No matter the size of your business, reaching targets and measuring response rates from managers is always a concern, but a performance-driven and target-obsessed policy will often lead to de-motivating a working environment. But it is not always the pressure to perform that can stress employees, at times it is just a lack of people management skills.

‘Employee Engagement’ is key for success according to a Government-backed panel called ‘Engage for Success’ which led a campaign launch in November 2012.  It promotes that true engagement is much deeper than measures like employee satisfaction or motivation, and has concrete outputs in terms of productivity, company turnover and reduced sickness absence. High workforce engagement is undoubtedly a ‘win-win’.

First steps…

Good leadership has the power to energise people and to engage and motivate staff to go that extra mile. Poor leadership will always eventually have the opposite effect, creating an uninspiring environment based on fear of losing one’s job and leading in time to poor team performance. This will also mean high staff turnover and frequent absences.

The use of the “coercive” style of management has been on the rise in the UK characterized by management that takes control, instructing and managing employees with a critical eye. Research conducted by The Hay Group over a seven-year period up to 2012 surveyed more than 14,000 leaders and found that this style is now frequently adopted by over a quarter (26%) of business leaders.

This may well be effective in a crisis but research suggests that in a prolonged state, it will begin eroding innovation and creativity among employees. Fear creates an atmosphere of suspicion and anger which is not healthy for any business. Most people will continue to work in their current position but only till the time they find another opportunity. At the same time, many employees tend to follow just the rules rather than plan a strategy, be innovative and achieve their goals.

Making an employee feel lucky that they have a job is not ever going to lead to getting the best work out of them.  Engaging with your staff rather than fostering fear leads to a far more productive work environment.

How do you engage employees?

Clarify the purpose:

People need to know the grand design to which they are subscribing to and how this evolves over time. Reinforcement of that purpose and matching it with the team member’s individual aspirations is one of the best ways to keep them engaged.

Show them exactly how they contribute;

And what that means to the grand plan. Most people working on projects want to know how their work contributes in achieving the final goal. Share with them the results, give them a broader perspective, share feedback and let them understand how your customer perceives value. Once this important link is established, people are more equipped to deliver better outcomes.

Identify with your employees:

Whenever you share feedback and communicate, you will nurture their self-esteem. Criticize constructively and show them their potential. Help them identify their unique strengths and how to put them to use.

Set them free:

Align values, give them a purpose and then set them free. Autonomy can be one of the greatest drivers of employee engagement. Team members need a space where they can exercise their ideas and be creative. Let them make mistakes, but support them so they learn. Setting them free is also a great indicator that you trust them.

Involve them in leading change:

People often get into their own comfortable spaces at work over time. Involving them in meaningful improvement initiatives is a great way to keep them alternately engaged. Sometimes, when people get bored with routine, such change initiatives can be reinvigorating.

Openness and ownership:

Transparency breeds accountability, which translates into ownership. When someone is invested in their role and feels pride and ownership, they’re much more likely to start suggesting improvements and working hard to better their work and the company.

Act on it:

Show that you care by acting on the feedback. Better yet, involve people in implementing those actions. Taking feedback and not acting on it is a costly mistake that can quickly disengage people.


When your employees put in the hard work and they are engaged, most people end up doing that extra bit to make sure that things get done right. Don’t forget to celebrate with them; making them feel good about their achievements and their hard work. When you have a team that works well together and celebrate together, they will perform much better.

Understanding your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and acknowledging their hard work will always lead to higher productivity.  Keeping people on the edge of their seats or “sweating them” may have the opposite of the desired effect.

Published Tuesday January 14, 2014