What Has the Biggest (Positive) Impact on Employee Engagement:

Recruit and Retain Top Performers - The (not so) Surprising Reasons Employees Love Their Organization

Last week, we discussed how ineffective managers have the biggest impact on employee disengagement. Conversely, you might think that employees are driven and motivated by good managers.

This is a small piece of the puzzle, for sure. However, based on research and working with organizations for over 25 years, we have found that these four things consistently drive the most engaged employees in your organization: belongingness, empowerment, autonomy, and accountability.

How does your organization embrace these values? How can you develop strategies to implement the actions that impact employee engagement the most?

1. Forbes defines belonging as “an individual’s ability to be themselves and be accepted as an equal in a particular environment or context.” Belonging isn’t assimilation, instead, it is creating an environment that truly allows people to feel safe at work, safe to express themselves, to provide candid feedback, to do their jobs without harassment.
Strategy: Take a DEI survey to clarify your workplace culture climate. Establish trust with collaborators. Recognize personal and organization bias (in language, programs, even meeting times) and adjust accordingly. Rethink workplace policies. Become a family-forward workplace. Make inclusion goals measurable. And hold organization leaders accountable for reaching these goals. Adapt language to reflect the diverse, dynamic workplace and customer base. There's a lot to do.

2. Empowerment and autonomy are two key areas that impact employee engagement. They both emphasize the importance of giving employees the space they need to do their jobs, which is the complete opposite of micromanaging. SHRM defines autonomy as “The degree to which a worker feels independence, freedom, and discretion, to plan the work process and choose how to work.”
Strategy: Empowerment and autonomy cannot happen without a trained workforce. Give your employees the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to get the job done (including training, classes, mentorship opportunities, and development). Create a culture of open communication – multi-directional – in which employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and providing, and receiving feedback. This can start with an employee survey. Delegate responsibility and decision-making authority. Trust your employees to do their jobs. That’s why you hired them!

3. Accountability is fed by autonomy and empowerment. If you give your employees the space to do their jobs, then you need to hold them accountable to meet those expectations.
Strategy: Accountability begins before an employee is hired with accurate job descriptions followed by an onboarding process where employees are given short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Establish clear expectations and goals and a shared vision of “success” or “finished.” Establish consequences for employees that don’t meet goals or violate company policies and consistently enforce them. Define individual and team responsibilities. Provide regular feedback. And pay attention. Why are individuals, or teams, not pulling their weight? What factors are influencing their work that are out of their hands? Become a master at diagnosing problems – the root causes.

Create a culture of belongingness and community. Develop your talent. Establish clear expectations and give your employees the space to do their jobs. And, finally, hold employees and teams accountable for meeting expectations. These four areas have the biggest impact to drive engagement in your workplace. Get strategic and succeed.

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