Chief Execs: Is Your Engineering Firm Taking These Employee Engagement Risks?

By Heather Campbell

Are you so busy looking at ways to increase employee engagement that you’re missing the causes of disengagement amongst engineers in your organisation?

If you are, you aren’t alone! As human beings, we’re hard-wired to exclude important matters as soon as we focus on something else.

It can be easy to focus on increasing employee engagement scores and yet forget to make the actual change that will increase these.

In this post I highlight seven risks that Chief Executives, HR Directors and senior leaders in engineering firms miss that are causing disengagement because they’re so busy focusing on engagement.

1. Expecting a quick fix

If you are constantly pushing for progress and getting frustrated with lack of results, you may need to rethink your own expectations. Building employee engagement is an ongoing process and it takes time to achieve. If you fail to recognise this, you risk missing the steps that have been taken and the outcomes that have been achieved – and so disillusion everyone who has worked to make these a reality.

2. Expecting employee engagement to happen without you personally changing

I never cease to be amazed at how many Chief Executives think that employee engagement happens ‘out there’ and somehow doesn’t demand that they – or their Directors – actually do anything differently. Just take a look at this cartoon that’s doing the rounds on the internet and ask yourself if you’re guilty of taking this risk?

3. Treating employee engagement as an isolated change

You can’t increase employee engagement without making significant changes to many other parts of your organisational system. Everything from the way you recruit engineers to the way you review their performance to the way you engage them in change must be reviewed. Employee engagement isn’t a ‘thing’ – it’s a way of being, a way of working, and it’s integral to a company’s culture.

4. Giving mixed messages

I stopped providing consultancy to a large engineering firm in the aviation sector because its Chief Executive directed his teams to implement employee engagement across their global teams. He then got angry with them when he discovered that financial results weren’t as good as he expected for two consecutive quarters. In response, his senior leaders went back to their old directive ways, undoing every step of good engagement practice that had been implemented.

5. Believing employee engagement is ultimately about money and rewards

Too often building increased employee engagement is still seen as being about increasing financial rewards and other benefits. Of course this is important but, time after time, research shows that truly engaged people are engaged because they feel they are connected to the company’s purpose and can make a positive impact on this. In turn, this gives meaning to what they do.

Sure, people like money and other benefits, but that doesn’t build engagement.

6. Protecting ‘sacred cows’

If you’re going to build employee engagement, you’ve got to get all your senior leaders aligned with you. There can be no ‘sacred cows’ – no matter how unique or special a person’s skill-set is deemed to be. One individual operating in a way that builds disengagement will have a negative impact that reaches far further than you imagine.

7. Blaming middle managers

I find it really frustrating when senior leaders point at the middle managers and say that lack of employee engagement is all ‘their fault.’ In reality, I see middle managers struggling to engage reluctant front-line teams while their own senior leaders do nothing differently in terms of engaging with them.

In addition, there is a lack of training and development to support middle managers in developing the new skills and behaviours they will require to engage with their people differently.

This simply leaves middle managers frustrated and disengaged because they feel unsupported, ill-prepared and blamed for lack of results.


If you are making these mistakes, you are putting at risk the very goal you wish to achieve – an increasingly engaged workforce. These common mistakes are:

  • Expecting a quick fix
  • Expecting change to happen without you personally changing
  • Treating employee engagement as an isolated change
  • Giving mixed messages
  • Believing employee engagement is ultimately about money and rewards
  • Protecting ‘sacred cows’
  • Blaming middle managers
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