As an HR professional, I observe one of two paradigms in the workplace when it comes to leadership focus on employee engagement in today’s workplace. Either senior decision makers assume the position that employee engagement is a ‘fufu’ concept that has no place in a place of business, or they realize that employee engagement must be a critical component of any strategic planning initiatives to achieve a successful business outcome. The first, is a sure-fire way to create a work culture that leads to complete employee disengagement. The second is the foundation of prudent leaders who understand that they must spend just as much time on retaining good employees as they do attracting good employees. Failure to understand the importance and value of employee engagement will consistently see a revolving door in their employee population. 

The fallacy of many organizational leaders is to focus on monetary offerings and salary as the foundation to keep staff engaged. However, a Harvard professor conducted a study in 1990 that resulted in findings that research supports still ring true today. He found that the drivers to employee engagement has everything to do with an employee’s sense of belonging, and little to do with actual salary. Employee engagement is bench-marked on three drivers:

 ·       They must feel that their work is meaningful and when they show up at work, they make a difference.

·        They must feel a sense of value; and that they are trusted and respected by their leaders.

·        They must feel a sense of security in their employment and confident in their position as a team member.

Translation… the more employees feel they belong and that they feel a part of something more than just a place to get a paycheck, the more engaged they will be to their leader and to the organization. With engagement being such a critical component of leadership success, what is needed to lay a strong foundation of employee engagement and commitment to organizational excellence?  Here are three simple strategies that can make a huge difference to how employees feel about working for you as a leaders:

1.     Consistently Show Staff Appreciation and Value

  • 70% of employees say that if managers simply showed appreciation, motivation and morale would improve drastically. The survey literally supported that a simple ‘Thank You’ would make a massive difference. I read a case study during my doctoral study of a small hospital in Vermont with some staff who drove over an hour one-way to get to work. The amazing thing was that these were not highly paid staff. Some were maintenance and clerical staff who were paid only slightly above minimum wage, and who drove by bigger medical facilities on the way to and from work. A reporter heard about the staff and embarked to do a human-interest story to find out why. During the interview with the staff, she heard a consistent explanation that centered around one leader. 
  • Staff reported that the chief hospital administrator consistently arrived at work an hour before he began his official work duties, and made it his business to walk the entire perimeter of the grounds and every office of the hospital to speak to every single employee in the mornings, and did the same each evening to say good night. He knew family dynamics and always offered assistance and resources to any employee when needed. He quickly intervened when there was conflict among staff to ensure resolution and team collaboration. All employees, to include medical staff, admin staff, clerical and maintenance, said it was wonderful to have a leader who ‘knew’ them and truly cared. Some even said they would never want to work anywhere else. WOW! What a testament to true leadership and real employee engagement! Praise, kudos, and thank you’s go such a long way. Amazingly, it’s the one area where most leader fail miserably. 

2.     Cease “Top Down” Thinking – Employ Up-Leadership

  • Human capital is the foundation for all that you will or will ever do as a business leader. Traditional or transitional thinking will lead to leadership failure. No longer can you manage from the mindset ‘they have a job, so they should be grateful’. You need to know what your staff is thinking, how they are feeling about you and the organization, and how they perceive what they experience in the workplace. Employee surveys is the best took to tap into employee feelings and opinions.  However, you will need to ensure that the survey process is not just another exercise, and that is well thought out. 
  • The survey must be designed to allow staff to give real feedback on real issues with a sense of non-retribution. Once you have the results, hold informal team meetings with a relaxed atmosphere, perhaps a luncheon, to discuss input and what the organization will do to address. It is imperative that you employ active listening, and you don’t take ANYTHING personally. This is when your emotional intelligence must shine most brightly! Always look for low hanging or ground fruit that you can address quickly for some quick wins. Quick wins show your staff that you truly are seeking to ensure they know they matter. The more team members are asked to express their opinions, the more they feel confident doing so, and the more they feel they matter, the more engaged and committed they will be.

3.     Put Leaders in Place Who Know How to Lead

  • The fundamental truth of organizational productivity is poor leadership is BAD for business. Real leadership is about having the capacity to tap into the best in your staff to get the best out of them.  Up to 32 % of involuntary employee turnover is attributed to poor leadership skills and strained relationships between managers and staff. Having ineffective managers leads to retention issues, lowered employee productivity, negative customer satisfaction ratings, internal staff resentments, and contentious team interactions. 
  • One thing that continuously surfaced as a significant factor in employee satisfaction in the workplace was how the supervisor interacted with staff. Improving the relationship between direct reports and their bosses is critical to increasing employee engagement. So senior leaders must hire leaders who understand that the old rules of leadership are out the window. Leadership requires so much more than a title on a door and a focus on crunching the numbers. If a new leader falls short, train them. It will be the best investment you will ever make towards the company’s long term success.

Having a work culture whereby leaders understand the importance of employee engagement and are committed to showing value to staff must be a major emphasis in the strategic planning process. Employees just need to know that they matter, and they have value to those who employ them. How amazing would it be for you to hear your staff echo what those employees of the Vermont hospital had to say about their leader! All it takes is for you to understand the critical value of true employee engagement.

For more strategies on Employee Engagement or to get an assessment of your current staff engagement levels, contact Epitome’ Consulting Services, 1-866-660-2697.   Visit us at