There may be trouble a-brewing. In the years following the 2008 recession, statistics indicated that employee engagement improved — possibly because of the express need to rally against the economy’s downfall. But, according to the 2015 Employee Engagement Trends by Quantum Workplace (a consultancy specializing in “workplace awesomeness”), engagement declined from 68% to 65.9% in 2014.

Engaged employees are highly motivated and committed. They bring a great deal of enthusiasm to work every day, and feel positively about their managers and employers. Does this sound like most of the workers at your organization? Or are you suffering from the slight decline in engagement indicated in the survey?

If you fear that the number of unengaged — or even actively disengaged — employees on staff is growing, you may be falling prey to a number of myths about employee engagement that plague many organizations. Here are five to consider.

  1. This is serious business!

One common-sense approach to employee engagement is for organizations to try to understand their employees to the same extent that they endeavor to understand their customers. Unfortunately, the 2014 Global Workforce Study by workforce consultants Towers Watson found that only 43% of employees surveyed reported that their employers understood them in this manner.

In many organizations, it’s not uncommon for managers to call employees to their offices for intense discussions about engagement. Sometimes these conversations are built into annual performance evaluations. This is all very understandable and practical. But it’s also buying into the myth that employee engagement must be “serious business.”

Remember that employee engagement discussions can also be held in more informal, relaxed settings. For instance, managers can ask a worker about his or her favorite project during a birthday gathering or in casual conversation after a meeting. Sometimes “small talk” such as this can slowly build a fuller picture of an employee than a single, isolated, “we must cover everything right now” meeting.

  1. The tougher, the better!

Your organization’s managers play an enormous role in engagement. Research leaders Gallup published a study called State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders in 2015. Among the findings revealed: Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement.

A myth many managers labor under is that, to improve engagement, they must challenge an employee. And how do you challenge someone? Give him or her something really hard to do! But if that new job responsibility or special project doesn’t cater to the staff member’s passions ― or he or she doesn’t have the adequate resources or support to undertake it ― the whole effort could backfire.

Challenging employees is absolutely necessary to keeping them engrossed and enthusiastic about their jobs. Just be sure the challenges you throw down align with each staff member’s interests and career objectives.

  1. Awards solve everything!

There’s little doubt that money plays an important part in what brings an employee to an organization. In fact, more than 44% of employees worldwide indicate that compensation is the main reason they chose a particular job, according to the 2014 Towers Watson study. But, once you’ve settled on compensation (and likely added a benefits package), what more can an organization do to keep someone engaged?

Many employers turn to recognition to drive engagement. And, on its face, there’s nothing wrong with this. But the myth that often applies is that recognition equals a tangible reward — often a certificate or plaque or statuette given at an organizational retreat or celebration.

Yet a plaque gathering dust on an office wall or cubicle shelf doesn’t hold the same allure as it used to. In fact, with telecommuting and flexible work arrangements becoming increasingly commonplace, many workers may not get much recognition from a physical object that winds up in a closet. Think about more relevant, lasting forms of employee recognition — such as a personal phone call from a high-ranking manager followed by a companywide email, or a hearty congratulations “blasted” on social media.

  1. It’s all about them!

Employee engagement is only about employees, right? After all, the word is right there in the phrase. Not entirely. Many organizations fall for the myth that it’s solely each worker’s responsibility to attain “engagement” — with a helping hand from his or her manager, of course.

But this just isn’t true. Your organization’s culture, strategic objectives, and reputation in its sector and the world at large all play a role. One telling statistic: 54% of employees who were proud of their companies’ contributions to society described themselves as “engaged,” per “The Importance of Employee Engagement,” a series of informative infographics created by Dale Carnegie Training.

So, while every employee’s engagement may end with that particular individual, it begins with you. Organizations that conduct themselves with all of the elements of engagement — ethical actions, enthusiasm, confidence, empowerment — naturally tend to have engaged employees. Take a broad look at where your organization excels and where it needs improvement and fine tune where necessary.

Getting and keeping

It’s no myth: Among the key drivers of employee engagement is performance management. And that happens to be one of our specialties. Please contact us here at Performance Dimensions Group for insights into getting your staff engaged — and keeping them that way.