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by Sami Akseli on August 2, 2017

Poor Employee Engagement Is The Leader’s Fault – 5 Steps To Fix It

Poor employee engagement has the power to kill your business but you can take action to fight that power. Is there an easy way to boost employee engagement?

After we understand why low employee engagement is a serious issue, the next questions are what exactly is causing disengagement and how to fix the situation.

Why not just get rid of the dead-beat employees who spend their time doing everything but work? Out with the old and in with the new better employees who actually give a frack?

That is unlikely the magic wand to make poor employee engagement disappear because the problem isn't your disengaged employees it’s you. 

Poor employee engagement usually traces back to leadership. If you stop to think about it, how and when did your employees become so unhappy and started a mass flee movement to greener fields with juicier fruit to pick?

Could it be that leadership had something to do with it?

Surely, there’s no quick fix but here are some ideas on how you can boost employee engagement by investing in leadership.

5 Steps to Boost Employee Engagement

1. Recruit the Right People

Building employee engagement starts from recruiting.

First, you need to build a company culture and leadership style based on shared values. Having a culture that defines what type of people you’re looking for will make it easier to recruit candidates who are a good fit for your company.  

Next, you need to find out if the candidates are a good fit for your culture. If you’re aiming to find people who are self-driven and able to take on responsibility, you could ask the candidates:

“What would you do if your boss disappeared for a month?”

Their initial reactions and comments may reveal a great deal about their readiness to take initiative and control in unexpected situations.

2. Lead by Example

As found in a Harvard Business Review study, the old truth about actions speaking louder than words applies to leadership, too.

The study showed that leaders who encouraged to sustain a healthy work-life balance by example had employees who were “55% more engaged, 72% higher in health well being, 77% more satisfied at work, and 1.15 times more likely to stay at the company. They also reported more than twice the level of trust in their leaders.” 

Here encouragement doesn't mean the classic "do as I say, not as I do" method, but actually showing by doing, not just by verbally encouraging to do so. 

The same study also confirmed another prevailing view:

“People don’t leave organizations, they leave leaders.”

3. Support Your Managers

Although natural born leaders may be hard to find, you can support your managers to do better in a number of ways. Help them to get rid of bad leadership habits by encouraging them to listen, ask questions and admit when they don't have the answers. Being less of a sh*tty manager really boils down to pretty basic stuff – be curious and honest. 

You can also build on the existing leadership success in your company. First, use an employee engagement survey, or another suitable method, to find out which teams have the most engaged employees.

Then, investigate further. 

  • What is the management style like in those teams?
  • What makes the employees feel good about their work?
  • What drives or encourages them to exceed expectations?

Download these four simple co-creation templates to engage your employees in developing your company strategy. 


4. Co-create and Communicate Clear Shared Objectives

According to the HBR study mentioned above, employees who feel a high level of meaning and significance at work are more than three times as likely to stay at their companies.

This finding is backed up by the answers we co-created with our site visitors to the question “What makes a company a great place to work?”

The top 3 reasons we found:

1. Feeling a sense of purpose in what you’re doing
2. Treating everyone in a fair way
3. Having a clear, shared strategy

This suggests that one of the key issues in employee engagement is co-creating a mission and vision that everyone can commit to and are inspired to work for.


5. Build a Culture of Employee Engagement

Measuring is not the same as building employee engagement. Surveys may be a good way to measure the state of employee engagement, but they don’t fix the causes. To get to the root of the problem and start strengthening engagement, you need to find ways to include and connect people.

One way to approach the issue is to allow and encourage employees to co-create and be part of something bigger. You can integrate a continuous co-creation tool into your teams, offering all employees – introverts and extroverts – an equal chance to be included and heard.

Co-creation is one of the most efficient methods to discover what would make your employees more engaged and to define concrete actions to improve employee engagement. Co-created plans will actually come to life since people will be more committed to take the steps they have defined together than to simply follow plans passed down to them from the ivory tower.

For example, if co-creation reveals that your employees feel disengaged because of lack of shared objectives, you can then start to co-create a vision and action plan, including everyone in the process and offering everyone an equal chance to influence the outcome. 

Or if micromanaging and unclear expectations from managers seem to be the key issue pushing employee engagement down, you can co-create a shared view of what would be an engaging leadership culture and an action plan to implement it.

To help you get started we built these four simple co-creation templates with practical step-by-step guidance on how to engage your employees in co-creating and developing your company strategy.

 Download strategy co-creation templates 

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Sami Akseli

Guest blogger: Sami is on a mission to build the ultimate customer experience. Designing things that take you by surprise and put a smile on your face makes him smile too. Sami gets kicks out of trying and learning new things. He is seasoned marketing professional with extensive experience in B2B marketing, customer experience design and marketing automation.