I’m a fan of employee engagement, relationship management, and career development. I place my focus on these areas as a manager, peer, and leader because of the examples set by the many managers with whom I have worked with throughout my career—especially the bad examples.

Bad or good, managers never seem to have enough time to spend with their team. We’re too busy running from one meeting to the next, putting out fires, and building that presentation slide deck for that next big meeting.

The trend among leaders and managers at work is to outsource your engagement in favor of automation, which, if done incorrectly, can kill your employee engagement and company culture. Whether your engagement dies quickly or slowly, your lack of personalization and your focus on checking off the boxes on your personal to do list hurts the most important capital investment at your company.

Workplace automation is an attempt to make the most of the 8+ hours we spend at work each day, in an effort to save time, maintain our productivity, and allow us to focus on our tasks. Yet here are three ways automation can kill your employee engagement and productivity at work.

Your Automation is Obvious

Obvious automation is an employee engagement killer, if I’ve ever seen one. Things like publically announcing to your team that you personally only sign all employee birthday and anniversary cards at the same time on one day each year are a sure way to kill that company culture. What you, the manager or team leader, sees as being productive, your team sees as not caring enough to take the time to customize a moment or a message that is important to your individual employee on his or her special day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of working efficiently. I just like it to be customized to the employee. Whether it’s an email response or an automated reminder for your team to complete that 360 degree feedback form, there are ways to make automation fun and original without killing your company’s culture strategy.

Your Automation is Poorly Timed

One of the downfalls of automation is that we can set it and forget it. This can become painfully obvious if your automation is poorly timed. I once had a manager send out automated employee recognition via our internal social network just after we had announced a large layoff at our company. Time consideration and delivery of your message is almost as important at the message itself.

Your Automation Isn’t Genuine

The key to being a great leader for your team or organization is in the details. You must have the ability to build relationships with those from whom you demand the best every day. Those small moments and interactions between co-workers and teams are what make the company culture and should be used to spotlight why your organization is unique.

A new hire’s first 12 months are the most critical during their career with your organization, so it’s really important to make the most of your interactions with these new and impressionable employees. Mass notifications and requests to complete onboarding surveys, new hire documentation, and meeting requests can be automated. In fact, I encourage you to do so. However, these interactions must be made personal in order to provide an opportunity for employees to feel welcomed and be comfortable with asking questions and establishing important connections within your company.

Good automation—the kind that helps managers by freeing them up to spend more time establishing connections, building relationships, and growing their teams—is possible. But it does require forethought and a focus on the employee first. Automation should make the workplace better for the people who are working to take your company and its goals to the next level and provide you the time to pay attention to your most important investment: your team.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is an author, speaker, HR professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the President/CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

09 July 2014

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