Improving Employee Engagement

In a recent posts, I’ve mentioned employee engagement (more on the topic here, here and here)…I’ve had a few emails from readers asking me to give some examples of how they could go about engaging the people on their teams.  There are no ‘right’ answers for this because every person is different, but as a general rule, the following factors would help:

  1. Trust your team.
  2. Make sure your team knows that failure IS an option.
  3. Make your team members accountable for their actions

Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail.  Before you continue, please realize I am not an organizational design expert nor human resources expert…these are just some basic techniques that I’ve used in the past.

Trust your team

Trust your employees.  If you trust them to do their jobs, they’ll deliver.

Treat your team like the adults they are.  Stop using the employment model from the Industrial Revolution and let your team decide when and where they should work.  Look into Results Focused systems (such as Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), etc).

Make sure your team knows that failure IS an option

Failure will happen.  If you ensure that your team knows that it is OK to fail, and that you expect them (and yourself) to fail, you’ll be amazed at what they’ll be able to accomplish.  I touched on this subject in a previous blog post titled “Learning From Failure“…an excerpt from that post is:

According to a story recounted in a newsletter from the New & Improved website, Warren Buffett, the semi-celebrity CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, says that the act of making a mistake (and failing) is essential to the decision making process.  As an example of this, Mr Buffett once told David Sokol, the CEO of a Berkshire Hathaway controlled company, that:

David, we all make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you can’t make decisions.

This comment was after Mr. Sokol told Buffett that they would have to write off $360 million for the year due to a project that didn’t work out as expected.

If you truly want to engage your employees, making them understand that failure IS an option is key.  If they know that they have the right to fail, they’ll put their heart and soul into their efforts.

Hold your team members accountable for their actions

At first, this may seem a bit out of place, but I promise you, it will help.  Think back to a time when one of your team-mates / employees / friends / etc weren’t pulling their weight on a task.  What was your reaction to finding out that they were able to ‘get by’ without doing as much work as you?  If you are like most people, you were a bit disappointed in the person responsible for managing / leading that task.

It’s very difficult for any person to maintain a positive attitude and love what they do if they feel like there are people who aren’t pulling their weight.  If you ensure that all your team members are held accountable for results, and that they must hold you accountable for results, then you’ll have a much happier team.


The three factors listed above will not immediately turn a dis-engaged employee into a happy and engaged one, but they will help you down the road of build a steady foundation for your team.  By trusting your team, holding them accountable and communicating that failure IS an option, you’ll have a team of people who are willing to dig deeper and do a bit more for you and the organization.

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7 responses to “Improving Employee Engagement”

  1. Brett Philips Avatar

    Accountability is key to a successful organization, yet is important to clearly state your expectations.

    Great post and insight..

  2. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Thanks Brett.

    You are absolutely correct. Setting expectations are extremely important and should be considered the key to holding your team accountable.

  3. Scot Herrick Avatar

    Excellent post, Eric. There is a great amount of words written on employee engagement, yet, little of it is of practical use. These three points can be implemented with a team.

    Now, if we can all just get management to believe it….!

  4. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Thanks Scot.

    So true. There are tons of books and lots of research on the topic . These books and research are vital to our understanding of employee relations, etc very little information that is of practical use by people ‘in the field’.

    Yes…the trick is getting management to believe that these little things can make a difference.

  5. Stephen Lipka Avatar

    Good points all… I’d like to recommend one more rule.

    Involve the team in decision-making, especially if they have to implement the decisions.

    In my experience, great managers delegate well. Delegating decision-making makes it easier to hold team members accountable.

  6. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Hi Stephen ,

    You are so right. Involving team members in the decision-making process helps them to feel ownership in what is happening and how it happens.

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