How to Help Employees Get Engaged

I’m sure you’ve read just as many articles, blog posts and research on this topic as I have (which is far too many to count). But after my last post on all the benefits and bottom-line results companies with high employee engagement see, I thought I should give you one simple guideline to help your employees decide to engage.

Let’s be clear. You cannot engage your employees. Being engaged with your work is an individual decision every employee makes every day. The best you can do is create work environments and positions with which your employees want to engage.

To that end, here are three things you can do to create such an engaging environment:

1) Match job/role to personal abilities
– Everyone is passionate about something. And everyone has things they “can do, but don’t really like to.” Too often, however, we shove people into positions that let them do what they’re passionate about and love doing 25% of the time. Like having your sales reps fill out spreadsheets. I’ve met few sales reps who like spreadsheets – they’d rather be selling! (And you need them to be selling.) So why not give the spreadsheet duties to someone on the team who much prefers to make sure everything is orderly, reported properly and kept track of?

2) Thank employees for their efforts
– And be sure to acknowledge progress, not just results. People need to know if they’re doing what you need them to do in the way you need it done. If the only feedback you give is the negative or corrective kind, then most of the time, they’re functioning under the belief that they are doing the right thing because you’re leaving them alone. How much more effective would it be to tell your employees, “Joe, great job working on project X. Your efforts at A, B and C, have really helped the team meet their objectives for delivery much more quickly and at a higher quality. Well done!’

3) Help employees see the greater meaning and purpose in their work – If you make your appreciation and expressions of thanks specific as I illustrated above, you automatically help employees see the bigger picture of their role in contributing to achieving larger company objectives. CLC-Genesee and its parent company, the Corporate Executive Board, proved this in recent research, reporting:

“For instance, ‘One of the biggest levers that we’ve identified is a feeling of connection between what it is an employee does and what the company is all about,’ [Sarah] Johnson, [managing director of CLC-Genesee] says. ‘So if I feel that my work is essential to this business, that it reflects what our company is all about [and] I can see that link and the value of what it is I do, that drives engagement – which then has all sorts of positive consequences.’

“A company’s reward and recognition efforts, Johnson adds, can help reinforce an employee’s feeling that ‘I am valued by this organization, that I am important here and that I make a contribution.’”

What steps are you taking to help your employees want to engage? What’d I leave off my short list?

Be sure to check out our new book "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," available on Amazon now!

6 comment(s):

At October 08, 2010 4:36 AM, Laura Schroeder said...

Great engagement advice.

At October 08, 2010 7:53 AM, Derek Irvine said...

Thanks, Laura!

At October 08, 2010 1:53 PM, Stan Labovitz said...

Derek...In all due respect, your first blog containing the research was effective enough for me to copy and save, but your second blog falls far short of "getting employees engaged". The research is also prevelant that there are at least 28 measures of both emotional and rational drives that contribute to worker engagement. What I do agree with is that EE is nothing but a state of mind, unique to each person, but that's where were part ways of helping engage people. You had a good start, but fell a bit short on execution humble opinion only

At October 08, 2010 1:58 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Stan, I appreciate your feedback. You're right that there are many influencers of employee engagement. The most effective "execution technique" is strategic employee recognition, which I discuss at length elsewhere in my blog and in the Globoforce company website. In fact, several of our customers have achieved double digit employee engagement increases in just 12 months, which they attribute to their strategic recognition programs.

I would be interested to learn more about what execution techniques you would suggest.

At October 10, 2010 5:31 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Sharon, this is an excellent and important contribution. Thank you for adding it.

I've written before about the idea of value congruence (first introduced by Bret Simmons). I like very much the idea of finding work or a work environment where the company's values mirror your own.

Merging individual and company purpose is much the same. "Research" on GenY reports the merging of values and purpose is of foremost importance to them. The only reason I put "research" in quotation marks is because I believe this is true of many people from all generations.

At October 10, 2010 5:36 PM, Derek Irvine said...

To my readers, I inadvertently deleted an important comment from Sharon Eden (, to which my comment above is referring. This was the content of her comment:

Sharon Eden has left a new comment on your post "How to Help Employees Get Engaged":

Hi Derek...

Love that an employee's purpose and passion is recognised as supporting engagement. Although, I notice meaning and purpose was limited just to an understanding of the bigger picture of their role in achieving company objectives.

I believe marrying the individual's own purpose with the company purpose goes further... and ensures engagement dynamite!

And what about the individual experiencing themself as powerful within the organisation? Another high octane variable in engagement in my opinion.

Thanks for a thought provoking blog!