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Your employees show up. They do their jobs. They make coffee in the break room and celebrate donuts left there by an anonymous do-gooder. They sometimes laugh, sometimes not.

Some make friends and some do not. They look forward to Friday and rejoice on payday. The morale ebbs and flows, as it does in places of business. Overall, you feel good about your team.

Your employees may seem happy, but are they engaged? Do they have a positive, emotional connection to their jobs? An article in the New York Daily News reports that nearly 70% of U.S. employees are miserable at work.

According to the story, research conducted by the Gallup Poll suggests that the majority of American’s dislike or feel disengaged to their job. Forbes Magazine explains employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction.

Forbes defines employee engagement as “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

Though employees may enjoy their work environment and be pleased and happy with the people around them, they may be “not-engaged” in the work itself, or worse. According to Gallup polls, there are three types of employees regarding engagement.

  • Engaged- Employees who feel passionate about their work and the company they are working for. They are highly innovative and actively move their organization forward.
  • Not Engaged- Employees who simply get through the workday without energy or passion. They are “checked out” of their company’s goals and vision.
  • Actively Disengaged- Employees who actively express their unhappiness by undermining the rest of the organization’s success.

There is plenty of data from Gallup’s State of the American Workforce Report regarding the types of people that fall into the not engaged or actively disengaged platform. Gallup breaks it down into age groups.

It may not be surprising to hear that, according to Gallup, the Millennial generation is the least engaged of the workforce. At 29% in 2014, less than a third of employees in their twenties and early thirties are emotionally engaged in their work.

More shocking, perhaps, is the fact that only 32% of Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers register as being engaged. Engagement is an issue that crosses age lines. Gallup also reports on types of employees and where they rate on the engagement scale.

Managers, Officers and Executives register as 38% engaged. This is followed by farmers, foresters and fishermen at 34%. Next are professionals at 32%.

The least engaged type of employee, according to Gallup, is the one in manufacturing. The survey showed that only 23% of manual laborers are engaged.

Is this something you should worry about?

Looking at this data, it’s important to acknowledge the low levels of employee engagement and the effects it has on the workplace. If only a third of your employees are engaged, imagine the productivity when half are!

Consider this data, gathered from Gallup’s report, that says disengaged employees cost the United States around $500 billion a year! These employees “are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss work days and drive customers away.”

This is not a good thing. The Gallup report mentions that with raised engagement, productivity could rise as much as 20%. With all this information, it’s hard to ignore the effect engagement has on the workplace. The Gallup survey identifies ways to increase employee engagement.

This, in the end, will increase your bottom line. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to identify and measure your employee engagement.

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Make the First Step: Engage Your Employees


Set Goals and Share Your Vision

In order for your employees to be on board with what you’re working toward, they’ll need to know about your goals. Make it a habit to share these regularly and involve your employees when it’s time to change them.

Recognize Hard Work and Accomplishments

Recognition can go a long way. It can be a simple thank you, either publicly or privately. It can even be in the form of an office happy hour, dress down day or free PTO. Some companies incorporate elaborate anniversary gifts and bonus structures that reward hard work and dedication.

Provide Opportunities for Professional Growth

Engaged employees are eager to develop professionally. They are interested in their job and learning more about it is exciting to them. To encourage this, provide opportunities for quality development. Consider hosting a seminar or paying for coursework.

Provide Opportunities for Personal Growth

In the same vein, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Invest in life- and health-coaching. Healthier, more focused people make better, more engaged employees.

Set Clear Expectations

It should be no surprise that people want and deserve to know what is expected of them. It relieves stress and anxiety on the employee’s part and in the long run, it creates more time for you, not less. Take the time to share exactly what your expectations are. Then watch your employees rise to this.

Host Interdepartmental Events

Networking with those in the same industry is an important part of staying engaged in a job. Encourage this by hosting events. Provide drinks and snacks; make it an event to which people will be eager to come.

Offer Common Places

Teachers have a lounge. So do doctors. And nurses.  And flight-staff. Follow this model and carve out a common space that is comfortable and inviting for employees to visit and relax. Provide snacks and coffee and a pleasant environment.

People want a place away from the desk that they can go to take a break, read a book, or connect with others in the area. Make sure it is more inviting than a cold metal chair and folding table.

Focus on Management

Management has a direct effect on engagement. The Gallup Study clearly defines that management styles make a marketed difference. So place your time, energy and resources in making sure your leadership is top-quality. And get rid of the ones who are not.

Give Feedback

People want and deserve feedback of their work. Provide this regularly, focusing on both strengths and areas of weakness. Consider going beyond yearly reviews. Offering brief, anecdotal feedback that isn’t stuck in a perm file is often more rewarding and meaningful than the stuffy formal evaluations.

Respect Employees and Build Relationships

Without respect from top to bottom, there is little chance you are getting it from bottom to top. Employees that feel the brass is easily reached, rather than being untouchable, maintain engagement and a positive emotional connection to the workplace and the job.

Those on the upper-end of management, the officers and administration, can increase engagement by reaching out and encouraging relationships with those lower on the ladder.

Host one-on-ones

According to Harvard Business Report, engagement levels increase when employees are able to have one-on-one meetings with their managers and supervisors. Having a voice is important to the engaged employee. By giving them a voice and a platform on which they can fearlessly and passionately use, will raise the levels of engagement in those with whom you meet.

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Measure the Engagement:


Give a survey

It makes sense to conduct your own survey, locally. You can measure the exact level of engagement upon your employees’ responses. You could consider using Gallup’s own 12-item questionnaire, the Q12®  or you can create questions that meet your industry’s needs.

If you choose to go your own route, focus on the questions identifying the employee’s feelings and emotions, rather than actions or opinions. It’s also important to remember that the data you get from a survey will be from your employee’s perceived reality, rather than actual reality.

Either way, the feedback will give you data you can use to determine the level of employee engagement in your workplace. This can and probably should be done minimally each year. You may even consider administering it as often as quarterly if you sense a true engagement problem or are planning on measuring growth or recession in engagement.

Employers can get an accurate picture of how employees are feeling in regards to their jobs by looking at the data. It is especially helpful to examine data from year-to-year. This will help you identify which leadership strategies or initiatives may be contributing to increased engagement and which are actually decreasing it.

Keep an eye on retention rates

Retention rates are another objective measure of employee engagement. Engaged employees are committed to their companies. They are loyal and dedicated to the cause and the mission.

No matter the rate of pay or difficulty of the work level, an engaged employee will not easily call it quits. If you notice an increase in resignations, you may have an engagement problem.

A way to identify the reasons for turnovers is to perform exit interviews for those who are leaving. Ask for the reason of the resignation and for the employee’s overall impression of the company.

Log the Hours

Dig into how many late hours your employees are logging. Engaged employees are interested and eager to complete their work. They are excited about finishing their projects and they are willing to put in the time it takes to see results.

There is nothing wrong with a work-life balance and it should be heavily encouraged. However, if you notice only a small number of your employees go the extra mile, it may be because they simply aren’t interested in the work.

Count the problem solvers

Not all quality information is quantitative. Sometimes, anecdotal information is required to get a human perspective. Look around your workforce. Do you see problem solvers or simply problem finders? Engaged employees get excited to solve the problems they find.

Engaged employees are positive and solution-minded. They are apt to bring up various issues within the company and then are willing and dedicated to fixing these problems.

Employees who are not engaged also identify problems. They, however, show no interest in finding answers. Their “problem-finding” looks and feels a lot like complaining. It may take place in the break room or cubicle walls.

Check for a growth mindset

Engaged employees often exhibit grit. Grit is defined by Merriam-Webster as “firmness of mind and spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship and anger.” What company wouldn’t desire to have a set of employees full of firmness of mind and spirit?

Difficult projects excite them and they rise to new challenges, invigorated by a new task. They rarely give up. They also are not afraid to ask for help. You will find these gritty employees working through difficult situations and celebrating their success.

They will exhibit well-earned pride. Employees who are not engaged quit easily. They avoid or procrastinate difficult projects and may even attempt to “pass the buck.”

Look for professional improvement

Just as engaged employees seek to solve external problems, they also seek to solve internal struggles. You will find engaged employees constantly improving their craft.

They will look forward to the development opportunities you have provided them and they’ll even seek professional development opportunities on their own, requesting to go to conferences and attend seminars.

You will find industry literature on their bookshelves and they will follow dedicated professionals on social media. You won’t have to wonder if they love their career. Engaged employees also have a large network, or are working to attain one.

They connect with people in their industry and consistently make nation- or even world-wide connections. They’ll attend your inter-department events and make new acquaintances each time.

Non-engaged employees will groan at the mention of a staff meeting. During seminars, you will find them looking at their phones or staring at the clock.

You will notice a lack of focus on self-improvement, no matter how happy they appear or how well they get along with their co-workers. Employees that are not engaged fall into complacency. They feel comfortable in their job and are not interested in increased responsibility.

Encourage a Culture of Feedback

Employees engaged in their jobs offer consistent, helpful feedback to their managers and administration. They are anxious to improve the workplace and the company.

They pick up the trash and then let you know the can outside is overflowing. They identify new sales trends and bring it to your attention. They notice the break-room coffee pot is broken and bring in a new one.

They read an article on project management and share it with you. No matter how minor or major, engaged employees consider their work environment and company productivity part of their own responsibility. It is part of their lives.

Increase Employee Engagement Accordingly:


Open communication for two-way feedback with your employees

Employees want to be heard and they want to hear from you. If you, and the other managers, aren’t already completing one-on-ones, begin right away. Listen as well as talk. Take feedback from the staff and use it for improvement.

Listen to your employees

If your employees take the time to honestly complete the surveys on engagement, take the time to listen to the feedback. Make changes in the areas they suggest, with reason of course. Focus your attention on subjects that come up again and again.

And tell your employees about this. Over-communicate that you are listening to them. And constantly look for ways in which you can improve the engagement of your workers.

Hire people whose values align with those of your company

When there is an open position, it is easy to want to fill it quickly. This will cost time and money in the long run. Take your time, do your research, find the person that fits exactly what you want.

Get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, as writer Jim Collins would say. If your employees are good at what they do and love their jobs, they are more likely to remain engaged.

Once the people are in the right place, encourage these employees’ strengths, instead of focusing on their weaknesses. Set goals together, have solid, meaningful conversations with one another. Encourage and embrace their professionalism.

Identify changes in scores (satisfaction, culture, profits) to assess progress over a given period of time

Share the data with your employees. Is satisfaction going up? Share that. The naysayers and disengaged workers will pipe down, allowing the wave of positivity to pass them over. Or they may jump on the wagon.

Either way it’s a good thing. And if satisfaction is going down, share that. Explain you want to fix it. See what ideas the group can generate. The same goes for culture and profit scores.

An engaged employee will help to increase productivity, lower costs, drive business, connect with customers and maybe most importantly, encourage engagement in other employees. Work can and should provide a pleasant and enjoyable quality of life for its employees. You can create this in your work environment too!

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Lori Puri

Lori’s strong love of people and the diversity each individual brings to the table first struck her interest in marketing. After completing her MBA with concentrations in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Syracuse University, Lori has spent time building and growing brands. As Corporate Essentials’ Marketing Manager, Lori hopes to bring the company’s unique “Fuel Culture. Work Happy.” philosophy to the working world, and help companies attract and retain a passionate, balanced workforce.