4 Ways to Spark Employee Engagement

“Engaged employees are in the game for the sake of the game; they believe in the cause of the organization.” – Paul Marciano


Why do we need to Spark Employee Engagement?

Getting employees to engage in company initiatives has become a crucial challenge. With employee engagement just above 30%, employees seem to have corporate program fatigue. This is challenging for managers who strive to implement programs for their employees.
I spent twenty years managing hundreds of employees in many different capacities. My employees ranged from office to factory workers. While each group was unique, most had little faith in any company program. “Not another stupid program. I can’t wait to see this one fail.” Hearing these comments only sabotaged the programs, and became self-fulfilling prophecies.
Companies need to make progress despite the challenges, and continue to put these programs in place. They need to bridge the lost confidence and trust between themselves and their employees.
Jump starting employee engagement, while by no means easy, isn’t that complicated. Here are four ways to drum-up employee engagement:

(1) Involve Them In The Process

The top-down approach doesn’t work anymore. Strategic plans may look good on paper, but success relies on engaging employees early in the process.
Companies can’t placate employees with a brainstorming session that will have no impact on the final plan. They need to provide a framework upon which to build plans that serve themselves, their employees, and shareholders alike. Employees are no longer lemmings. They can see through programs that compromise their ability to have a positive impact in the workplace.
Employees are also seeking meaning from their work. They want to feel fulfilled by their choice of vocation. A surefire way to provide this meaning is to involve them in decisions that will drive the future of the organization.
Tips How:

  • Provide an inclusive framework for strategic goals. Follow this with a platform that allows employees to give the input needed to achieve higher-level goals
  • Make a commitment to executing employees ideas because, yes, they will have great ideas
  • Celebrate the ideas that employees provide. Consider compensating the employees that provide transformational ideas

(2) Make Progress Fun

Most organizations get lazy and lack creativity. Any company can drum up a strategy that stands the test of a spreadsheet. That’s not hard.
The true creativity in developing organization goals is finding a way for these goals to exist in a culture of fun.
Not all companies can offer what some tech companies (e.g., Facebook) provide. But all companies can foster a more enjoyable work environment.
Western culture has a paradigm that associates success, with long hours, and burned out employees. These limiting beliefs have reached the end of their tenure. Only attrition will end this way of thinking unless companies are proactive. The new generation understands that obtaining excellent results isn’t correlated to pain.
Enjoying what we do can be the foundation for solid and sustainable results. When employees enjoy what they do, results will exceed what they thought possible.
Tips How:

  • Add some life to brainstorming by providing opportunities to think of crazy ideas unbound by convention. Google took this one step further. In 2004, an IPO letter encouraged employees to spend 20% of their time working on any- thing they thought would benefit Google
  • Coach senior leaders on the ‘soft-skills’, such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and listening
  • Adopt a culture of play. Embrace fun as a way of working

(3) Attach Your Company’s Goals to a Greater Purpose

Your purpose can’t simply be to increase shareholder value. If your organization is incapable of finding its deeper purpose, you will find yourself extinct.
There is an awakening happening. The scarcity mentality (i.e., needing to take from someone else to further yourself) is coming to an end. How do you expect employees to engage in groundbreaking ideas when they could be working themselves out of a job?
Shareholder value can work in concert with a greater purpose. Cost-cutting and squeezing out every last dollar has a shelf-life. Growth does not. If you find your company’s purpose, your employees will rally around this purpose. Much like lightning, when we focus energy on a common goal, the results are powerful.
Seven Generation has leveraged their purpose to become a top employer of millennials. Seven Generations purpose is “to inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations”.
Tips How:

  • If you don’t already have a strong purpose, organize focus groups to better understand your business. Find the true service your company is providing for the greater good. Bring in other resources to help lead these ideation and messaging sessions. Often times it’s hard to see the ‘forest for the trees’ when you have been viewing your business a certain way for decades

(4) Be A Positive Influence In Their Well-Being

One doesn’t need to look far to see stats about our impending wellness apocalypse. Whether it be stress, obesity, the typical Western diet, or our sedentary lifestyles, all signs point to ‘doom’. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Getting bogged down with the ROI required to justify a wellness program implies that we don’t need it. The cost of an effective wellness program will dwarf any costs associated with its implementation.
Wellness programs that work include the following components:

  • Virtual coaching
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (e.g., gamification)
  • The ability for employees to choose their own focus
  • Company challenges
  • Community connectedness

Tips How:

  • Make wellness a part of your company culture. All levels need to embrace employee wellness as a strategic imperative
  • Seek out software-based options that leverage virtual coaching to drive habit change


Employee engagement has nowhere to go but up. Now is the time to get creative and engage with your employees, so they will engage with you.
Check out another engaging article by Gary LeBlanc on understanding culture.

4 thoughts on “4 Ways to Spark Employee Engagement”

  1. Gary, it would be so helpful to hear some business metrics that have changed as a result of your work. Everyone in the world that can fog a mirror with their breath, meaning they are alive, has advice on how to engage employees, but I have looked far and wide and I have yet to find anyone talking about the results their approach has delivered. In fact Gallup, AON, Deloitte and just about every other major firm in this business has concluded that EE is receding. Sooner or later the CEO’s are going to to start asking about the results and there aren’t any to report.

    1. Jim, thank you for the well thought out comment. I have managed operations for over 5 business in the corporate phase of my career. In the manufacturing plants I have led, we implemented high performance work team systems which were predicated on listening to employees, creating a deeper mission, and giving them an avenue to provide ideas. In all cases employee satisfaction went up year over year by double digits. Our metric for engagement was the number of ideas per employee per month. In all cases we exceeded industry benchmarks. I also made well-being a personal mission as site director. From personally making smoothies for employees on 3 working shifts for United Way, to providing personal counsel to individual employee, I was deeply engaged with their lives. I can personally attest that all the methods I’ve listed above, unequivocally pay dividends.
      I’m an engineer by trade, not a consultant. I’ve been in the trenches. Connecting at a deeper level and caring for employees works.
      Thanks again for the fantastic comment. I appreciate the time you took to expand the conversation.

  2. I am employed similar tactics in a property management company, and in particular with our property accountants. We measured a decrease in employee turnover from 45% annually to 3% within 18 months of beginning the project. This was a reduction in turnover costs of almost $400,000 annually.

  3. The issue with employee engagement begins with top leaders understanding what engagement is and what it is not. Second, work teams and getting employees involved does work—but enthusiasm wains rather quickly or initial input is adopted and then what? Sustainability is always the issue! Top leaders and decision makers all have deeply engrained beliefs built on an accumulation of experiences. This results in biases that filter information and make change extremely difficult!
    That doesn’t mean individuals should not try, quite the opposite–everyone should act. Without action, we tacidly give permission for complacency and approval for behavior that retards rather than encourages engagement.
    What it does suggest to me is that employee engagement should start small, it’s better to take small steps and change slowly than to try to radically do something different all at once.
    The true results of engagement are trust and cooperation. These elements are only gained over time.

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