The keys to employee engagement

The keys to employee engagement

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at 






The keys to employee engagement

by Mark Wager

As organisations look for that competitive edge the concept of “employee engagement” has been growing in popularity over the past ten years, yet with that increased interest comes a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on what “engagement” actually is and more importantly how and why it will benefit the organisation.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement has been described as an employee’s involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with work, it’s the positive emotional attachment that an employee has with their work. Basically it’s when they care about what they do. So why is this important?

Discretionary effort

If people have that emotional attachment then people will work harder. If I walked up to you and asked you to help me move my sofa, you may take pity on me and help me out yet the majority of people will look at their watch, make some excuse and move on. Imagine the same situation if you knew me, maybe liked me or you knew that I had to move the sofa to order to help an elderly sick relative. As the emotional attachment grows so does the possibility that you will go that extra mile, work that little bit harder that is discretionary effort.

How do you engage a workforce?

There are many studies out there and most organisations have conducted their own employee engagement surveys, all very commendable but remember we are talking out emotions here. Would you go home and give your partner a 60 question survey to fill out mark it and then declare that you have scientific evidence that they love you? Don’t get me wrong ‘m not saying that organisations that spend money on employee surveys are wrong, in fact I think it’s a good thing but stats will never tell you the complete story. Your partner may have scored highly in her/his survey but would that stop them running off with Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie if they turned up at their door?

Here are the top five tips that will create engagement in your organisation, not just based on survey results or studies but based on over twenty years as a Manager and yes a bit of gut feeling as well. At the end of the day sometimes you can’t prove if someone cares you just have to feel it.

Be transparent

People need open communication from their leaders, tell people what is going on and why things are happening, why you had to make that decision even if it was unpopular. People will never agree with everything you do but if they know the reason why then they will respect you for it

Involve people in decision making

This is a tricky one as it’s a bit of a balancing act, people want to be involved in decision making yet they want their leaders to make decisive decisions. Be honest and let people know that the workplace is not a democracy you are paid to make decisions and that ultimately the quality of those decisions is what will define you as a leader but and it’s a big but you can only make quality decisions when you have the correct information and that can only happen by involving your team and getting their opinions.

Develop people

We all have a fundamental need to grow, explore, discover new things, to learn. As leaders we can meet that need. Developing people, making them better not only in their current role or even the role they want to be in but helping them become better people; this will be the best investment you ever make as a leader.

People need to feel valued

Deep down at some level we are want to feel valued, we want to believe that there is some reason for our existence. While as a leader you can never fill the need that should be filled by healthy personal relationships you can let people know that they are important to the organisation. There are hundreds of leadership books published every year but no matter what new theories people come up with the most powerful leadership tool will never change. The ability to say “thank you”

Clear expectations

Over two thousand years ago Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War” in this he explained ‘If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers neverthereless disobey, then it is the fault of the officers” The same is true today the majority of HR issues are as a direct result of the manager setting unclear expectations. Be clear with what you want people to do.

Inspire people

Despite how impressive your business plan is constructed or how many widgets you need to produce or sell this month people need to feel something, something more than numbers. They need to know the story that they are part of, what’s happened so far, what’s happening now so that they want to know what will happen next. Inspire people to be involved in your organisation, inspire them to take a leading role in your organisation’s story, inspire them to care about what happens next. Do this and you will have become a true leader.


This article is taken from the book "Elite Leadership". Click the link below to purchase through Amazon

About the Author:

Mark Wager is New Zealand's leading Leadership Coach. To contact Mark regarding Leadership Coaching, MBTI Team Building or Leadership Development Programmes please use the enquiry form below


Posted: Monday 8 July 2013


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