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Posted by Tasneem Mohamed 13 February 2018 Innovation Consultancy

We all dream of having engaged employees, but building this into your culture takes time and effort that you must be willing to dedicate in order to reap the rewards for your organisation. With employee engagement intimately linked to productivity and innovation, which in turn leads to growth and ultimately profitability, it should be a key goal of any successful organisation but is often neglected when it comes to crafting a business strategy.


According to Forbes contributor Jamie Notter, Partner and Culture Consultant at WorkXO Solutions, ‘employee engagement is a lagging indicator of culture.’ Notter quotes a Gallup poll which found that ‘the percentage of truly engaged employees in the U.S. workforce [is] about 31%,’ with ‘nearly 20% described as “actively disengaged.”’ He explains that while many organisations rightly see this as a crisis, a large part of the inability to better these figures is that we fail to see engagement as the result of a problem in organisational culture and instead treat it as the cause.

Notter argues that ‘it is your workplace culture that generated your poor engagement results,’ because ‘your workplace culture defines in no uncertain terms what is truly valued inside your workplace, and what is valued then drives behavior.’ He continues ‘the more misaligned your culture is with what drives your success, the more likely you will be to have disengaged employees.’  


So if organisational culture is responsible for positive or negative employee engagement levels, what can you do to ensure that your culture is driving engagement among your employees rather than hindering it?


For another Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse, founder of, to build a culture which drives engagement you must ‘focus primarily on growth, recognition and trust.’ He suggests that ‘you, as the boss, can trigger those feelings. You foster a team culture that can promote those drivers.’ By focusing on these key indicators, rather than on notions of happiness and fun at work which risk producing ‘fluffy’ solutions, managers and team leaders can provide opportunities for their employees to boost their personal development and gain recognition for their contributions.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) agrees with this proposal, suggesting that many organisations have a ‘recognition deficit.’ It is argued that ‘this deficit is especially bad for those whose jobs are viewed as more mundane’ and ‘for people who never gain direct appreciation from customers, clients, or others who can recognize a job well done.’ Some of HBR’s tips include remembering that ‘the overwhelming majority of people aren’t simply motivated by a paycheck,’ and by ensuring that the recognition you give someone is personal and timely, rather than taking the easy option with a generic gift or thank you at a monthly meeting.


Although employee engagement is often held up as the ultimate goal, according to HBR there can be some negatives to encouraging highly engaged employees. It is noted that ‘while engagement certainly has its benefits, most of us will have noticed that, when we are highly engaged in working towards a goal we can also experience something less than positive: high levels of stress.’ Data collected by HBR’s centre at Yale University, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, found that ‘one out of five employees reported both high engagement and high burnout’ and reported the ‘highest turnover intentions in the sample — even higher than the unengaged group.’

This likelihood of staff turnover, not due to disengagement but due to burn out from over-engagement, ‘means that companies may be at risk of losing some of their most motivated and hard-working employees.’ To readdress this balance, HBR suggests that the provision of ‘supervisor support, rewards and recognition, and self-efficacy at work’ are necessary to start supporting employees for optimal engagement. These indicators were prevalent among those surveyed who reported that they were engaged at work but not burned out, and represent important measures for an organisation looking to build a strong culture.

By addressing your organisational culture as a whole, you can begin to build a positive and healthy engagement strategy that retains your best team members and ensures they feel appreciated and motivated. In doing so, not only will your organisation be a more positive place to work, it will also be a more innovative and productive one.

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