A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you


What’s That I See? Employee Engagement!


I recently traveled to Chicago and Seattle and during this trip, had ample opportunity to observe the two cities’ workforce engaged or otherwise in their work.  Whether it was in retail, hospitality, government, banking, or one of the many other industries, there were many employees to observe.

I like to watch for something specific…and for this trip, I was looking for employee engagement.

Engagement strategies are as unique as we are, and I have no idea which organizations were utilizing intentional “strategies” and which ones were simply benefiting from the employees’ own intentions.  Regardless, employee engagement is tangible; you can feel it, hear it, and see it.


This post will highlight the four things I found in common over the last two weeks of people watching.



Employees who are engaged in their work are having fun.  I don’t mean they are monkeying around, goofing off, playing, etc.  Instead, what I mean is that they enjoy their work, and they are not afraid to show it. I used to work with a woman…we’ll call her “Fran.”

Fran didn’t like me, and she didn’t have any trouble telling me so.  When I asked her what exactly I did that irritated her so much (perhaps there were many things to choose from), she said, “your team is always laughing and partying…and I don’t like it that you don’t take things seriously.”

Fran was an idiot; she confused having fun with not taking things seriously.  What she failed to see is that me and my team were more productive than any that had come before us. We had incredibly fast cycle times, we had nearly perfect accuracy/outcomes, and we had the best retention and promotion rate of any other team.  We took our jobs very seriously…and we had a great time doing it.

love my job


Employees who are engaged in their work sincerely care about the outcome for the customer, recipient, process.  For a  server, this may mean making sure the guests’ entire dining experience was enjoyable.  For a construction worker, this may mean the public’s safety is taken care of as the crew works on the road.  For a government worker, this may mean the customer is educated about the process and knows how to manuever through it.

I had an employee once who was pretty darn good at what he did, but he didn’t have any interest in what happened to the customer, the data, the product, etc. either upstream or downstream from him.  He was a true “not my job” sort of employee; he was comfortable with his blinders on.  My job was hard because to my dismay, he didn’t care about what was outside of his bubble, and therefore, failed to be engaged in the “whole” service.  I worked with him, tried to get him to see things from his customer’s perspective, tried to instill in him the desire to care about their opinions, the entire process, etc.  I made some progress but it didn’t end well…he sincerely “didn’t” care about the outcome and therefore, was disengaged.



Employees who are engaged with their work do not settle for mediocrity.  “Good enough” is rarely, if ever, heard. These employees try new things that may increase value/quality.  They put some thought into what went wrong in an effort to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  They are open to discussing problems, failures, mistakes, etc. – their own and others – to ensure learning occurs and improvement is made.

mediocrityWe all know someone who has the mentality “don’t work too hard, you’ll work yourself out of a job.” I can’t stand that mentality.

But let’s change the words a bit and look again.

  • “Let’s work so hard that we can get more work.”
  • “Let’s do it right the first time so there are no “do-overs.”
  • “We did it right this time, let’s see if we can’t do it better next time.”


Fully engaged employees think this way, and it’s a joy to watch.



Employees who are engaged never forget that they are working for someone…and demonstrate this gratefulness or appreciation by being friendly to their customers, guests, colleagues, etc.

Employees get concerned, they have their share of worries or stressors, they even have negative opinions and feelings about people.  We’re all human, right?  But the engaged employee refuses to allow these negative feelings, thoughts or concerns affect their manners.  They are friendly, personable, and kind, regardless of what they are feeling on the inside.

Let us not forget, if it weren’t for our customers needs and desires, we’d be out of a job.  When we lose sight of this simple fact, it may be difficult to feel grateful and appreciative, and perhaps that’s why we allow our manners to slip.

Engaged employees seem to always have this in check, and it’s nice to be on the receiving end.


I’m sure there are more “indicators” of engagement and certainly the last workforce assessment you utilized touched upon more than I have in this simple post.


So I ask you…


Are your employees getting work done AND having fun?

Are they demonstrating a sincere concern for the work, the outcome, the customers, etc.?

Are they “settling” for “good enough” or are they pushing for something better?

Are they appreciative and reciprocating by being friendly and kind?


If not, perhaps they are not as engaged as they could be…and perhaps you need to find out why.



AppreciationEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEngagementHR BlogHuman ResourcesPerformance ManagementSHRMTeamworkValueWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • June 24, 2013

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  1. Beulah Sexton July 6, 2013 - 1:05 pm Reply

    Other ways to get employees engaged includes getting them to know the importance of their job to the business, understand what is expected of them, and ensuring that they get regular feedback on their performance.

  2. Robby Erickson July 13, 2013 - 12:17 pm Reply

    Most importantly, find other ways to keep the employee engaged. “Leaders are often comforted by their capacity to give a raise or a promotion because these strategies are seen as tangible and executable. However, while these extrinsic motivators are a useful and important part of keeping employees engaged, they are certainly not the only ones,” says David. Instead, rely on intrinsic motivators, such as recognizing contributions, providing opportunities to gain new skills or experiences, and supporting autonomy and choice within a job. For example, you may have leeway as a manager to make modifications to the employee’s current position so that he is spending half of his time on his current job and the other half on new, more challenging responsibilities. Doing this may be more motivational in the long run and can often inspire loyalty. “Overreliance on pay and promotion as motivators leads to an organizational culture that is very transactional and disengaged,” says David. Employees who feel valued are likely to wait out the hard times.

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