The “Magic Ingredient” to Employee Engagement

MAGIC HATAre your employees engaged?  You don’t need a 200 question employee engagement survey to answer the question.  Just look around your office.   Are people excited about what they are doing or listless as they pound through the mountains of work.   Are they actively seeking growth and development and is the company helping them achieve their professional dream or are they stuck in a rut, doing the same thing day after day. Are people happy to lend a helping hand or are they constantly complaining about their work load. The indicators are quite obvious if you are willing to open your eyes.

You may hear some experts say that there is no magic ingredient to achieving employee engagement. I disagree. I have worked in many different business lines within a single company. We all had the same compensation policies, employee policies, training programs, holidays, company values, incentive programs, etc. but work groups varied greatly in their level of engagement.

I had the pleasure of working in one organization that had strong employee engagement. Employees were passionate about their work, they consistently gave 100% and often more. They helped others, brought new ideas to the table, looked for innovative solutions to problems, loved their customers and were deeply connected to their mission. They trusted management. And yes, they were a high performing team. 

I also worked in an organization that had weak employee engagement. People came to work, did their job, went home. Some were disgruntled, many frequently complained and a few were just hanging around waiting to retire. Energy was low, people just did what they were told and many did not trust their management. Young employees would join the team and then leave soon after  “for other opportunities”.

The one thing that made the difference (i.e. the magic ingredient) between the high and low engagement work environments was leadership. In the highly engaged organization leaders had vision. They listened to employee ideas and acted on them, they valued their employees, cared about employee career growth and well being and were trusted.   In the organization with low engagement, the leaders were ‘top-down’ micro managers. They would bark orders, humiliate employees in meetings, had to approve everything and rarely said ‘thank-you’ even when people made personal sacrifices to meet tight deadlines.

Most companies have many of the components needed to create an engaging work environment. What they may be lacking is the right leadership. So if your employee engagement is low, before you change your policies and processes or implement costly employee engagement programs, ask yourself if maybe your organization is just missing the magic ingredient . . . awesome leaders!