Your Top 10 Most Powerful Strategies For Building Active Employee Engagement in 2015


The Extraordinary Cost of Employee Disengagement:

So, why do we need to increase employee engagement levels ASAP? According to the Gallup Organization’s 20+ year study on the matter, disengaged employees:

  • Cost their organizations $3,400-$10,000 in wasted salary per year!
  • Take more paid sick days
  • Drain the effectiveness, quality rates and goal accomplishment levels of their otherwise engaged workmates
  • More often miss deadlines
  • Suffer sales under-performance
  • Contagiously disengage internal and external customers, with higher customer complaint rates and service dissatisfaction reports.

In The United States:

  • 33% of employees are Actively Engaged,
  • 49% are Disengaged
  • 18% are Actively Disengaged.
  • The Productivity Losses associated with Employee Disengagement costs American businesses hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
  • How much is employee disengagement costing your organization, department or team right now? How could that money be better spent?

Dysfunctional Employee Turn Over (people leaving their jobs due to Active Disengagement) - Back in 2006, the HR Daily Advisor reported that 89% of employers thought their people left for more money, while only 12% of employees actually did leave for that reason.

What tangible benefits will you experience through implementing proven employee engagement practices?

Well it turns out that engaged employees experience:

  • 51% lower turnover
  • 27% less absenteeism
  • 18% more productivity
  • 12% higher profitability

So how you can you begin to harness the value generating power and serious cost saving of Active employee engagement?

 What kind of strategies are world class organizations applying in order to support active engagement and reduce the high negative costs of active employee disengagement?

 The best solutions come from fully and clearly defined problems, challenges and opportunities. Let’s start by clearly defining what employee engagement really means:

Employee Engagement Defined - 5 Converging Definitions:

  1. ‘Employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to company success.’ (Towers Perrin)
  2. ‘Staff commitment and a sense of belonging to the organization.’ (Hewitt)
  3. ‘Employees’ commitment to the organization and motivation to contribute to the organization’s success.’ (Mercer)
  4. ‘Employees’ exertion of “discretionary effort”…going beyond meeting the minimum standards of the job.’ (Hay)
  5. ‘Engagement represents the energy, effort, and initiative employees bring to their jobs’ (Harvard Business Review)

Active Employee Engagement is defined by 2 Critical Success Factors. These Include:

1. An Emotional Component made up of an employee’s high level of bonding, trust and internal commitment to the organization, directly through their personal and professional relationship to their manager or team leader.

 But active engagement is not just about a positive employee manager relationship or the high levels of job satisfaction that result from that relationship. The immense reservoir of motivation and work potential generated by the healthy employee-manager interface has to be strategically guided and channeled into concrete action steps and processess via:

 2. A Behavioral Component defined by the maximization of "discretionary effort "applied to meeting individual, team and organizational performance goals.

 Discretionary Effort means going above and beyond the bare minimum of work and effort as defined by an employee’s formal role description.  Through discretionary effort actively engaged employees also actually exceed average performance metrics. 

When employees are positively emotionally-bonded to managers in a way that systematically enables discretionary effort, employees are then primed to do more of the right kinds of work behaviors when these behaviors count the most.

And discretionary effort persists outside of supervision by the manager or team leader. Through discretionary effort generated by active employee engagement, the informal organization is brought into alignment with the informal organization. People start thinking, saying and doing less of what they need to stop doing and start thinking, doing and saying more what they need to start doing. 

 There’s no such thing as costly dysfunctional turnover for actively engaged employees. They stick around for the long haul and bring out the best in fellow employees in the process. And of course, they take far fewer sick days too. 

10 Employee Engagement Ideas That Get Serious Results:

Employee Engagement Idea #1: Concentrate High-Engagement Leadership At The Employee Management Interface

People don't leave organizations; they leave managers and team leaders. 

Fact: Employee surveys consistently show that the single most important factor in employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager. (Victor Lipman) .

An increasing number of employees are leaving and planning to leave their current jobs despite tough economic conditions. Managers and team leaders need to become expert relationship builders and they need to learn now to nourish and sustain those relationships over time.

 Employees need to know that their managers actually care about them as human beings. Managers and team leaders  can build and maintain strong employee relationships 
at the employee/management interface by:

  Learning and Doing More Coaching. Without employee performance coaching there can be no sustained employee engagement. Coaching is all about helping employees to become more effective in their roles both strategically and culturally. 

Employee Coaching is all about active listening to elicit employee involvement with, commitment to and ownership of value-adding performance goals. It’s also about aligning and facilitating the attainment of each employee’s professional development and learning goals with the goals of the team and orgnaization. 

Employees need to know that they are working for their own goals as much as the organization’s when they come into work each day.

 Not only does effective coaching build strong relationship bonds at the employee/manager interface but it also gets serious bottom-line business results. This is because regularly coaching employees is a clear expression of:

Employee Engagement Idea #2: Live Your Organization’s Core Values

If your organization wide and team level core values are not compatible to creating a work environment that enables active employee engagement, - change or co-create new ones immediately!

Effective Organizations and Teams Value:

  • Honesty,
  • Respect,
  • Fairness (very important)
  • Collaborative/continuous learning and development
  • Shared problem solving
  • Constructive conflict management (vs conflict avoidance),
  • Giving back to the community and
  • Having serious fun in the process.

In high performing organizations, employees and frontline leaders regularly refer to and use their core value statements as a real time compass and positive shaper of both formal environment and work life behaviours. 

 For true leaders at every organizational level, the organization’s core values are the moral, ethical and even spiritual law of the land. High engagement employees thrive on being treated fairly and honestly. 

 This is in sharp contrast to the vast majority of managers and supervisors who simply don't bridge that critical gap between organizational values and their daily behavioral choices.  

Ask yourself:

  • Without checking, can you list your organization's core values, - the ones that are most related to building vibrant trusting frontline leader/employee relationships?
  • Do your employees know these core values and understand their importance?
  • In a team brainstorming session, what values would you and your direct reports add to or change about that list?
  • What concrete steps are you taking to "behaviorize" this values as a means of rewarding and recognizing your employees via formal and informal performance management processes? 

Employee Engagement Idea 3: Do Lots and Lots of Effective Employee Recognition

The strongest organizational science is clearly teaching us that employee recognition simultaneously builds and maintains healthy employee manager relationships and seriously increases bottom line performance.

 Doing effective employee recognition is all about implementing the 3 R’s of Employee Rewards and recognition. R here stands for the “Right” or correct way.

The 3 Rs of Effective Employee Recognition mean recognizing:

R1: The Right Kind of Behaviors – Role Behaviors proven to meet clearly stated performance goals. Examples of clearly defined and communicated performance goals include:

  • Mastering a new work process or procedure,
  • Demonstrating a core cultural value in relation to co-workers
  • Meeting or exceeding work quality and quantity metrics
  • Solving a problem or challenge in a way that creates value for the organization

R2. At the Right Times – It turns out that the best time to provided effective employee recognition is right when the employee is doing or completing a performance goal.

 R3. In The Right Ways - I strongly recommend that you read my short post on effective employee recognition. In it I outline a Radical New Approach to Employee Recognition, Proven To help increase Employee Engagement by 1000% Job Satisfaction by 300% and Measurable Work Productivity by 31%:

Employee Engagement Idea #4. Increase Your "Touchy Feeliness" Levels by 900%! 

Relationship building and relationship maintenance processes for active employee engagement are all about those “human factors” or the so called “intangibles” that organizational theorists and consultants have been talking about for the last 100 years.

We've all heard about these human factors but very few of us actually study and apply best practices in the lives of our own organizations.  Resultantly, we too often fail to align our daily actions with our core values.

 Actively engaged employees are fully aware and secure in the knowledge that their managers really know them and care about them as human beings. Employees thrive when managers and team leaders really understand and connect with them through the lenses of their personal values, goals and passions. Interestingly many of these interests and passions are universal.

 Aligning individual goals and organizational goals through shared values is one of the most important distinctions between real leadership and management as usual. Key questions here include:

  • Do you or your team leaders really know what your employees are passionate about?
  • Do you know what they most value in life?
  • Do you know their most heartfelt career aspirations?
  • What steps are you taking to acknowledge, validate and coach towards the realization of these personal goals values and interests? 

For example:

 Employee Engagement Idea #5 Take a genuine Interest in Employee Well-being 

The bottom line: A healthier happier employee is a more productive and engaged employee who sticks around for years and barely misses work.

When employee well-being is heightened this directly translates into increased employee engagement and performance. The world’s leading organizations are growing and sustaining employee well-being through integrated work-life balance and innovative employee assistance programs.

 These wellness and support initiatives provide everything from personal money management to professional counseling with relationship, parenting and stress management experts. They also provide employees with flex time planning and work from home options towards maximizing work life balance in an ever increasing world of stress and responsibility.

 Can you think of a better way to show genuine interest and concern at the employee manager interface than to help solve serious stress, parenting, marriage, family and money problems?

Employee Engagement Idea #6: Enable Workplace Giving

High performance organizations are reaping serious organizational health benefits by identifying and giving expression to the vast and growing number of employees that have a shared burning need to know that their work is making a positive difference in the world and to their fellow human beings.

An increasing number of employee engagement interventions are running employee driven community assistance, volunteering and go-green programs.


They often do this as a means of enabling the expression of a powerful shared core value on the part of their employees to give back to the community as a function of their work. 

The most effective workplace giving programs allow individual employee's and teams to define the why, the how and the when of giving back. They also provide solid tools and processes for formally meeting co-created community giving goals.

Employee Engagement Idea #7: Chanel Positive Relationship Energy into Performance Supporting Structures and Processes

Ok. So now you've got the lowdown on building strong positive relationships and organizational bonding at the employee management interface. But what do you do with all this new positive relationship energy and employee motivation to generate results driven organizational performance?

 Provide Coaching and Effective Employee Recognition to support behaviors that meet performance goals.  As I alluded to earlier, employees who love their jobs and their managers don’t necessarily become more engaged in their work. 

And it's not just financial compensation that counts. Effective employee recognition practices are just as critical when building high levels of active employee engagement.

 It’s essential that these more satisfied and motivated employees have clearly defined and whenever possible – co-created performance goals.

SMART Goal: Setting” is a great example of the kind of goals your employees need in order to channel their positive feelings and motivation. Such goals need to be:

 A. Specific – Goals are objective, clearly stated and very specific.

 B. Measurable – The goal’s progress is measurable in terms of objective and easily share-able quantity quality and time measures.

 C. Attainable – It’s one that you can actually achieve and is realistic. High performing organizations don’t reward goals attainment that is outside of the control of employees or team members. They primarily define, recognize and reward goals that are within the complete control of a given employee’s control.

 D. Relevant – This is where the organizational performance dimension comes into play. Goals need to be clearly linked to meaningful business or positive organizational outcomes. Key questions here include:

  • To what extend is this goal creating value?
  • To what extend is it reducing costs or increasing product and service quality to internal and external customers?

 E. Time Bound – The question here becomes: When will the particular task, project or goal be completed? Not only does time-limiting a goal facilitate performance by reducing wasted time, but it enables for time based process and quality improvements as well.

 Setting time bound goals also enables managers to precision target their recognition and reward efforts on employee behaviors that approximate, meet and exceed clearly predefined expectations.

Employee Engagement Idea #8: Increase Employee Involvement 

This is one of those human factors based strategies that we've all heard about for years but that very few of us actually do consistently or correctly. Yet the bottom line is that increased employee involvement = increased employee engagement.

 This is because employees are more likely to strongly buy into and feel a motivation-enhancing sense of ownership for goals that they play a major role in creating. This is in stark contrast to working to realized someone else's creative potential. 

 Each employee is uniquely positioned in their day to day work lives to view and assess workflow and outcomes from their own unique role and location within the organizational system.

Actively engaged employees are regularly empowered to do real active problem solving.  High engagement managers and team leaders enable employees to share and harness opportunities and address challenges that they themselves might not have ever become aware of otherwise. 

Employee Engagement Idea #9: Harness the Incredible Power of Teamwork Whenever Possible:

 The great thing about real high performance teamwork and team-based organizational design is that it has all of the basic ingredients needed to maximize active employee engagement built right into them.

 For example, effective team building and team leadership practices enable a team or department to reach higher performance levels by creating an organizational mini culture, strategy, integrated roles and work processes.

Effective team leaders are by definition effective employee performance coaches who are also well versed in employee recognition. They know how to impart teaming skills to their followers. 

Team leaders know how to proactively manage conflict and are constantly clarifying roles, goals and facilitating the collaborative learning process. 

Real high performance teams actually distribute the leadership role among team members, taking on and relinquishing the leadership role based on the team's current performance goals and each team member's ability to take on that role.

 Sadly though, 90% or more of all team building interventions fail to translate into real teamwork. This is true in both in-house efforts and interventions lead by top ranking external consultants and trainers.

Employee Engagement Idea #10: Hire Based on Core Values and Leadership Skills First and For Optimal Work-Role Compatibility or Management Skills Second

The world’s leading high engagement organizations hire for  leadership potential as expressed in individual values that align with core organizational values. In fact you might argue that they see cultural compatibility as more important than work role competency. 

Hi engagement organizations know that having the demonstrated ability to live out core organizational values is just as or even more important than just having strong  knowledge, skills and abilities to do their work.

For example, high performance organizations will hire managers and team leaders who are trained and experienced employee coaches and team builders. They hire people who genuinely care about others and who have a demonstrated track record for building and maintaining key work relationships.

Underperforming, low-engagement organizations, on the other hand, continue to hire managers and team leaders primarily based on their “management” skills rather than their demonstrated capacity for “leadership” effectiveness. These are the organization's who are most likely to be hemorrhaging top talent.

These are the same managers who can’t tell you what their organization’s core values are or why each value is most critical in continuously guiding and shaping a real high-engagement organization through expert relationship building and maintenance. 

What are your organization's core values? What is the best example of when you consciously made a leadership decision today, that was in complete alignment with those values?  

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Amazing Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann

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