8 Strategies to Drive Employee Engagement

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis


According to Gallup’s latest ‘State of the World Workplace 2022’ report:

  • 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable.
  • 59% of these are stressed on a daily basis, 56% are worried, 33% are working with physical pain and 31% are angry
  • Only 21% of the workforce are engaged at work
  • 45% of employees said now is a good time to find a job, up slightly from last year, but less than the record 55% in 2019.
  • The regional outlier for this item is the United States and Canada, which leads the world at 71%, up 44 percentage points from the previous year. The next closest regions are Australia and New Zealand at 59% and South Asia at 50%.
  • The regions with the least promising job opportunities are the Commonwealth of Independent States (35%), MENA (28%) and East Asia (27%).

If you are struggling to attract and retain talent or if you are experiencing evidence of quiet quitting, then these 8 leadership strategies can help.

1. Onboarding shouldn't be boring

First impressions are crucial. Leaders need to build relationships and trust quickly with time spent building intimacy, empathy and understanding. Make the onboarding experience a personal one and ensure that they experience as much about the total company as possible and not just the division they have joined. New starters want to believe that their future is wide open with lots of choice and opportunities.

2. Lead with purpose

Leaders can inspire their team members with purpose beyond making profit. As Simon Sinek says, ‘start with why’. Leaders need to connect daily activities and outcomes to a bigger picture for customers, communities, the planet. When we see how our work contributes to that purpose, we get a huge sense of value and meaning.

3. Build fun into work

Work should be fun. Build fun into the work, the day, or week. Enable the team to create their own ‘fun.’ ‘Forced fun’ can be cringey and disengaging. Fun doesn’t just mean after work drinks but can mean games, competitions, activities, experiences, connect to society. Be prepared to spend money on having fun, it will save you money in the long run.

4. Show care and curiosity

‘I don’t care what you know until I know that you care.’ If we want our team to care for their work and care for their outcomes, then leaders must show they care for them. This interest and curiosity must extend beyond conversations about their performance and onto care for their lives.

Zenger Folkman identified 3 critical characteristics that was associated with colleagues being prepared to ‘go the extra mile’. Zenger Folkman analysts looked at 360 leadership assessments since 2020 and compared 13,000 employee ratings of 2,801 leaders who ‘balance getting results with a concern for other’s needs’, and the extent to which their ‘‘work environment is a place where people want to go the extra mile’. Those leaders with the rated highest on balancing results and relationships saw 62% of employees willing to go the extra mile and only 3% ‘quietly quitting’. The worst leaders had 14% of colleagues quietly quitting and only 22% willing to go the extra mile.

HBR Graph

5. Build trust

‘I couldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you!’ Trust binds people together. It makes them want to stay.

3 critical drivers of trust:

  1. Positive relationships. This means you look forward to connecting and enjoy talking to them. Common interests bind you together, while differences are stimulating. Some team members make it easy to have a positive relationship. Others are more challenging. This is often a result of differences (age, gender, ethnicity, or political orientation). Look for and discover common ground with these team members to build mutual trust.
  2. In addition to being totally honest, leaders need to deliver on what they promise. Most leaders believe they are more consistent than others perceive them.
  3. Do you know your job well? Are you out of date on any aspects of your work? Do others trust your opinions and your advice? Experts can bring clarity, a path forward, and clear insight to build trust. This is especially true in technical divisions such as IT, Finance, R&D, Engineering where technical expertise is given huge significance and attention.

6. Active and conscious inclusion - ABIDE

Leaders need to ensure Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. Build a psychologically safe environment for everyone. A place where it is easy to express yourself. Most leaders believe themselves to be fair and unbiased. This may be true but ABIDE demands active and conscious inclusion i.e., working hard to bring people in is a different mindset to avoiding exclusion.

7. Inspire others

Leaders need to make the team feel feelings about their work, their company, and their career. Inspiring others includes making me feel proud of the company (its contribution to ESG, society, communities), feeling excited about the future (the company direction, vision, and strategy), challenged and passionate for innovation and new products, markets, and opportunities. Feeling involved in the future by feeling valued and part of the company’s future.

8. Grow others

There is a commercial exchange of value between employer and employee. The employee completes tasks between 9am and 5pm and the employer pays the employee a salary. But if the employee wants future growth in their salary, and the employer wants future value in their tasks, so both need to priorities growth, skill development, training, and responsibilities and opportunities where the employee can prove and improve themselves.

Quiet quitting is a real opportunity cost to the business. For leaders, it is not about getting employees to do more than contracted hours for nothing in return. It is about creating the right environment in which there is a ‘value-added’ exchange. The team member receives and experiences growth, development, empowerment to experiment, fun, loyalty, care, recognition, and joy. The company gets loyalty, ideas, innovation, discretionary effort, advocacy, and a collective culture that builds a reputation in the marketplace.

Leaders must lead and find their own passion for the engagement agenda. It does not just happen. Engagement demands conscious planning and execution.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch at hello@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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