Employee engagement by CEOs a tough road to navigate

Stephen Murphy employee town hall
CEOs may be slipping by not paying enough attention to employees.

CEOs work hard to get it right, but sometimes there are slips with their most important assets: their employees. It’s hard to run an organization where some things can go awry, but it happens all too frequently. From not developing staff to its full potential to not fostering team building, these issues can hold companies back. By knowing the potholes, chief executives can place their company on the right trajectory.

The biggest mistake CEOs make is not mentoring the development and growth of their staff, said Rick Snyder, CEO of Three Hats, a business consulting firm.

“This creates a stagnant culture and lack of buy-in, as they don't feel invested in personally,” Snyder said. “If you are only sticking to tasks and accountabilities and not their developmental growth, executives are missing a huge opportunity to have their employees take the brand to the next level.”

Another big mistake, according to Snyder, “is not listening to your gut in your next hire. Someone might seem like the perfect candidate on paper, but many managers will tell you that going on someone’s experiential background and skill set alone and not listening to your gut can be the biggest mistake you make in hiring. By learning to tune into your inner signals as well as the body language and nonverbal communication of your applicant, all the data you need is right in front of you.”

Many companies unwittingly let scores of future candidates get away, simply because they concentrate only on open requisitions. “They do this by failing to take the time to identify and build relationships with talent for possible future needs,” said Rachel Russell, Allegis Group's executive director of corporate strategy. “They often forget to maintain relationships with the ‘silver medalists’ who may be qualified for a role but were not chosen. And when a similar role comes open again, that candidate is not in the pool. Understanding talent needs ahead of time, and acting on a meaningful strategy, is no longer a nice-to-have approach; it is essential in a hyper-competitive talent and business environment.”

Don’t assume your company’s success is relevant to the job candidate, Russell said. “Often, candidates have skills that are in demand across multiple industries, especially when you think about IT and data science specialists, as well as developers. If you reach out to the candidate as the leader and think that’s a slam-dunk selling point, you may be in for a rude awakening. Especially for in-demand talent, you have to first sell them on the idea that your industry can advance their career. Personalize the value proposition. How can you develop their skills, promote them, give them interesting work that’s meaningful to the world, and grow their compensation and overall well-being?”

Companies fail to set employees up for success by giving them a strong, valuable onboarding experience, said Leela Srinivasan, CMO of Lever. “Too often, new hires are left to sink or swim.”

Companies also fail to help employees make relationships across the organization, which can help them build empathy for their peers and feel connected to something meaningful, Srinivasan said. “The biggest talent management mistake that companies routinely make is treating hiring like a transaction, rather than the beginning of a win-win life cycle for employee and company alike.”

"CEOs frequently underutilize the top one hundred people in their organization as tools for communicating the vision of the company," says Stephen Miles of The Miles Group. "The three layers—a CEOs’ direct reports (typically the top eight to 11 executives); the next level of direct reports (another 20 to 30 executives); and then those who fill out the top 100 in a company—are where a CEO can create leverage of inspiration, influence, and alignment. Engaging all three layers by connecting them and their roles to the overall strategy of the company has a dramatic impact on the broader organization. They are the ones who will cascade the strategy and get more people aligned to drive the strategy forward."