« Back to Blog

Employee Engagement Gone Wrong


Employee engagement gone wrong is now the talk of the town at forward thinking companies but not all employee engagement programs end up winning workers’ hearts and minds. For most companies, employee engagement lessons aren’t a big deal. But for some businesses, the uninformed staff engagement initiative doesn’t bring expected results. Here are three instances where a company’s attempt to engage their employees went especially awry.

Amazon’s Employee Feedback Fail

Amazon implemented a tool they called the “Anytime Feedback Tool”. It was created as a way for employees to provide peer evaluations whenever they felt like it. The feedback could be good or bad, and the evaluations went to the management team. While management knew who submitted the feedback, the employee in question usually did not.

This system was designed as a way for employees to provide feedback on each other, in hopes of improving employee culture, productivity and increasing the amount of engaged employees. Instead, it turned into something much worse. Employees began to plot against each other and not provide positive employee feedback. Not exactly something that boosts employee culture and morale!

Wells Fargo Fraud

This past summer Wells Fargo was embroiled in a massive scandal when it was revealed that over a four year period, thousands of employees had opened approximately two million bank and credit card accounts for customers without the customer’s permission – or even their knowledge. Some of these accounts were created and closed immediately, while others were used to transfer customers’ money around, causing customers to incur overdraft fees. Some customers’ credit scores were even impacted. All because of a poorly conceived incentive program created by the Wells Fargo CEO.

Employees were intimidated into fraud due to the unrealistic expectations set by their superiors. While some incentive programs can improve employee engagement, this particular program did the opposite. Employees grew to despise the company. They actively defrauded customers. And no one benefitted from it.

Kit Kat Outrage

In 2011, Torbay Hospital was named Acute Healthcare Organization of the Year. This is a prestigious reward, and twenty senior employees attended the lavish award ceremony in London. The rest of the 4,000 hospital employees? They received vouchers for a Kit-Kat.

That’s right, they didn’t even receive a Kit Kat outright. They got a voucher they had to exchange for a candy bar! It was slipped in with the staff’s pay slips. While there were only about 30 formal complaints made from employees, the story was picked up and went worldwide. Not only did this employee engagement failure hurt their employees, it hurt the company’s reputation as well.

While thanking employees is an important part of increasing the amount of engaged employees, it’s crucial to think about the proper way to do it. Gestures like Kit Kat vouchers often tend to do more harm than good. Initiatives like Amazon’s instant employee feedback tool may seem like a good idea, but it can go wrong quickly. And Wells Fargo is a sad example of why incentive based programs can be incredibly dangerous.

Employee Engagement Initiatives: Summary

If you want to know how to increase employee engagement initiatives , get a free demo of Beekeeper. The Beekeeper employee engagement platform is your key to boosting the amount of engaged employees and employee culture in the workplace. Employee engagement must be done the right to increase short and long term staff engagement. Otherwise, your employee engagement initiative may end up being a tale of when things went wrong without an employee engagement platform.

Want to learn more about how improving the employee experience can boost productivity? Download our free eBook.