How Leaders Can Create Engaged Employees

November 20, 2015 Russ Fradin

It’s every leader’s dream to have employees who ask what they can give to an organization rather than what they can get from it.

The differentiating factor between these two mindsets is actually quite simple: the level of engagement employees feel.

Boosting communication and informing employees is the first step (for more on that, see my first article in this series). But engaging them to the point that they follow through with action is even more critical to a company’s culture and success.

The Perks of Engagement

When informed employees become engaged, their productivity, attitude, and willingness to collaborate all increase. This means they will do their jobs better and have a positive effect on their co-workers and work environment. Further, research shows that employee engagement doesn’t just correlate with bottom-line results — it drives them.

Disengaged employees, on the other hand, can be dangerous. Whether they’re in the wrong role or in the wrong company, they likely do not care about their work and will be detrimental to company culture.

Unfortunately, disengaged employees are all too common. Fewer than one-third (31.5 percent) of U.S. workers were engaged at work in 2014.

Shifting From Informed to Engaged

Engaged employees have a can-do attitude. In one study, 84 percent of highly engaged employees believed they could positively impact the quality of their organizations’ products, compared with only 31 percent of disengaged workers.

Here are five crucial leadership strategies that will help move your employees from merely informed to actively engaged:

  1. Keep it real. Be authentic — and make sure employees know you’re a real person. As a leader, it’s your job to set an example and demonstrate the highest moral standards and ethics in everyday life so your employees follow suit.
  1. Be accessible. Make sure employees can directly communicate with the C-suite. One studyrevealed that leadership is the primary concern of 90 percent of employees, followed closely by culture and engagement (86 percent). Being available for two-way conversation can do wonders for fixing this.
  1. Join in. Believe it or not, building trust in executives is more than twice as important as building trust in immediate managers. It’s crucial for you to collaborate with frontline employees to truly prove your authenticity. Get in the trenches to work alongside them.
  1. Make it matter. Give employees meaning in their projects so they have something to work toward and track progress against. It’s important that they feel they’re making progress on a daily basis, and they also need to see that their work contributes to the greater good of the company. Otherwise, they’ll see their work as meaningless.
  1. Say “thanks.” Recognition goes a long way toward inspiring good work from good people. Identify when employees go above and beyond — positive reinforcement will encourage them (and others) to continue doing so.

Adding Meaning to Work

Once you’ve informed employees about company goings-on, it’s time to engage them by adding meaning to their work. They need incentive and a means to take that next step, along with an understanding of why they’re asked to do the things they do and how it impacts their daily lives.

This isn’t something that happens naturally — you, as the leader, play a major role in making it happen. Once your informed employees become engaged, the next step is to turn them into advocates.

To build those internal advocates, stay tuned for the third and final part of the series. Check out the first part of the series here.

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