Is Engaging Your Team Still a Hot Leadership Topic?

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The discussion about employee engagement has been a buzz-topic  in leadership circles for a couple of years now, with a growing body of proof that high employee engagement leads to greater job satisfaction, creativity, and better longevity in the workplace.

The message about the positive power of building employee engagement is loud and clear, so why do employee engagement statistics still show that less than a third of UK employees are engaged in their job?


The three levels of employee engagement…and who’s who in your team?

According to a study by Customer Insight, roughly 31% of UK employees are engaged, 48% are unengaged, and 21% are disengaged.

1. The engaged employee is enthusiastic about their job, and are happy to make discretionary effort. Think about your team: who falls into this category of passionate and loyal employees willing to go the extra mile? If asked by a friend how their job is, the engaged employee might say, ‘I really like it- I’m so lucky to find something I like doing. Not every day is great of course, but I’m pretty happy and I get to do some interesting stuff.’

2. Next, we have the unengaged These employees don’t hate their job, but they aren’t passionate about it either, and are reluctant to put in extra effort that they aren’t specifically required to do. These are the ‘9-5ers’, who view their job mainly as a source of income. If asked by a friend how their job is, their likely response would be, ‘Its ok I guess. Could be worse, and it pays the bills. It’s not very interesting though, and it’s certainly not my dream job.’

3. Finally, we come to the disengaged team members. These are the ones who are actively unhappy in their job.  They often feel disgruntled- either through perceived bad treatment by “management”, a lack of challenge in their job, or a feeling they are underpaid or not valued. Disengaged employees can prove a toxic force in the team, particularly if they try to bring other team members around to their dissatisfied way of thinking, or hold up projects with slow or poor-quality work.  If asked by their friends how their job is, they’d say something like, ‘I hate it. I’d quit but I need to pay the mortgage. I just do the bare minimum to get paid and not get fired.’


The growing cost of disengagement

shutterstock_98277623Remember, it’s not just about how happy your team are at work and whether they’re willing to stay late to get complete a project. Your disengaged team members are also far more likely to over-claim on expenses and take sick days (whether sick or not.) Your disengaged and unengaged employees are costing your company money in ways that extend far past their salaries.


Common factors driving lack of engagement

-Lack of interesting tasks and challenges

-Lack of promotion paths

-Lack of feedback

-A feeling they are undercompensated

-Lack of training and development

-A feeling they are undervalued

No sense of greater purpose or meaning at work

-A lack of belief in the company’s potential, goals or values


Building engagement

shutterstock_241243015Most managers now seem to understand that employee engagement is something they’d like to build in their team, but don’t necessarily know how to go about it. Because employee engagement is about how your team feels about their job, it’s not necessarily as simple as raising salaries or introducing flexible working hours (although these changes can often help.) Building engagement takes creativity on your part and a willingness to listen and change.

There are so many creative and exciting strategies available to foster engagement, and unfortunately there’s not space here to discuss them all. There are a few key ones though that you should consider.

1. Sit down for one-on-ones with each team member to find out what you can about their current levels of satisfaction. Ask for their input on what they think could be improved upon- but don’t make promises that you’re not sure you can deliver.

2. Be upfront about the situation. Acknowledge that you know there’s been a drop in enthusiasm and that you’re there to do what you can to help. Honesty like this from management goes a long way in creating trust and a fresh start.

3. Find out what kind of challenges and career paths people were seeking when they first accepted this role. Has it met with expectations? Do what you can to accommodate any training and development requests, or set new challenges accordingly.

4. Create a new culture of autonomy and support. Most people crave having some control over their own work, so put people in charge of projects and put them in contact with the right people and resources to allow them to succeed.

5. Break up large projects into small ones with regular rewards. Most employees will lose enthusiasm when the goal is long-term, so create frequent milestones to celebrate.

One final thing. Don’t forget your engaged employees during this time. Just because they’re already happy and working hard, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same attention and improvements to their working situation that you’re offering the unengaged!



Rachel Hewitt-Hall

Are your engaged? If not we can probably help through our various programmes. At Excel Communications we have delivered Leadership and Management training over 30 years on most continents in multiple languages. You can view the results we get for clients here. Alternatively call us on +44 (0) 1628 488 854