Think HBR

Five things leaders can do to foster engagement

Caitlin McMahon
For a number of years now, leadership studies have been telling us that organisations with engaged workforces experience lower absenteeism and turnover, and increased productivity and profitability when compare with similar organisations with lower engagement scores. We know that engagement is a win-win scenario for both the employer and the employee. So, what are some practical things leaders can do to foster employee engagement?
1. Inspire your people using the strategic vision
You have invested a lot of energy into developing the strategic purpose and vision of your business because you are passionate about it. Don’t keep it all to yourself! Sharing your vision is a powerful tool for motivating people. Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why:
How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, says “there are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Rather than always focusing on the what, try to talking to your employees about why they do what they do and how they are contributing to the overall success of the business.
Linking individual roles to the broader organisational purpose brings meaning to employees’ work.
2. Hire people based on your valuess set
Values, whether stated or simply implied, influence the way we work and how we make decisions. When hiring new employees, it is critical that you understand whether the potential new team member is aligned to your organisation’s values. You can train for skills, but values are deeply ingrained in people and will have significant influence over the way they show up at work. By hiring people based on their value set, we can create a sense of belonging and shared ownership of the organisation’s purpose.
3. Be authentic
Employees look to leaders to set the example for what is expected at work. Leverage your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and show your employees that you are committed to learning and improving. Self-awareness is humbling, and by demonstrating an openness and understanding of yourself, it gives permission for others to follow suit. Don’t forget the power of storytelling, either.
Bring meaning and heart to every message you deliver to show employees that you truly care.
4. Communicate
Poor communication is often a top scorer in employee engagement surveys. Gallup research shows that consistent communication, no matter the method, leads to higher employee engagement.
But again, it needs to be meaningful. Have conversations to set expectations, provide business updates and how individuals are contributing, share good news stories and praise behaviour that aligns with your values.
5. Listen
While you are constantly and consistently communicating your message, don’t forget that it’s a two way street. Your people are the ones on the frontline and will know a thing or two about their day job. Before you jump to conclusions and offer solutions, try to understand what makes people tick, and what ideas they might have for improvements. Employee lead change initiatives are an empowering practice that results in ownership, accountability and engagement. By setting the boundaries and providing a clear vision for what you want to achieve, employees can build their own solution to be proud of, champion and embed in the organisation.
For further information contact performHR on 1300 406 005, email or visit
Caitlin McMahon Caitlin McMahon
As a Human Resources generalist with a special interest in Organisational Development, Caitlin McMahon is passionate about people, employee engagement, and continuous improvement. Connecting people to their purpose to find meaning in their work, and exploring leadership capability to promote high performing teams is something she has a keen interest in. Caitlin brings considerable experience working in blue collar industry, particularly mining and resources to the team at performHR.