Employee Engagement: How to motivate your team for high performance

Posted 19 May 2017 12:00 AM by Ricky Wallace, Marketing Manager @ ClearPeople

At ClearPeople, we’re in the business of creating engaging digital workspaces that transform the way people work. The idea is that if your workforce has easy access to the right tools and resources to get their jobs done better, this will impact their overall satisfaction and help them to become more engaged.

For example, did you know that 70% of workers in the UK say that state-of-the-art technology is the most important factor in an ideal work environment – more so than access to food and drinks and plush lounge spaces? And that 76% of workers also think that technology makes them more productive? (1) Statistics like this can’t be ignored if they positively affect employee engagement. 

But what does employee engagement actually mean? I recently read a great book, by best-selling author Kevin Kruse, “Employee Engagement – How to motivate your team for high performance” which discusses just that. 

In the book, he writes that engaged doesn’t mean “happy”, nor does it mean “satisfied.” For Kruse, employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals – engaged employees actually care about their work – they don’t just do it for their pay check. 

And according to a survey by Gallup conducted in 2016, only 34% of us feel that way. 

The Corporate Executive Board surmises the 10:6:2 rule here, stating that every 10% improvement in commitment increases employee effort by 6%, and every 6% increase in effort increases performance by 2%. So it is the job business leaders to improve employee engagement in order to cultivate a more productive workforce and accelerate performance. 

But this isn’t an easy task that can be done with the flick of a switch, and getting employees engaged, and more importantly keeping them that way, is a constant evolution that boils down to your company’s culture.

Kruse advocates that culture always trumps strategy. You can have the best business strategy in the world, but if your company’s culture doesn’t foster engagement and nobody cares, it isn’t going to matter.

First and foremost, your culture should promote honesty and transparency. 

“It is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty” Colin Powell

To be upfront with your team and open in your communications, you cultivate truth and respect which builds better working relationships and in turn encourages engagement. And it’s always better to over-communicate, so strive for this wherever possible.

We’ve all heard the notion that people leave bosses not jobs. Well, Gallup research indicates that 70% of the variance in engagement comes from one’s relationship with their boss. So if you are the best manager you can be by being understanding, fair and honest, with great ways of communicating, the likelihood is your workforce will be more engaged.

As a manager, you are responsible for the engagement of your team, nobody else. Even if your direct manager isn’t doing a great job, this isn’t a reason for you not doing so, says Kruse. He argues that you can take the initiative to understand your team and what makes them tick so that you can directly impact their performance. 

All individuals will have differing preferences or triggers for feeling engaged at work and it is a manager’s job to understand these for each of their direct reports and tailor their own leadership style for each in order to support them. Engagement also tends to differ by age and Kruse theorises that younger workers who are green and enthusiastic and older workers nearer to senior leadership are the most engaged. The closer to the CEO you are, the more engaged you will be. For Kruse, the likely candidates to be least engaged are 40-something year olds with a management title and a team of people to manage so it’s especially important to tick the engagement boxes of these folk to keep the rest of your team happy too. 

Recognition and appreciation are major factors in the overall engagement of your employees. It doesn’t always have to be monetary rewards either to motivate them – sometimes a simple “thank you” will suffice. Kruse lists a number of low-cost ways to say thank to your colleagues which go a long way in showing your team that their efforts are truly making a difference:

  • A sincere word of thanks is very effective
  • Post a thank-you note on the person’s desk
  • Throw a pizza or cake party in their honour
  • Create an ABCD card – above and beyond the call of duty
  • Write about colleagues in a company-wide email or Yammer post
  • Give a long lunch or leave early/start late time
  • Honour colleagues at the start of a company meeting
  • Post a thank-you sign in the staff break-out area
  • Give colleagues flowers, chocolates or other small gift
  • Invite colleagues to a one on one lunch
  • Give them a card with a lotter ticket inside
  • Cinema tickets
  • Vouchers for a café or coffee shop
  • Have the entire team sign a photo or certificate of appreciation
  • A thank-you from the CEO
  • Let them bring their pets to work
  • Temporarily name the conference room after them

Kruse’s book perfectly summarised the importance of staff engagement and how it can directly impact your company’s growth. I especially liked how he doesn’t view the workforce as a homogenous mass with a “one size fits all” approach to engagement and recognises that individual’s will have different motivations and priorities depending on their personal situations. He even references psychological studies that prove that the positive or negative effects on an individual’s working life affects their home life and that of their spouse or family members.

With the amount of time we spend at work, it’s important to feel happy in your job as it completely affects your personal life too and for Kruse, engagement tends to come down to 5 main factors:

  1. Communication
  2. Recognition 
  3. Appreciation 
  4. Trust 
  5. Confidence


(1) Adobe’s Future of Work Report

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