What does employee engagement really mean?

One definition says it’s an employee “who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.” Statistics show that engaged employees are more productive. They play “all in to win.” This can only benefit the organization. In fact, according to a Gallup survey, companies with engaged employees outperform those without, by a staggering 202%. With such productivity benefits, a culture of engagement is essential to performance.

Consider this statistic as well….according to Employee Channel, only 16% of employees in the workforce feel connected and engaged.

Employee engagement is affected by several things, but let’s consider one important factor…appreciation on the job. What would it take to create the kind of workplace culture that cultivates gratitude and appreciation? It’s not just a leadership job…it really speaks to all of the interactions in the culture every day, both big and small.

I will confess that at times, employee engagement was a mystery to me as a leader. As I referenced in my article on The Power of Thank You, an annual corporate opinion survey at my previous corporation would, time and again, show that employees did not feel appreciated by leadership. This was confusing. We had pizza lunches, offsite events, performance bonuses, gift card reward programs, etc. What exactly did these employees want?

Well, I can tell you now that it wasn’t food or a ballgame, though both of those are nice to have. 70% of working Americans receive no praise or recognition on the job, according to Gallup. Ah, this might provide a clue.

For example, we had a performance bonus system in my corporation. However, it had been decided that bonus awards would be kept completely private between manager and employee, to cut down on jealousy and gossip. I can now see that this system was flawed. Employee bonuses should be presented as an acknowledgment before peers and leadership alike. Keeping it in secret only kept it unknown as a form of appreciation.

In this season of Thanksgiving, gratitude and appreciation can go hand in hand to create more employee engagement. What are some ways to create an appreciative culture in your workplace?

  1. As a leader, encourage a culture of gratitude. Leaders really do set the tone, and it can start with you.
  2. Start by thanking 2 people sincerely every day. Try to go 360 degrees…someone above you, a peer, and a subordinate but if you don’t have direct reports, it can be a new employee or an intern, for example.
  3. Consider setting up an appreciation board or corner where employees are encouraged to find ways to say thanks to others in the organization…written cards or some other way that can be posted on the board.
  4. Buy someone lunch to express appreciation, but then ask them to pass it on to someone else in the department showing their appreciation. Get the flywheel started.
  5. Get a supply of thank you notes and send them out for those times when someone came to the rescue. A former CEO of Campbell’s Soup wrote some 30,000 personal thank you notes to his employees. A thank you goes a very long way.
  6. Take a look at organizational practices, such as the performance bonus mentioned previously. Are some of these practices working against employee appreciation and engagement?
  7. Find the things that you are most grateful for in your daily work and write these down. Aim for 3 to 5 items you are most grateful for at work every day.
  8. Remember birthdays, work anniversaries, Boss’s Day, Administrative Assistant’s Day, etc. Use these days to acknowledge those around you.
  9. Ask for feedback. This is a way of acknowledging others that their opinion and thoughts really do matter.
  10. Think of times when you felt sincerely acknowledged in the workplace. What did that feel like? How can you recreate that feeling and pass it on?

This is a good time to remember the power of gratitude and acknowledgment to create greater employee engagement and productivity.



Up Coaching LLC.

Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a certified Career/Executive Coach. She coaches individuals and leaders to career fulfillment, transition, and advancement. She also consults for results with businesses and solopreneurs. Her background includes 12 years in senior leadership for a Fortune 100 corporation and 7 years as a coach, with a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Executive Coaching.


For more information, please visit my website at www.upcoached.com