Unlocking Employee Engagement: The Path to Organisational Greatness

Employee Engagement.

We’ve all heard the term at some point in our careers. Through casual conversations, conversing employees or HR professionals. Perhaps you’ve even had to sit in formal sessions brainstorming how to get it right.

If you still haven’t quite grasped it, then, you aren’t alone. Many who have successfully brought about Employee Engagement are still considered to be works-in-progress.

The reality is that Employee Engagement never ends. It is a continuous investment, both from an organisational and employee point of view.

I use the word “investment” because I believe that people are by far the strongest and most significant asset in an organisation. They’re also the most difficult to wield, but when you’ve gotten Employee Engagement right, people can be a formidable force; one that can take an organisation from ordinary to extraordinary.


So, what is Employee Engagement?

When we unpack it, Employment Engagement, in its very basic form, is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to bring their “A-game” and give of their best each day.

This means they are committed to their organisation’s goals, its values and its people. They are also motivated to contribute to the organisation’s success with an enhanced sense of their own wellbeing.

When employees are engaged, they are more likely to invest in their work, which leads to a higher quality of output.

By investing in Employee Engagement, the organisation can bring about increased levels of productivity, work quality and retention.

For employees to be highly productive, they require clear role expectations, the ability to perform optimally, communication about their organisation’s purpose, how they fit into this bigger picture, and learning and development opportunities.

While happiness may be a by-product, meeting employee needs makes them better performers, which should be every organisation’s ultimate goal.

If we look at the hiring rate hypothesis on the “Great Reshuffle”, pre-and-post-pandemic statistics show that employees are switching and leaving jobs at an increased rate.

According to Microsoft’s Work-Trend Index (WTI 2021), 41% of the global workforce were likely to consider “leaving their employers” within the next year, while 46% were planning to make “major pivots or career transitions”. This means there was then, even greater pressure (and competition) for organisations to “up their game” in keeping their employees engaged.

One year on, the latest findings through Microsoft’s WTI 2022, are centred around three strategic shifts: ending the paranoia between productivity and hybrid work, recognising the fact that people choose to go into the office environment for each other (social reasons) – not necessarily as a result of work policies – and lastly, for learning investment.

Understanding 3 Key Pillars of Employee Engagement

When it comes to people, there are three main areas an organisation needs to focus their energy on, when defining strategy:

  • Leadership
  • Growth (professional and personal)
  • Rewards and recognition

Unpacking Leadership

This is not an easy one. Good leadership is generally hard to come by. Good technical leadership is even harder.  As a technical leader, my journey was by no means smooth sailing.

In the early days of my career, the “technical side of me” focused on the logical approaches, outcomes and deliverables, often to the detriment of those around me, including my teams.

It meant regularly working long hours, focused on meeting our commitments. It’s natural that most of us starting out in our careers approach things this way. However, while we may be willing to work 20-hour days, this may not be the same for others around us.

Look at Gen Z’s, Gen Y’s, Gen X’s – their goals, dreams, ambitions, and even where they are in their careers, are different.

At some point in my journey, there was a shift. This came from much research, having to understand myself, undergoing training, drawing on personal experiences and through trial-and-error, as I applied more of myself to the realm of perspectives – this included the perspectives of my employees.

It meant coming to an understanding of myself, and my people, and this led to me re-inventing the employee-manager relationship.

My approach consisted of the following key attributes:

  • Trust – my unique approach to trust was that every person who was new on my team, was given my trust, rather than having to earn it. Accountability was up to them, they had to keep that trust. Through this, I discovered that when an employee feels respected and trusted, they stretch themselves and want to give 150%.
  • Clarity and Purpose – having a clear understanding of one’s expectations is key to achieving success in one’s role.
  • Autonomy – from a position of trust and purpose, comes reliability. This brings with it independency and the ability to make trusted decisions.
  • Openness/Transparency – as social beings, there is an inherent need to feel included. Being transparent and open, brought a sense of the “big-picture”, belonging and community, culminating in unprecedented loyalty.
  • Connection – A connected leader is involved with their team on various levels, understanding their characteristics and assisting them in maximising their individual strengths to achieve the best results.

The Power of Growth (professional and personal)

When employees have clarity about their purpose and role expectations, along with clear communication about the organisation’s goals, it follows that the focus is then to make this happen.

It is at this stage that gaps in knowledge, skills and experience start to expose themselves. When the correct learning support and development opportunities are in place, this results in professional growth for the employee.

This “stretching” of abilities and learning, keeps them engaged – this is proof that the organisation values them enough to invest in their development. Increased productivity, quality of work and innovation, quickly follow.

As an organisation or a leader, if these frameworks aren’t in place, the result is most likely disengaged employees, and this can be catastrophic for the organisation.

Creativity is stifled, if existent at all, and declines in productivity and quality of work quickly set in, becoming the norm.

As a leader or organisation, you must be attentive to detail. An employee doesn’t only have a professional side, they have a personal one too.

They aspire to travel, acquire wealth, property, even fit into their chosen social lifestyle or status. This is what is known as personal growth. This personal growth speaks to mental wellbeing or is often referred to as finding a “work-life” balance.

When employees can see their personal goals moving forward, they naturally tend to give more in their professional environment – work and life are aligned and in balance, resulting in an employee who is self-motivated.

This kind of self-motivation is contagious, and the circle starts getting bigger.

Receiving Rewards and Recognition

Lastly, recognition and rewards are a necessity. We’ve already established that engaged employees who are developing themselves and increasing their value, add to the organisation and are highly productive.

It goes without saying then, that recognition should follow. In fact, for the employee it is expected, and for the organisation, it is needed.

There is nothing worse than working hard to get quality delivery out on time, only to have this go unnoticed by your managers and the organisation’s leaders.

As a leader, you may be thinking, “I’m excelling in leadership and growth, I don’t understand why my staff are not happy or why I am not achieving the results other organisations are achieving.” Remember that rewards and recognition can take many forms.

They can be monetary-based, event-based, growth-based, awards-based, so long as it’s an open and clear demonstration of “I see you, I acknowledge you”.

As a team leader, HR people partner or even entrepreneur, it starts with being aware of the disparities that exist in today’s workplace and this can be a great resource for improving morale, productivity and active engagement of your workforce.

You may need to pause and ask yourself or your staff questions to understand what this landscape looks like in your organisation.


In conclusion, what is most important to employees is that they understand how they are doing, their manager’s perception of their work quality and which development path their work may be leading them.

To ensure alignment and cohesion, it is imperative that a shared goal or purpose resonates with each member of the team. The essence of effective management and leadership lies in fostering connection and promoting collaborative endeavours.

Imagine the potential if an organisation was to raise the bar on even just a few of these vital, integral wants and needs of its employees. Getting honest feedback is one thing; the hardest part is taking that feedback and turning it into actionable possibilities that demonstrate to your employees that they’ve been heard.

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