Decoding employee engagement

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

– Marianne Williamson

 I love this quote, for me it’s about being positive and getting the best out of ourselves and others.

Empower enable engageOf course, you might have heard it before. This most famous passage from Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, has been used in films from Coach Carter to Invictus, and more famously, several years ago this paragraph began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural address.

About the mis-attribution Williamson said, “As honoured as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people.”

Anyway, I digress.


What has all this got to do with employee engagement?

Employee engagement is about getting the best out of ourselves and others at work. It’s about developing a positive and strong emotional connection with our work and our employer. As a result the role and the business goals matter to us, and we can see how we can help the business achieve our goals.

Schaufeli and Bakker (2003) described employee engagement as:

  1. Vigor – employees have energy and are willing to invest considerable effort into their role. They also have persistence when facing difficulties.
  2. Dedication – employees are enthusiastic, they inspire one another and take pride in their work. They also strongly identify with their job.
  3. Absorption – employees are completely focussed on their work so it seems that time stands still. Yet whilst they maintain full concentration it is effortless.

Wouldn’t we all like to have employees like this? Especially when high levels of employee enagement results in significant improvements in customer satisfaction, productivity, profits, turnover, safety and other key business metrics.


What can managers do?

Decoding employee engagement

As managers we need we need to play a matching game with our employees. Don’t worry it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s about matching employees strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes to their role to find the best fit.

We need to be asking our staff questions such as:

  • What are the most energizing parts of your job? What do you like most about it?
  • What are the most draining parts of your job? What do you like least about it?
  • How well do you think your job match your talents, skills and personality?
  • What would you change about your job to make it match your talents, skills and personality?

Appraisals are great time to ask these questions and really delve into your employees’ career and personal goals and to work out how you can achieve them together. However it’s also important to keep an ear out for passing comments said during the normal working day. This is because some employees only say what they think you want to hear in an appraisal, and to get the best role for the employee you need to understand what they really think.

Once you understand your employees’ goals, ambitions, likes and dislikes then you can start  to match  the employee to the best role for them: one that will keep them engaged and motivated to perform.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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