(206) 686-4400 ext. 13

(206) 686-4400 ext. 13

Henley Leadership Group Blog

3 Paths to Improve Employee Engagement


We’ve still got a hangover from the Industrial Revolution.

The popular idea back then was that people weren’t paid to think. In fact, it was best if workers left their “personal problems” at the door.  The messy, human parts of people were not welcomed onto the factory floors. Perhaps that made sense for that time. But it surely doesn’t now.  We all know the dismal statistics on employee engagement.  71% of all employees are not fully engaged.

 Today we need all hands-on deck to tackle the big challenges that face us.  The big question is how?

 I recently read Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Truth About Employee Engagement,” which I highly recommend.  He offers that the source of job misery stems from three factors:

  1. Anonymity:  People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority.
  2. Irrelevance:  Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.
  3. Immeasurement:  Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person.

Get personal.  Show an interest in people’s lives. Ask questions and really listen. Remember important information such as birthdays, anniversary dates, the names of family members.  Write them down if you must! Recently, a woman came back from a four-month maternity leave. When she returned, her boss didn’t ask her about her baby or her time away. The woman experienced feeling anonymous, like she didn’t matter to her boss. All her boss had to do was slow down a bit and show some interest.

 Connect the dots.  Most of us want to know that what we do matters. That our time, energy and creativity add up to something important. Ask your employees what they believe their impact is in the organization and team. They may need some coaching to come up with an answer. Helping them see, for themselves, the difference they make, will have a more lasting impact than simply being told.

 Measure what matters.  So many of the metrics in organizations are meaningless for individuals.  The bottom line is helpful for senior leaders and investors, but not so much for a front-line supervisor.  You must help your employees measure what matters to them. How can they know at the end of a day that they were successful?  What can they measure?  For example, if you are in the customer service business, you might measure the number of customers touched in any given day and the number of smiles or good interactions and outcomes that happened.  Coming up with the metrics that matter will take some time with each one of your employees, but it will be worth it. 

 We challenge you to take on these three elements of employee engagement and see what happens next!