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Employee engagement mistakes to avoid (at all costs)

Tahseen Kazi

21 September 2023

In this article:


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I was in a conversation with Debolina Dutta (ex-VP of HR at Schieder and Professor at IIM-B). She shared this interesting story about interviewing with two companies. 

The first one was super smooth - they knew she was coming for an interview, had her visitor's ID ready, and breezed through two interviews plus a psychometric test in a day. On the flip side, the interview process in the second organization dragged on for two months. It involved uncertainty and interviews were rescheduled with little to no warning.

Even though the second firm offered 40% more, Debolina chose the first one.

Through the rest of our conversation, ​​Debolina shared five seriously practical and actionable tips for HR professionals—things they should have stopped doing yesterday!

Through the rest of our conversation, ​​Debolina shared five seriously practical and actionable tips for HR professionals—things they should have stopped doing yesterday!

1. Don’t assume experience starts on an employee's first day

Employee experience (EX) starts right from the interview process. Debolina's interview is just one such instance of experience gone wrong.

So I couldn’t agree more when Debolina said this;

“I've seen recruiters promise the earth and moon to candidates. And later there's this whole dissonance between the brand promise and reality. It’s important HR paints a realistic picture. Talent today is sharp enough to validate employer brands through multiple sources”

Few things we do at inFeedo and we recommend you do too! 

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: We can’t emphasize this enough, each role needs a lot of preparation even before the JD goes live. At inFeedo here’s how we prepare for every role we open up.
  2. Curate a unique interview experience: Curate an interview plan in line with your company values and train the hiring team to ensure a consistent candidate experience.
  3. Acknowledge candidate burnout: In a competitive job market, constant interviews can take a toll, leading to burnout. Be mindful and help candidates navigate through the process. 
  4. Always close loops: Always close the loop by sharing feedback even if it doesn’t work in their favor. Leaving people hanging is a crime. 
  5. Be honest & respectful: Keep it real, prioritize value created over outdated data for pay & titles, and treat candidates like you'd want to be treated.

2. Don’t set & forget HR tech 

It might be tempting to think that one implemented technology will handle everything on its own. Sure, it’s great for boosting efficiency at scale.

But guess what? You’re human…and a part of being effective is showing that you are vulnerable. 

However, trust and psychological safety rely on human interaction. Tech can't build those foundations.

💟 You have to create a culture where people feel comfortable to speak. What's the scaffolding that you put around the organization, that helps build that trust? For example whistleblower policy, open door policy, and more. You might have a great system, but how you implement it…that makes all the difference.

debolina-dutta Debolina Dutta, Professor IIM-B | ex-VP HR at Schneider Electric

Your HRBPs need to roll up their sleeves and put HR tech tools to work for them before you can see any real results.

3. Don’t assume organization culture ≠ team culture

Company culture and team culture are not the same, no matter how much you wish they were.

Sure, you might have certain values and beliefs that you’d like the organization to follow. But if your managers don’t align with this belief system, things can go south real quick.

🧡 You know, the interesting thing is that psychological safety is different between teams in the same organization. 

At a macro level, how do you deal with somebody asking difficult questions? Do you encourage it or do you shut them down? That’s the macro-culture. At micro levels, does the manager enable voice? That’s micro-culture. It has a direct linkage not just to engagement, but also to innovation, agility, and team performance.

Debolina Dutta
Professor IIM-B | ex-VP HR at Schneider Electric

Run team and manager effectiveness surveys regularly to gauge organization-team cultural alignment and address any mismatches.

4. Don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach

HR professionals often make the mistake of offering a one-size-fits-all experience.

Same feedback surveys.
Same engagement tactics.
Same onboarding processes.

But here's the truth: Every employee has a unique journey. Newcomers seek learning early on and want to get their paperwork in place, while seasoned pros seek career growth, work-life balance, and supportive managers.

As Debolina rightly says, make every employee experience count. 

It's about the experience that you give at every stage. You can’t just say - “We're going to look after an employee when they just join and throw them into the deep end and let them swim or sink after that”. Employees need to be taken care of at every stage.

Debolina Dutta
Professor IIM-B | ex-VP HR at Schneider Electric

5. Don’t overlook the impact of small gestures

There’s something that Debolina shared during our conversation that really stuck with me. 

She said,

🙏Most managers and leaders make this mistake. They focus too much on KPIs. They prioritize the urgent over the important. How many of us really have time for those little things - spending time having conversations, understanding people, understanding who they are and what they're going through. If you do that, your people are engaged.

debolina-dutta Debolina Dutta, Professor IIM-B | ex-VP HR at Schneider Electric

Let me paint a picture of this in action: You know how companies hand out branded swag, right? Well, at inFeedo, we're no exception. We've got these t-shirts that say "inFolk." Recently, we kicked it up a notch and started giving these t-shirts to our employees' kids too, with a twist – they proudly say "Jr. inFolk." 🚀

Here’s the reaction of one super-proud inFolk and happy parent on receiving this package.

Jr. inFolk

6. Don’t work on hunches to make decisions    

When will HR finally get a seat at the table?

You can’t solely rely on hunches and gut feelings for decision-making and still ask this question. Just like finance and sales, use a combination of experience with data-driven insights.

🎓 Talk business. Skip the soft talk and fluffy jargon. Talk about how you can increase revenue per employee, how you can increase productivity per employee, or how you can improve a team’s performance by improving engagement. 

I was in sales right before I joined HR where I used data a lot because of my number-oriented role. So even in HR, I tend to use a lot of data and I’ve found that has helped me a lot.

Debolina Dutta,
Professor IIM-B | ex-VP HR at Schneider Electric

TATA, Sony, & Axis Bank use this EX platform

The top brands in the country rely on this AI-powered platform to connect with their employees and discover instant insights into what their employees want.

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