4 Rules for Employee Engagement Solutions

This blog is about how feedback, supported by a system, can help boost engagement. 

Employee Engagement Systems

Employee engagement systems are on a rise. But still all relevant studies show low levels of overall employee engagement. It seems like people just don’t get it or are immune to all sorts of motivational triggers.
The truth is employee motivation is hard because it’s in essence strongly people related. Technological solutions can be really helpful for some aspects of motivation but the “human” part of motivation needs to be taken care of individually. All too often however, employee engagement systems are introduced with the belief that the problem is then solved automatically. The effect is tragic. Employee engagement doesn’t increase. Frustrated by the mess, organizations turn away from the system they just introduced and continue to accept low levels of engagement.

4 Rules

However, if managers and supervisors follow the following 4 key rules,  a feedback tool can in fact support the organization’s efforts to increase motivation and engagement.

  • Be specific

    It is rooted in our very human existence that feedback works best if it is very specific and to the point. It shows the receiving person that the feedback giver really does care. To maximize the effect on motivation, managers need to make sure to give very detailed, specific feedback.

  • Lead and encourage

    Especially in bigger organizations, feedback loops can be contagious – in a positive way. If supervisors or managers lead by giving the good example and give feedback often and encourage a feedback culture, others in the team will follow – a positive feedback culture is born.

  • Be honestly thankful

    People are sensitive and feel when a “thank you” or a “well done” is meant without meaning. This has even a negative effect on motivation. Instead, managers should be consistent to use such words wisely and in situations where they truthfully mean it. An honest “thank you” will have a very positive effect.

  • Be generous

    If something great happened, managers should recognize it every time. Balancing out feedback and measuring the value of one achievement towards another is something managers naturally try to do to avoid the inflationary effect of recognition. But this is not true for honest, specific, positive feedback. As long as managers follow the three points mentioned above, there won’t be an inflationary effect on the motivation for the feedback they give.


Feedback and Performance

If leaders incorporate these 4 points and really live by them (although it is sometimes very hard), they can already increase motivation by a lot. This happens even without technological support in form of e.g. a social recognition platform. And if they do have a solution in place, they will see a very positive boost in motivation among your employees after a short while. A social recognition platform is then able to really transport their motivating feedback in the fastest time to the recipients. These will surprise their managers with how much they want to contribute to the organization.

Johari reveals your blind Spots.

About the Unknown

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defence.

Donald Rumsfeld said this during a press conference. I believe it was about the war in Iraq. I don’t know if he was aware about it, but with this quote he played with a framework that I like:  The “Johari Window”.

 The Johari Window

The Johari window is a technique created in 1955 by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. It helps people to better understand themselves and their relationship with others. It was Charles Handy who called this concept the Johari House (Johari: Jo + Hari, parts of names of the developers) with four rooms.

  • The Arena is the part of ourselves that we see and others see.
  • The Blind spot contains the aspects that others see but we are not aware of.
  • The unknown is the unconscious part of us and is seen by neither ourselves nor others.
  • The Façade is our private space, which we know but keep from others.

And if we translate these house and rooms into a window, it looks like this
Johari Window


I use it to confront people and help them to accept and understand the “blind spot”. This is an area of things you do without having a clue. And for others it’s very clear.
Or what to think about the “unkown” area. Here are the things that do exist in the relation between you and the others, without anyone consciously knowing about them. That’s pretty scary if you ask me.
The other parts are more conventional. Things that are clear for everybody in the “arena”.
Things you consciously choose not to show or share with others. So you are the only one to know the and you choose to keep them behind your “façade”.


What is the purpose of using this tool ? I sometimes use it during feedback exercises.
I start such a session with an “empty” Johari window. Ideally, during the conversation chemistry rises and there is trust. On those moments, my interlocutor and I may get inspired and we are willing to “open up” more than in usual circumstances.
That is generally the moment where the Johari window is really inviting to share with each other:

1. Feedback

Feedback about what is clear for you about the other, but what may not (yet) be clear for the other. This will certainly help the other to become more aware and develop on those blind spots.
“You really talk a lot… If there is one hour available, you talk 50 minutes in general”
“Really… Good lord… I was not aware about that, thank you…”

 2. The things you’ve always chosen to hide.

You should never feel obliged to share the things you’ve always chosen to hide and certainly when it’s about your private life. But a moment may arrive when it feels as the right thing to do. Then you’ll share things you’ve never shared before with that person. Not only as a token of strong trust,  but much more because it simply feels as the right thing to do, on those moments.
“Well, I have never shared this with anyone here before, but the reason I have difficulty in dealing with people having a lack of patience, is because my ex-husband was like that as well. And the divorce has been quite painful, and still is… So it’s certainly not an excuse, but you may understand my behavior better now… I am sorry”
“Oh no need to apologize, thank you for the trust. This must be difficult for you… And yes, this will make life easier, by at least understanding the cause…”

3. Anything else ?

Any other concerns, impressions, convictions, emotions or observations that come on the table. They may stimulate awareness on the things you and your interlocutor do not know consciously about. But that have impact on the relation or collaboration between the both of you.
“I am not exactly sure why, but it seems like every time we talk about the branding of the new product, we get distracted… we never make an action list, we never succeed to focus…”
“Yes, indeed, now that you mention it… That is true, indeed… And yes, why is a good question… I don’t know… Are we believing enough in this new product ourselves ? We all said yes in the meeting, but we had a lot of discussion before that… I thought we had that behind us, but perhaps, we haven’t yet… I am not sure”
“Oh, glad we you have the same impression… At least we can talk about it now more openly and perhaps find out the real issue sooner or later”


My suggestion is to actively invite each other to discuss these kind of topics. To make use of the Johari window. By filling it in together, and by repeating this exercise at regular moments, you will visualise and achieve a great evolution. Topics that were once all closed and unknown are now much more open. You are aware and invited to explore further.
This movie clearly explains once more.