People want to feel motivated and purposeful at work. Yet, according to Gallup, 66% of U.S. employees feel disengaged at their jobs.  This is a real crisis – one that you as a leader can change.

Employee engagement goes beyond being “happy” at work.  Engagement drives company performance.  An engaged worker understands her purpose within the larger organization.  She is motivated to contribute; she sees the value in her efforts.  She sees that you see her value.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

Work Strategy leader Cindy Coleman writes, “Progressive companies see the workforce as their “customers” and look to turn current and future employees into the best thing possible: true believers.”

Why?  Because high-engagement companies enjoy 21% higher profits.  Workers that are motivated to succeed are the backbone of any successful firm. 

Employee engagement also means higher retention rates. With unemployment at a low 3.5%, the competition for talent is fierce.  Consider this: a recent online study found that 78% of Millennials surveyed plan to leave their job within two years.

“In order to thrive in today’s quitting economy, companies must create workplace experiences designed to retain today’s workforce by promoting a clear work/life balance,” Hibob CEO Ronni Zehavi said. “While popular trends in perks have come and gone, culture and opportunity are key drivers of employee happiness and support collaboration and productivity.”

5 Easy Strategies for Engagement

As a leader, you can implement these five easy strategies today to start addressing the employee engagement crisis.

  1. Recognition

Acknowledge the effort and unique skills of your employees. A few words of appreciation cost little and make your staff feel appreciated.  Keep in mind, people have different preferences for how they like to be recognized.  While one person may enjoy public praise, another may like a more private “thanks” or a thoughtful note.  Ask your employee: “How do you like to be recognized?”

  1. Flexibility

People aren’t just workers – they’re individuals. When you respect the entire person, including the responsibilities they may have outside of work, employee engagement increases.  People who have the flexibility to work at different times and locations feel trusted and valued.  33% of employees would like to work remotely at least once a week.

  1. Support Professional Growth

Engaged employees are always learning.  As a leader, you can support their dreams as they develop new skills within your organization or through industry conferences and events.  Additional knowledge ultimately means a more valuable and loyal employee.

  1. Create a Culture of Feedback

Mutual respect is a hallmark of employee engagement. Leaders offer appropriate feedback to their teams to support growth. Invite your staff to reverse roles. Ask for a critique of your latest keynote or to proofread the deck for a client, for example.

  1. Discover and Support Strengths

No two individuals are alike.  By discovering and revealing your employees’ strengths, you can leverage these talents.  Get specific. A worker who understands exactly how she processes information and interacts with other people is empowered – and engaged.

The 3 Barriers to Engagement

In order to foster employee engagement, your company’s leadership must be allied in the effort.  Half the battle here is understanding what not to do.  Avoid these 3 pitfalls to employee engagement:

  • Capricious management practices

A lack of clarity about decision-making can result in employees feeling unheard.

  • Cynicism

If efforts at engagement seem false or like the latest management fad, employees disengage.

  • Bureaucracy

Rigid reliance on rules and regulations can take the humanity out of work, leading to less engagement.

Microsoft Leads the Way

Consider Microsoft’s Satya Nadella. Since he became CEO in 2014, employee engagement at Microsoft and the company’s market value has skyrocketed.  His example shows how thoughtful, supportive leadership results in a culture of high performance. Nadella leads with empathy: “You have to be able to say, ‘Where is this person coming from?’” he says. “‘What makes them tick? Why are they excited or frustrated by something that is happening, whether it’s about computing or beyond computing?’”

It wasn’t always this way. Nadell’s predecessors lacked his human-first approach.  He recalls, “Bill [Gates] is not the kind of guy who walks into your office and says, ‘Hey, great job’. It’s like, ‘Let me start by telling you the 20 things that are wrong with you today’.” 

As a result of Nadella’s management style, employee engagement there now flourishes. According to Nas Taibi, a Solutions Architect at the company, “Microsoft’s stance – not micro-managing, not treating employees like schoolchildren to be corralled and constricted – creates a productive workplace environment where disciplined, effective collaboration between teams is welcomed. The result is overall better engagement.


Ready to explore how we can help you or your organization promote employee engagement?

Let’s talk.  Schedule a 20-minute call to discuss your needs and determine whether a custom employee engagement program is right for you or your company.


Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, her views have been included in Bloomberg BusinessweekFast CompanyForbesHarvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.


  • Carson Tate

    Productivity Consultant •Speaker • Author • Leadership Coach