Coaching - Flickr

How can we help make employee engagement a natural part of our organization? If your company has recently completed an engagement survey, this is likely to be a question you hear more than once. There are a number of ways that organizations can help make this happen. The ones that I encounter most often are event-like in form. These event-like forms include:

  • Repeated administrations of the engagement survey over time
  • Conducting focus groups after each survey to clarify the results
  • Formal award programs to recognize those leaders or departments who have achieved a target level of engagement
  • Creation of action plans to provide steps to take to increase engagement scores

Without a doubt, these are important elements of the engagement process in an organization. While this is the case, I have consistently seen that organizations focus so much on these process elements that they underutilize elements that have a substantial impact on engagement and do not require a lot of resources. A crucial element is the manager that is overseeing the work of employees.

  • Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70 percent of the variability in engagement scores across business units
  • Work done by the Corporate Leadership Council indicates that 15 of the top 20 drivers of employee engagement are related to managers

Instead of being so focused on event-related elements of the engagement process, helping managers to get in the habit of doing simple things on a more consistent basis will accelerate engagement becoming a natural part of the organization. For example, employee recognition is known to impact engagement, but a formal award program should not be the only means of providing recognition (especially since the award is given a few times a year at most). If managers observe their employees doing something really well, the managers could simply take a couple minutes to pull the employees aside and let the employees know what they did well along with the positive outcome of their performance. Other examples of simple things include providing more role clarity to employees as well as offering guidance to help them enhance their capabilities and manage their careers. These types of actions are not costly, can be done frequently and have a pretty good payoff.

If some of these simple things sound like they might relate to emotional intelligence, you would be correct. They are behaviors that can be found in emotional intelligence frameworks. In fact, research conducted at IBM showed that managers with high levels of emotional intelligence (above the 75th percentile) had consistently high engagement scores.

Think about the managers in your organization. What simple things could they do on a more frequent basis that can help make engagement a natural part of the workplace?


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Coaching, Flickr)