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This blog site is also linked to the discussion group on Employee Engagement on LinkedIn. It started more than 8 years ago and has about 36,000 members. But like many groups on LinkedIn it had become a bulletin board for news and posts. The discussion element had disappeared gradually. Some of the members suggested to re-introduce the discussion culture. Nostalgia? I don’t think so. So I have introduced the first of many discussion topics to come.
Here’s the question:

And here are the answers (so far):

People Are important, so We Say.

Maybe it’s good to start at the beginning and to get the CEO of every organisation to understand that people drive results, and stop using results to drive people. That’s what John Backhouse says. But Jim Smith is critical about that. He says:  trouble is how to do it. If you look around here (in this linked group) and other resources, you won’t find much in the way of successful EE transformation stories. Thousands of what’s, very little on qualified how.
But maybe making sure that people at the top understand does not have to be that hard. Billie Wright suggests to have a roundtable discussion with all levels of staff to discuss their views in engagement, what it means to them and how they all contribute to culture.
John Backhouse compares the attention for customers with the attention for the people in organizations: And if every organisation invested the same amount in delighting their employees as they do on delighting the customer. Many spend vast amounts on listening to the customer, but relatively tiny amounts on listening to the employee… the ones who deliver the customer experience/products/services the customer uses.

Inspiration and Meaningfulness

Aah. The link between customer experience and employee experience. Simon Sinek is clear on that: how can customers love your company if your employees do not love it first?
Customers are the reason an organization exists. To serve a customer, a citizen, a client, a patient is what makes organisations tick. And even when organisations focus on product excellence or process efficiency, they still need to reach an olympic minimum in customer orientation. Customers are at the core of meaningfulness.
I have written a lot about meaningfulness in organizations. Creating Meaningfulness is a way to make leadership sustainable and of engaging people. if people feel that what they do is meaningful, they are more likely to be engaged.
Bobby Bakshi talks about purpose. He says we need to help employees discover their own purpose and only then have them see how it integrates with the purpose of their company. And by doing this people will see that what they do is relevant, because it’s relevant to them. Bobby makes an important point here.
So we need to focus on the work itself… engagement is at its peak if the job that one is performing is engaging- challenging, rewarding and impactful, states Lithika Sabat Mhetre
One way to create meaningfulness is to assign missions, not tasks, according to Guillermo Farcas.
And this is how Zeena Dsouza says it: Give all employees a clear understanding of how their respective job roles contributes to the overall success of the company,regardless of which role they are in. Having a common line of sight gives focus to both the business and its people resulting in high productivity and engagement. Let these reflect in everything you do… Right from your job descriptions to your careers page to your rewards program.
Eric Bruggeman has this advice to give to leaders: Try to inspire one person a day either by the acknowledgement of a job well done, asking and thanking someone for their opinion, or an actual engagement on an idea or thought that someone had because you genuinely want to inspire innovation and them.
I guess this is even more than inspiration. It seems to be also about involvement and recognition. Acknowledging that someone exists and is important is an existential deed. This is also what Julie Allen says:  Acknowledge them with the small things which will also show they are valued.
Piril Kadibesegil Yasar suggests to invest in Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Volunteering as a way to boost employee engagement. Paul Corcoran mentions this too. He says:  Build an employee volunteering scheme. Ticks so many boxes. It’s cost effective, rewarding, engaging and visibly makes a difference for staff, companies and charities. For a company it is indeed meaningful to invest in society and give something back.

Feedback & Communication

To Shea Heaver feedback is probably the most powerful (yet under-used and incorrectly applied) management tool. It is most productive as a two-way communication mechanism where the focus is on collaborative problem-solving and improvements. And he adds:
Oh…and it’s not simply about being honest…it’s about being honest skillfully.
Alysson Marks says we need to go for Open communication! Also Lisa Anderson is clear about this: Really listen to employee ideas, with curiosity and an open mind and include them in discussions whenever possible. Also talk about why an idea wasn’t implemented instead of giving a quick no.
Talk to your people and genuinely get to know them – hear them, coach them, let them do what they do best and get out of their way. Recognition. Rinse. Repeat. This is the advice coming from Kelly MacCullum. And listening is what needs to be done according to Sebastian Chandy.
So maybe we need to give them the tools to communicate – be in the loop, says Tony BoatmanMost of these workers are “silent”. 
That’s also the take of Cynthia Pizarro , who even adds some commercial information (which I leave in her contribution). This is what she says: I’d do everything I can to communicate with excellence. I was frustrated because it felt like our communication wasn’t really working – despite our efforts. That’s why my team built Ohana – a mobile solution that optimizes communication to inspire engagement. Ohana filled the gap – it’s mobile, intuitive, and personal – and has connected our remote team at a completely different level. Now, there’s a virtual place where no one is ever alone. We love it. Check it out at We’d love your feedback. Well, if you want, you can give her your feedback on Ohana.
So if I understand the tool side, it’s about being connected. Also Shirley Palmer advocates for connectivity at all levels. And maybe a tool is not always needed.
And what about skills? What about training? I would train Supervisors/Managers to relate to their direct reports in a way that enables them to discuss the issues that build true employee engagement, says Michael Zroback.
Indeed. Communication seems to play a big role in how engagement can be increased. First of all communication is a way to create meaningfulness. It’s about storytelling, isn’t it? For Nancy Enger-Barrera we need to continually explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ and maintaining an open platform for dialogue.
But for communication to be open, including accepting dissenting voices, differences of opinion and speaking up, the environment needs to be safe. This is about trust. Cynthia Alloyda is affirmative: earn their trust.


But how do you earn trust? Shweta Singh says leaders need to be more approachable, possessing patience to listen to them.
Jules Agombar also talks about trust and trustworthiness. He says to Encourage it, role model it, reward it. True empowerment comes from being trusted.
And Daniela Delivanelli underlines the importance of empathy. Build genuine understanding and trust between line managers and team members, she says.
Here Howard Stanten makes a point. He says that we should extend trust and be trustworthy. So there are two sides to trust. There is giving trust and being trustworthy. Both are essential.
Trustworthiness depends on how competent one is, how loyal and how integer one is. If people see that their leaders are competent but not acting on their behalf (loyal) of walking the talk (integer), they will not trust their leaders. Or this is how Dr Shakira Alauddin says it: Maintaining integrity and transparency at all levels. 
To me, trust is the fuel of leadership

Trust is the fuel of leadership.

Social Context

So far we haven’t talked much about the people and what they need.
Jane Keep brings that up. She tells us to make work about relationships and people – first and foremost. And she adds: support all staff to be on a self-care/their own health and wellbeing programme – as the more we take care of our health and wellbeing the more we naturally engage with others.
She has a point. Work can be amazing. But it can also be a source of illness. So by investing in people’s health we can show that the organization cares.
Also Cristina Melnik believes this. Build better relationships in the workforce. Relationships are the #1 factor affecting someone’s engagement at work.
Leslie Masih talks about segmentation. That would be the single thing for highest return to him. And he goes on:   because desire to give high performance ‘start from within’. That, in turn, enables Learning and Development, and serves as a Hawthorne effect based self-improvement vehicle. In aggregate this would lead to highest returns enterprise wide.
It’s a good thing that Leslie reminds us that employee engagement only makes sense when we can link it to performance.


Lee Collins has a very straigthforward advice: Flatten the hierarchy.
He has a point. When the distance to the CEO is big, people risk to be crushed by hierarchy. Personally I think hierarchy is not the cause of the problem. It’s how the hierarchy is operated. And there are alternatives to lighten the hierarchical weight: heterarchies, holacracy, …
Flattening hierarchies could also be a matter of Remove titles , cabins , approvals for rewarding according to Parul Chatterjee.
Kerry Mitchell says that engaging people is about giving autonomy and ownership.
Flatter structures have the advantage that responsibility and autonomy are higher, also at the front.And that is always an advantage in terms of agility, customer orientation and motivation. To motivate people is what Golla Gayathri wants us to focus on.
Bart vanderhaeghen describes how to develop autonomy: Put a cross-functional group together, give them a problem to crack (not too easy not too difficult) and some autonomy on how the solution may look like. Help the team along the way to improve their own skills and the cooperation.

Is Employee Engagement about Leadership?

Is employee engagement the sole responsibility of the leader? Dipleen Kaur has a message for leaders. She wants them to inspire , inform, involve , support , incent and connect and lead to increase employee engagement. A lot of that was in the debate before.
Leading by example is the input coming from  Anita D’Souza: Starting from the Top – I feel employees should see Leadership demonstrating the behaviours and characteristics they are expected to display. 
And Tim Goddard can only agree: Get support and buy in from C-level. Only way it will “take hold”.
Jim Smith confirms and says that the entire initiative would be sponsored by the CEO and led by an outside facilitation firm with a process that temporarily suspends the negative effects of the culture, politics, and silos.
According to Jim, this is the only approach that will get at the deep rooted issues and ensures that the blockers don’t count. That cannot be accomplished by inside resources.
Jim says also that he hasn’t been able to find a story of a single Employee Engagement transformation having occurred from an internally managed project.
Vivek Rao concludes: Apply a “pay it forward” mentality on a daily basis as it applies to two sides of a coin, if you will: inspiration and empathy. Start with top leadership and have it trickle down over time to the entire organization.


So this was the discussion in the LinkedIn Group on Employee Engagement. It’s like if we were all in the same room and having an open and rich debate on this topic. There were people from Belgium, Malaysia, Canada, the United States, Qatar, India, the United kingdom, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, … united around one topic and sharing ideas and experiences. This is the power of social technology.
And of course this discussion is not closed.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.


  • Elaine Sheppard says:

    This is a really useful summary, David, so thank you.

  • Dale says:

    Here is a true story!
    When Ben heard that John, his supervisor, was being transferred to another part of the store, Ben met John and said, “I hear that you are transferring to another part of the store?” After a huge sigh Ben said, “I’ am sorry to see you go, I like working with you. I know that when I come to work, the first thing I do is look for you, and when I see you; I know that everything will be OK! John thanked Ben for his kind words and responded by saying, “Hey, if you ever have a problem or question, come and ask, I am always willing to help!”
    Ben, feeling reassured, gave another huge sigh, and a smile of acknowledgement. Ben felt that when John is around and problems arise that he can call on John for help and assistance, and as his supervisor, John reciprocated and showed his support and concern for Ben by recognizing and responding to Ben’s needs. With other supervisors available, Ben’s special preference for John, the relationship that had been established, was being threatened by John’s transfer and that made Ben feel (his emotional sighs) both uncertain and a sense of loss. John’s reassurance of his continued availability and support made Ben feel safe! Feeling safe meant the mutual trust and cooperation that had been established between the pair would continue.
    The anxiety Ben felt over the expected loss of John’s counsel and John’s ability to make Ben feel safe was turned from a potential negative, affecting Ben’s ability to work effectively, into a positive of renewed confidence, of learning, and of achieving success. Three weeks after this conversation, Ben was promoted into the very position John had left!
    An attachment relationship is said to exist when three conditions are met: (1) an individual seeks out and maintains proximity to a specific other. Ben’s first action when starting work was to look for John; (2) uses that other as a safe haven during times of distress. Ben knew that if he had questions, problems arose, or things became confusing or uncertain he could call on John and everything would be OK: (3) uses the other as a secure base from which to explore the world. In the organization, John’s acting as a secure base meant Ben was able to learn, be flexible, and to grow professionally such that he was promoted to John’s position.
    The entire conversation is Ben’s discussing the nature of the relationship he has with John as well as an emotional reflection upon how that relationship is about to change. More dramatically, this example helps to answer two important questions: Why is engagement in the workplace so important? And why positive relationships or connections for that engagement are so necessary?
    Its not about being the perfect boss, its about being good enough. Both Ben and John understood that together, they could handle issues, concerns, and problems much better than individually.

  • Reetika says:

    Very well summarised David… n like you said.. did feel like a people in a room !!

  • Kathryn says:

    Great compilation. I found it useful and inspiring.

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