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6 Common Barriers To Employee Success & How To Remove Them

6 Common Barriers to Employee Success & How to Remove Them

Employee engagement is a crucial factor in driving organizational success. Effective employee listening reveals the obstacles hindering employees from reaching their full potential. Research from Perceptyx has repeatedly identified six common barriers to engagement:

  • Recognition and reward
  • Growth and development
  • Continuous improvement and innovation
  • Communication
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Empowerment

In this article, we’ll discuss these barriers, incorporating recent insights from our research and case studies to provide a more comprehensive understanding of these challenges and offering data-driven solutions to create a thriving work environment.

Barriers to Success: Six Key Themes

According to our research, the six themes outlined below relate directly to organizational barriers that can impede employee engagement. 

Theme #1 — Recognition and Rewards

Not feeling valued is a major barrier to success in the workplace. Perceptyx's research indicates that employees who receive recognition and praise are more engaged and motivated. With the continued use of remote and hybrid work models, acknowledging employees' efforts and achievements has become increasingly important.

Recognition and Rewards Pro Tip: Implement various recognition methods, including both monetary and non-monetary rewards, to cater to different employee preferences (be sure to ask employees how they like to be recognized, too!). Encourage regular feedback and recognition from managers, peers, and clients to foster a culture of appreciation. Utilize AI-powered software like Perceptyx's Cultivate Intelligent Coaching to provide valuable feedback to managers about their communication with employees, ensuring that recognition is distributed fairly and consistently across the team.

Case Study: Organon, a large pharmaceutical organization that partners with Perceptyx for employee listening, used employee listening to evaluate its spot bonus recognition program, a system designed to reward employees exemplifying company values or performing exceptionally. Initially, they wanted to debunk the idea that the more monetary rewards given, the higher the employees' morale. 

Through their investigations, Organon discovered an optimal frequency of giving one to two awards per quarter which positively impacted morale. Peer or boss recognition with a small gift card also proved beneficial. However, they found that when they were trying to solve workload issues, too many awards failed to drive further increases in morale. They addressed the issue through a program called “Better at Organon,” focusing on resource and process improvements. They still give spot bonuses, but acknowledge it's not a one-size-fits-all solution — a conclusion they reached through survey data.

Theme #2 — Growth and Development 

Perceptyx research has found that fostering growth and development in employees is the single most critical factor in engaging and retaining them. As businesses strive to maintain their competitive edge, employees are required to continually hone their skills and expand their knowledge base to fulfill evolving job requirements. Further, growth and development — particularly the belief that employees have a future with the company — leads to a sense of belonging, a key driver of intent to stay.  

However, the importance of growth and development opportunities extends beyond just employee engagement and retention. When considering what aspects make a company attractive to potential employees, compensation and benefits typically top the list, especially within the U.S. Job seekers are initially drawn to a company based on their proposed financial rewards.

But an interesting dynamic comes into play when it's time for job seekers to finalize their employment decision. Although career development doesn't rank as highly as salary and benefits when it comes to attracting potential employees, it becomes a major determining factor when candidates decide to accept a job offer. Surprisingly, Perceptyx's research showed that the prospect of future career growth was twice as likely to motivate a job change compared to compensation or benefits.

Unfortunately, many companies continue to place an overemphasis on salary in their talent acquisition strategies, opting to offer higher starting salaries and signing bonuses. This creates a problem for HR leaders, as the factor that encourages potential employees to apply, a high starting salary, isn't the same factor that convinces them to accept the job offer — namely, career growth potential.

According to the data, employees leave organizations for a variety of reasons, but one pattern is evident. When recent job-changers were asked their top reasons for leaving their previous job, career growth (e.g., opportunities for advancement), and development opportunities were paramount, followed by health benefits. Compensation trailed significantly, with fewer than half as many mentions as career growth.

Growth and Development Pro Tip: Establish a culture of continuous learning by offering access to online courses, workshops, and mentorship programs. Implement “stay conversations” with employees to hear from them on what they need to succeed and grow.  Regularly assess employee skills and interests to identify and provide targeted development opportunities leading to new roles or higher-utilization variations on existing roles. Use engagement surveys to pinpoint bottlenecks in growth and development processes and make necessary improvements.

Theme #3 — Continuous Improvement and Innovation Powered by Employee Feedback

A perceived lack of commitment to innovation and continuous improvement often poses a significant barrier to employee success. Bureaucracy, scarcity of resources, risk aversion, and a blame-oriented culture may mean employees feel a lack of psychological safety to speak up and share perspectives.  This not only hampers inclusion, innovation, and engagement but also erodes a company's performance and profitability.

However, the contemporary workplace demands leaders to establish deeper, more genuine connections with their employees. They accomplish this by listening to their employees more frequently, on diverse topics, and through various channels than ever before. By integrating both people and business data, they can understand what their employees need to flourish and how these needs translate into continuous organizational improvement.

Continuous Improvement and Innovation Pro Tip: As outlined in Perceptyx's 3-part guide, The Blueprint of a Continuous Conversation at Scale, such an understanding occurs through the facilitation of continuous dialogue and responsive action across the organization, integrating people and business data, and taking responsive action based on the insights gained. By fostering data-driven decisions, foundational agility, and a virtuous cycle of organizational health, organizations can not only enhance their employees' experiences but also continuously improve their operational efficiency. Additionally, creating a culture where risk-taking and innovation are recognized and rewarded — formally, where, and when possible — will empower organizations to grow and thrive.  

Theme #4 — Communication

A lack of transparent and open communication is a significant barrier to engagement and success. Employees not only want their opinions to be solicited, but they also want that feedback to be taken into consideration during decision-making. Whether it's within teams or across departments, research consistently shows that obstacles to communication can lead to frustration and disorder.

However, the advent of crowdsourcing, an innovative approach to collecting feedback, has transformed conventional modes of communication. It allows organizations to pose timely questions to their employees, capture their feedback and ideas, and prioritize the most popular responses through a pairwise voting system. It’s also a great tool for building trust and credibility between senior leaders and the front lines, a prevalent issue observed across industries.  By conducting surveys with a crowdsourcing component, companies can capture and synthesize real-time feedback, fostering data-driven decision-making and giving employees a seat at the decision-making table.

Communication Case Study: A case in point is Blanchard®, a global leader in management training. In their partnership with Perceptyx, they used the Dialogue product to collect crowdsourced feedback about leadership performance. By enabling every employee's voice to be heard, from individual contributors to the C-suite, Blanchard could promote inclusivity. The insights they derived helped address identified trends, such as discomfort in giving and receiving feedback, which led them to implement training programs related to trust-building and conversational capacity. Blanchard also introduced wellness days in response to employees expressing a need for time off, leading to a significant increase in employee goodwill.

Communication Pro Tip: Breaking the mold of corporate hierarchy to promote open and honest dialogue is vital. Leaders should continually be asking employees how things can be done differently — and better, and find ways to connect communications and decisions back to employee feedback whenever possible. They should also be open to challenges. Crowdsourcing, through a platform like Dialogue from Perceptyx, can ensure such transformative communication by amplifying employee voices and truly allowing them to not only be heard, but to actually see their feedback being incorporated into future strategy and action.

Theme #5 — Collaboration and Teamwork

Harnessing the diverse skills and knowledge of employees is crucial in any organization. Agile collaboration and rapid teaming are becoming more prevalent, empowering employees to cross hierarchical boundaries to solve unique problems. Here at Perceptyx, we tend to encounter low customer scores related to cross-functional or cross-departmental collaboration, which is usually linked to communications, lack of process, and other related issues. If traditional organizations do not rethink their workflows, they risk being left behind. 

When deployed alongside Perceptyx’s two decades of listening expertise, the Dialogue product can address numerous challenges by amplifying employee feedback and empowering swift action. This powerful collaborative process includes:

  • Action on Employee Experience Survey Results: Dialogue allows organizations to co-create actions based on survey results, leading to meaningful change. With Dialogue, organizations can engage their teams to gain additional insights and prioritize actions.
  • Co-create Solutions to Known Challenges: Dialogue facilitates the co-creation of solutions to existing problems. During challenging times like a global pandemic, Dialogue can help leaders quickly collaborate with their workers to learn about their unique needs. 
  • Build Change Buy-in with Inclusive Dialogues: Dialogue enables organizations to gain buy-in and include all voices in change efforts. By involving employees in the collaborative dialogue, a sense of ownership can be built, ensuring successful and well-received change efforts.

Collaboration Case Study: One organization that leveraged Dialogue’s collaborative power for improved results is BJC Healthcare. They used Dialogue's crowdsourcing capabilities to significantly elevate their safety culture. By offering an accessible channel for all employees to provide feedback, BJC surpassed its participation goal with over 10,000 employees providing helpful suggestions during a two-week listening event. The results led to actionable solutions to key safety challenges and greatly facilitated their change management efforts.

Collaboration and Teamwork Pro Tip: Pay attention to the culture, systems, and processes supporting rapid problem-solving. Employee listening conducted through Perceptyx’s People Insights Platform can enable your organization to recognize hotspots and factors hindering success. As agile collaboration and teamwork become increasingly critical, Dialogue from Perceptyx can help foster a collaborative and inclusive environment.

Theme #6 — Employee Empowerment 

Employee empowerment is instrumental in fueling engagement and success within an organization. A culture of empowerment can drive employees and teams to their desired levels of success. Conversely, disempowered employees who feel undervalued and unheard are less likely to remain engaged or stay with the organization.

The shift towards remote and hybrid work models has presented the challenge of maintaining employee engagement and effectiveness. Two predominant strategies have emerged: "monitoring" and "empowering." The former, characterized by surveillance-like tracking of employee activities, was prevalent in the early stages of remote work transitions. 

Empowerment strategies, however, prioritize trust and growth. They've gained traction in recent years, driven by a workforce increasingly seeking personal development opportunities. An empowerment strategy is especially beneficial in the current remote work era as it equips leaders with tools and products to manage distributed teams effectively.

Such an approach implies trusting employees with their data and decision-making processes. Organizations opting for this strategy foster an environment of psychological safety and trust, encouraging open dialogue without fear of reprisals. As noted above, this leads to more engaged and innovative teams and improved overall performance.

Empowerment Pro Tip: Implement strategies and products that promote growth and development, improve collaboration and teamwork, foster innovation, and enhance reward and recognition systems. Empowering employees at a team level, decentralizing people analytics to team leaders, and implementing tools and products promoting flexible work schedules, team autonomy, and dynamic work norms can all enhance employee empowerment. All of these steps will contribute to creating a culture that empowers employees and leads to success. Remember, removing barriers to success is synonymous with empowering employees — which leads, in turn, to improved engagement and organizational success. To help with this process, utilize products like Cultivate Intelligent Coaching, our AI-powered leader effectiveness solution, to develop the manager behaviors that reinforce a level of trust with each team member

Want to remove barriers to employee success in your organization?

At Perceptyx, helping companies identify the barriers to employee success is our mission. With custom listening products paired with our people analytics platform and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can help you increase employee engagement and boost productivity. Get in touch and let us show you how. 

To learn more about how your organization’s employee listening strategy stacks up, take our free interactive assessment.

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