize this.
Prioritize recognizing your team members contributions
Personal milestones are important! Remember to congratulate and celebrate!
I have frequently heard employees who have been in a role for even less than a year complain that they “no longer have any new learning” on their job. In the daily rush and pressures, it’s easy for us as managers to forget that our teams want to be constantly challenged. Boredom at work and a the feeling that it’s just “more of the same” is real in today’s world.
Prioritize development discussions with your team
Be pro-active about sharing opportunities for training, certifications or expanded responsibilities for your team
Be generous about recommending your team member for other opportunities in the company if they want to expand their roles.
Recruiting great talent takes significant effort, time and money. It’s a travesty if the top talent that we hire performs at a sub-optimal level for the most of their tenure at the company, due to low engagement! As leaders and managers we have a big role to play in turning this around and making it better. Ian Hutchinson says it best- “Employee Engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business”