Employee Engagement Strategy: The Biggest Complaint and the Most Powerful Solution

Employee Engagement Strategy: The Biggest Complaint and the Most Powerful Solution

With the right employee engagement strategy you can help your employees connect to purpose at work.

The No. 1 reason employees hold back from taking initiative is because they feel that their ideas don’t matter because leaders make decisions without asking for input. If you want your team to take a more active role in your business, you need to listen to what they say and define your own employee engagement strategy.

Employee Engagement Strategy: Stepping Up

In my new book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything, I define “taking initiative” as doing anything that makes the company better, including presenting new ideas, suggesting better ways of doing business, and taking high levels of effort to improve the organization’s services.

But how many of your employees take initiative? Do you invite suggestions, and if you, do you give them real consideration? Having worked with hundreds of organizations, it has been my experience that a gold mine of talent lay dormant in almost every company. However, there is often a disconnect between leaders and employees so some of the brightest minds with the best ideas go unnoticed.

Giving employees a seat at the table not only encourages great ideas, it improves morale, productivity, and fosters a culture where people feel they’re making a difference.

Employee engage thyself download

Creating Your Employee Engagement Strategy

Want to uncover this talent? Here are nine sure-fire ways to empower your people through an employee engagement strategy to step up and bring your business to the next level of excellence.

1. If you treat people like owners they will act like owners.

When people are given responsibility they tend to act responsibly. The Ritz-Carlton gives associates $1,000 to use at their disposal to enhance the guest experience, and Westjet has guidelines as opposed to “rules” for customer service agents. Not surprisingly, both are known for their superior service.

2. Keep people informed about the business.

Let people see the connection between their work and outcomes for the business. When people see the impact, they tend to act like owners. When Harley Davidson was on the brink of going under, they educated every employee on the profit chain and how their job impacted profits.

3. Give people a seat at the table.

People rarely own decisions if they don’t have input into them. When Don Knauss took over the worst performing region at Frito Lay, he met with every driver and salesperson to ask for their ideas. His people stepped up and became the best performing region in the company.

4. Reward people for stepping up—ALWAYS!

When people do step up and take initiative, make sure they are praised. For example, when an employee of a large aerospace company broke a safety rule and fell into an expensive rocket cone causing significant damage, he came forward even though no one saw him. He was praised company-wide for doing the right thing.

5. Don’t dismiss ideas too quickly.

Employees want to know we have considered their ideas so watch your first reaction. Don’t be too quick to say things such as “we have never done it that way” or “that won’t work.” And if you later find out you were wrong, then admit it. The Starbucks Frappuccino was the brainchild of a few frontline people and was initially rejected by Starbucks leaders. Later, leaders admitted they were wrong.

6. Make it someone’s job to disagree with you.

Let people know ALL the time that it is their job to disagree with you, that you want them to speak up. In my first job, my boss told me “it is your job to disagree with me, if you don’t one of us is redundant!”

7. Praise effort not just results.

An obsessive focus on results can actually discourage people from stepping up. In fact, research shows that when we praise effort as much as results, people are more likely to take risks and initiative.

8. Role model: 100% Responsibility, Zero Excuses.

If we don’t want our people to act like victims, we must role model it. Never point fingers at anyone else or make excuses for your own performance or results. When Joanne Beaton took over a dying operator services business for TELUS, she told her people “no one can save this business but us, so if you hear me making excuses or blaming anyone else, challenge me.” They not only turned the situation around, they created a huge profit center.

9. Remember if people are not stepping up it is usually about leadership.

If your people are not acting like owners or taking initiative, it is probably about leadership—not about your people.

From the book Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything


Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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