7 HR Sins That Cause Low Employee Engagement

6 min read
Mar 21, 2022


Employee engagement impacts nearly every aspect of your business, from revenue to retention to recruitment and more.

Employees who are more engaged at work are more likely to work harder and motivate others to do the same. As an HR leader, you want to ensure you're fostering greater employee engagement, not destroying it.

This is where the 7 HR Sins That Cause Low Employee Engagement come in. Check out our breakdown of why the following actions have such a negative impact on employee engagement and what you can do to avoid them. 


What To Avoid To Improve Employee Engagement:

  1. An Unclear Onboarding Process
  2. Not Balancing Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation
  3. Using Fear As A Tactic
  4. Treating Everyone The Same
  5. HR Doesn't Help Solve Problems
  6. Micromanaging
  7. Distributing SurveysMerely for the Sake of It

We at TINYpulse by Limeade define employee engagement as the extent to which one is emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally invested in their work. And according to research done by Gallup, that isn’t quite a lot workforce today. Only 36% of the entire workforce is engaged and that’s a major problem that is causing companies to lose more than $500 billion per year in productivity. 


However, if your employees ARE engaged, you can expect the following: 



The goal is to have more employees who are engaged in the workplace than those who are not, but there are certain things that HR teams are doing that work against this goal. Let’s take a look at these actions and how we can spin them to improve employee engagement rather than destroy it. 


1. An Unclear Onboarding Process

The first contact you have with your employee isn’t when the person is hired, but when you first contact the person during the hiring process. 


From the first moment, all the communication you have with the candidate reflects what your company culture is like, how you treat your employees, and what it would be like to work for your organization. 


Showing candidates you care, they are valued, and you listen to them right off the bat will lead them to be more engaged and productive when they are working for you. So when thinking about employee engagement, start with the hiring and onboarding process and see how you’re treating your candidates there: 


  • What’s communication like? Are they getting notifications with feedback and next steps? Are you meeting your own timelines in getting back to them?
  • How are you behaving during the interview stage? Are you smiling? Are you getting to know them as a person?
  • What’s the process like with candidates who didn’t get the job? 


All of these factors influence the candidate and perhaps your future employee which all impact employee engagement in the long run. 


Once the hiring process is complete and you have hired a candidate, the work isn't over. You need to ensure that your new hire gets all the necessary information, as well as social, environmental, and emotional support during their transition so they have a positive employee experience integrating into the workplace. 




2. Not Balancing Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation


An important factor to having engaged employees that are productive and content with their job is their motivation. 


Extrinsic motivation drives employees to pursue certain goals and aspirations based on external rewards. They usually come in the form of employee rewards (recognition, bonuses, gift cards, vacation days, etc.).


Intrinsic motivation is an internal desire to pursue certain goals and aspirations. This behavior comes from the individual because it’s internally satisfying for them or helps them meet personal goals. Intrinsic motivation can be related to achieving mastery, feeling like your work has purpose and value, having the autonomy to work on things you find interesting. 


When it comes to the workplace, HR leaders should take notice of what kind of motivation (internal or external) is most present in their workplace and take action to balance the two.  


Maybe the workplace lacks internal motivation so the HR team needs to take a look at their employee experience and open lines of communication to employees to hear how they can improve. Perhaps the workplace is missing external motivation and employees are relying too much on internal motivations. The action there could be to implement new employee recognition programs including rewards and awards to not only high achievers but other aspects of work too. 


3. Using Fear As A Tactic


Employees need to feel safe at work. If they don't, they won’t come to you with suggestions on how the organization can improve to become a better place to work. If they’re afraid of the reactions they will get once they come to an HR person with a problem, they will keep quiet until one day, they leave. 


Encouraging employees to provide feedback (good and bad) at work is a huge win in any organization. Businesses need to receive feedback to understand how their employees are feeling on all levels. With that in mind, try to create safe spaces for your employees where they can share their thoughts, feelings, and feedback without judgment. This can be done with surveying platforms and other creative solutions. 


4. Treating Everyone The Same


When Ernest Shackleton was stranded with his team in Antarctica, he boosted the morale of his crew by treating everyone fairly. But that didn’t mean that he treated everyone the same—  no. 


He would talk to the biologist in the crew about new species they discovered, with the photographer about the beautiful landscapes they just saw, and with his first mate about the logistics of their survival. 


You should treat everyone fairly, but that doesn’t mean that you should treat them the same. Employees have different innate traits and some people require more direction while others require less. Some require almost no supervision while others require a guiding hand. 


Provide a range of support so all employees can find something they need to feel valued at work. 


5. HR Doesn't Help Solve Problems


When there’s a problem within a team and it’s getting out of hand, you as the HR leader should step in with tactics on how to diffuse the situation. 


It’s best to “kill the monster while it’s small” so it doesn’t grow into a bigger problem.


By not getting involved, employees will feel indifference and disengagement across teams which could contribute to not feeling valued at work. 


6. Micromanaging


When there’s an issue in the workplace, you don’t need to immediately jump on the first sign of trouble. Listen to all sides of the story and allow those involved to try and work it out first.  If it becomes a problem, should step in and try to help with a neutral view. 


If you jump in on the first sign of trouble, the employees will think of you as micromanaging them and they will be reluctant to provide solutions themselves for fear someone else is just going to tell them what to do. 


7. Distributing Surveys Merely for the Sake of It


Most HR leaders have good intentions when implementing an employee engagement survey, but that can’t be an ad-hoc solution— impactful surveys are strategic. 


If you give your employees a survey, you will receive information on what needs to be changed in the workplace. If you haven’t prepared for that in advance, talking with your leadership team about implementing all the changes you received can be overwhelming. This often leads to nothing impactful being done. 

Not only that— if the employees see that their feedback isn’t being implemented and that the surveys they filled weren’t valued they may also stop participating altogether.


When distributing employee engagement surveys, make sure that they are strategic and looking to solve specific problems. 






Every organization should strive to improve employee engagement to improve their business across all fronts. As mentioned in this article, the benefits are too impactful to ignore.

To avoid committing the seven HR Sins That Destroy Employee Engagement and for a strategic approach to boost employee engagement in your organization, consider implementing our New Employee Engagement Survey by TINYpulse.



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