The secret to employee engagement

Do you want your people to enjoy coming to work, feel special, be happy and give their best? Shay McConnon explains why having engaged staff is so vital to productivity, and the steps to take to achieve longed for engagement.

Would you like less moaning at your workplace? Less absenteeism, less attrition? Do you have people who are spectators rather than players? Or people who are emotionally resigned but on full pay? These are likely to be your dis-engaged people. According to research by Gallup…
11% of people in the United Kingdom are engaged with their work. These people work with passion, they are motivated and drive your company forward.



68% of people are unengaged. Essentially, they are marking time, they put time but not energy into their jobs. You’ll hear them say things like “it’s a job, it pays the mortgage”.



21% of people are actively disengaged. Expect these people to be indifferent, uncollaborative and even disruptive of your business, with a lot of bitching, moaning and whining for good measure.


Actively Disengaged

…no wonder the greatest source of inefficiency for many organisations lies in working relationships. Tolerating disengaged staff comes with a high financial, emotional and time cost. According to Engage for Success, having engaged staff has many rewards. Companies with the best engagement levels report:
  • Attrition rates to be 40% lower than those reporting low engagement
  • Productivity to be 18% higher
  • Customer satisfaction to be 12% higher
  • Profit to be twice that of organisations with low engagement and revenue growth 2.5 times higher
The business case is clear but how do we create engaged staff & sustain this engagement? Organisations have been struggling with this for years. So what is the secret of engagement? How do we get people to take ownership, be open, motivated and feel special? The answer is NEEDS. Engagement is a consequence of needs being met. Think about it, people come to work to have needs met. It might just be for the salary so they can pay their mortgage and feed their children. Or it could be for social reasons or they could see their job as a vocation. What if these needs are not being met? Unmet needs result in demotivation, disengagement, absenteeism, greater staff turnover and lots of moaning, blaming and criticism. All of which tell us leadership is not working. Now we need to make a distinction between leading the business and leading the people in the business. Leading the business is all about strategy, vision, implementation, procedures etc. Leading the people in the business is about energising and motivating your people so those business objectives can be met more effectively. The trick is to meet the needs of the business without neglecting the needs of people. If we accept that effective leadership is needs based and that wellbeing, engagement, high morale, reduced absenteeism, attrition etc are the consequences of needs being met, surely the questions to be asked are: Do you know the needs of your people? And are those need being met? This information is in your people, but can they tell you what they are? And this is when it can get tricky, as most people find it difficult to articulate their needs.  

“Many organisations wait for a crisis before doing something”

  Three simple but critical questions to ask your staff today:
  1. Why are you choosing to stay working here? (flushes out needs being met)
  2. How can we do even more of what motivates you to stay? (flushes out ways needs could be met more fully)
  3. How can I help you do your job even better (flushes out unmet needs)
Many organisations wait for a crisis before doing something. Imagine waiting for your computer to get a virus before installing Anti-Virus software! Surely it makes sense to be proactive rather than reactive. Now go and find out the needs of your people, and if they are being met. Create a needs focused culture supported by needs driven leadership. Don’t expect people to care about your business until they feel you care about them.

About the author

Shay McConnon is the creator of An Even Better Place to Work which is the world’s first on -line, self-managed Employee Engagement solution. This solution has been developed from his work on leadership, culture and engagement issues with organisations like Siemens, BAESystems, PepsiCo Food, Barclays Bank etc over the past 30 years. An Even Better Place to Work is now in five languages and used on four continents and has a diagnostic tool to help you work out what your employees’ needs are and if they are being met.
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