Employee Engagement: It’s All About Leadership

Employee engagement is a challenge within most organizations. Recent surveys underscore the magnitude of the issue. Research conducted last year by the Gallup organization showed that 70{1f3faf35ad902e1c8bc667ed071e030e0a3181199c51cdaf886ca87c43016336} of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged in their work. Recent studies suggest the cost of disengaged employees to business in the United States exceeds $500 billion per year.


Research has also shown that the number one driver that promotes engagement is the relationship between the employee and their manager. Improving communication skills and strategies of your management team is an important first step towards cultivating an environment in which engaged employees can flourish. Engagement requires leadership at all levels of the organization. In fact, those who can have the greatest impact on engagement are leaders in the middle of the organizational chart. Here are five important steps to improve employee engagement:


Communication. Employees need to clearly understand the mission, vision and values of the organization and how their role fits into that picture. Supervisors should be trained on how to hold frequent and often times candid conversations with their team members. Employees will value frank talk if it is honest and backed up with a genuine desire to be helpful;


Feedback – It’s a two-way street. Too often, leaders reserve feedback for the annual performance evaluation. That process is dreaded by managers and employees alike. To truly be effective, feedback needs to be provided in more frequent, informal conversations. Supervisors should create a culture that encourages employees to provide their opinions, which should be backed up with a willingness to implement new ideas from team members;


Challenge your team. Encourage innovation and risk taking. Develop an environment where employees feel the freedom to challenge the status quo. Help your team members understand the need to break out of their comfort zone and consider different approaches or experiences that will help them grow professionally;


Empower and get out of the way. Giving up control absolutely terrifies many leaders. Your team members will grow and flourish if you allow them to carry out their project without micromanaging or second guessing their efforts. Empowerment does not mean giving up accountability. It’s up to leaders to establish deadlines, monitor progress and provide feedback; and


A foundation of trust. If you develop a culture in which leaders at all levels effectively communicate with their team members, encourage open, continuous feedback, challenge team members, empower, recognize and reward their accomplishments, you will build the essential foundation of trust on which employee engagement will flourish. Treat each employee as a valuable member of the team. Follow these principles and you will develop more engaged employees who are fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and possess an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals.


Engagement isn’t something that will happen over night. It also isn’t something that occurs as a result of lip service. You have to clearly communicate and live your organization’s values. Employees can see through insincere platitudes. It has to be real and sustained. If you’re willing to stick with that commitment, you’ll find an environment that is energizing, fulfilling, visionary and one that top talent will want to be a part of for the long haul.


Ross Woodstock is a credentialed coach at Kolt Communications, Inc. He specializes in executive coaching and leadership development. He is also a communications strategist working with clients on their marketing, public relations and advertising programs.