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Leadership and Employee Engagement: 5 Strategies to Engage Employees in 2018

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

The Power of Leadership Behavior on Employee Engagement

Gallup's 2017 data on employee engagement shows that 85 percent of American workers are not engaged in their work: 67 percent are not engaged, while 18 percent are actively disengaged. Together, this means that more than four out of five employees are less motivated to be productive, ultimately affecting customer satisfaction, profitability, innovation, and rising costs. 

So what really motivates and engages employees?

Employee engagement is "the positive emotional connection an employee has to their work and their workplace."

In short, engaged employees care about their work, are committed to their organizations, and want to give more than is required or expected.

More than simply satisfaction, employee engagement is a positive connection to the work employees do and a belief in the goals, purpose, and mission of that work. Employees (and remote employees) want to feel pride, satisfaction, recognition, and support, but more than that, they want to believe that their work matters, that they contribute, and that it resonates with their values.

Employee engagement studies and surveys consistently cite management and leadership credibility as a crucial factor in this connection. "If we don't believe in the messenger, we won't believe the message" is the underlying concept of the leadership practice Model the Way from the leadership model, The Leadership Challenge.


5 Strategies for Leaders to increase employee engagement

There are a number of behaviors that effective leaders can model to employees that impact both the emotional and rational engagement factors:

Strategy One: "I will tell you and show you how you and your work matter" by...

  • being clear about the values of the organization
  • talking about the meaning of our work
  • finding ways to acknowledge your contributions to the bigger picture
  • showing you how your interests can be realized

Strategy Two: "I will enable you be more effective in your job" by...

  • listening to your point of view
  • asking you for feedback
  • giving you choices in how to do your job
  • recognizing your good work in a way that matters to you

Strategy Three: "I will encourage you to be innovative" by...

  • encouraging you to try new approaches and take risks
  • asking what "we can learn from this situation?"
  • talking about the possibilities of the future

Strategy Four: "I will encourage your growth in your job" by...

  • providing challenging opportunities for you to test new skills
  • supporting decisions that you make
  • being clear on our goals, plans, and milestones

Strategy Five: "I will be a leader you want to support and willingly follow" by...

  • treating you with dignity and respect
  • following through on promises and commitments
  • seeking ways to celebrate accomplishments
  • looking toward a shared dream of the future

Are you satisfied with your employees' and organization's performance? If not, take a look at becoming an inspiring leader. The suggested leadership tactics above reflect some of the 30 leadership behaviors from The Leadership Practices Inventory®, a 360 degree assessment tool and companion to The Leadership Challenge® Workshop.

When leaders move toward improving their observable behaviors, they have the extraordinary ability to positively influence employees to willingly become engaged. That's a powerful investment that pays dividends not only in developing good people, but by directly affecting the organization's bottom line.


This blog was originally published in 2016 and has been updated in 2018 to reflect research updates and new data.

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Holly Seaton

Holly Seaton is an executive coach who appreciates the privilege of helping organizations and individuals build their leadership capacity by moving from intent to action.