Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Increasing Employee Engagement

Volume: November 2012

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Many leaders ask me questions like: “What are the secrets to helping my employees focus on my business?” and “How can I help to engage team members in their work?” These are important questions. In order to answer these questions, as well as to take action on them, we need to define employee engagement, examine some enlightening research, and focus on five key leadership behaviors.


Defining Employee Engagement

Employee engagement refers to the positive or negative psychological and emotional attachment team members have to their job, their co-workers, and the organization. The level to which an employee feels engaged will profoundly influence their willingness to be productive, learn, and collaborate with others. Employee engagement is very different from employee satisfaction. When employees are truly engaged they will “go above and beyond,” show pride in their work, and recommend their company.


Employee Engagement Data

According to the Gallop organization, 28% of the U. S. workforce is disengaged. In a certain respect, this statistic is mindboggling. However, when leaders are able to truly engage team members, look at what happens to your organization:  

  • 16% more profitability
  • 18% more productivity
  • 37% less absenteeism
  • 60% less defects
  • 51% less likely to experience employee theft
  • 62% less likely to have an employee accident
  • 31% less likely to have quality team members leave your employ

I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but I am thinking: “Holy cow, we need more engagement!” In order to realize more team member engagement it is imperative that leaders in your organization perform at the top of their game. So, let’s look at some specific behaviors that leaders should put forth if they desire an engaged team.


Leadership Skills That Drive Employee Engagement

Here are five game-changers that can transform a group of employees who are merely collecting a paycheck into a team who are raving fans of your company.

  1. Communicate Values. Corporate culture is created and maintained by the values of the organization. If you as the leader value integrity and you do what you say you will do, your organization will possess integrity. If you show up late for meetings and allow others do so without penance, you will have a sloppy organization that does not value deadlines. Talking about values is easy. Living meaningful values can be difficult. My advice is to share heavy doses of three core values with your team members. Then, manage your organization according to those values. Let high values drive your organization each day. When team members are frequently reminded about corporate values and then witness those exact values in action in the workplace, engagement will be positive. And so will results!  


  1. Share a Meaningful Vision. A visionary leader clearly communicates where the team is headed, why they are going there, and how each team member fits into the journey. Seek to communicate the real vision of your organization. Help team members understand the strategy behind the direction of your company. When you share and live a compelling vision, you may also create followership. When team members clearly visualize what the future holds for your organization and for them, magic will happen.


  1. Recognition & Meaningful Feedback. Recently, I heard a client of mine say, “Effective recognition can make people feel special.” You know what? She is right. Do not let the media’s blitz about a sub-par economy impact your organization. Recognize the herculean efforts that are taking place all around you and help those that are important in your work world to feel special. If your organization is not in a position to recognize your top performers in a financial way, at least lavish them with praise. Make certain that your praise is very specific, and that it highlights how team member efforts are positively impacting the entire team.


  1. Coaching and Development. By helping people grow and learn, you better position them for current and future success. When team members feel that they are being helped, a stronger connection to the leader is made. Not only does coaching and development create a personal bond, but it engages team members in an important activity within your organization. Remember, when team members grow and develop, so do their leaders.


  1. Inform & Involve. If you want your team members to be engaged in your business, involve them in your business. It is a simple formula. A study many years ago showed that open-book management (i.e., sharing financial data with employees) increased profitability by 15%. Now, why do think that happened? Answer: Full knowledge and engagement with the organization! I am not saying you have to include all your team members in every key decision that is made, however, the more you inform and involve your team in what is going on (now and in the future), the higher their level of engagement with your business.    


In contrast, a Towers Watson study revealed that a reduction-in-force reduces employee engagement by 33.9%. In other words, those companies that choose to lay off workers in order to reduce expenses are playing with fire in regards to employee engagement. In order to maintain positive employee engagement it must be perceived by your workforce that your organization is prudently using its people resources, and striving to save/create jobs.


Bottom Line: Studies show that a 15% increase in engagement equals a 2% increase in operating margin. In other words, engagement is profitable! So let’s go out there and ensure that our team members are engaged. Ask your team members if they feel engaged. Also, ask them why or why not they feel engaged. The results you uncover will contain volumes of information. Remember: Your efforts to increase engagement will also spur meaningful thinking about how to best maintain a healthy culture in your organization. Along the road you may very well engage a workforce that acknowledges and appreciates your efforts and actions.


Until next time, be well!


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