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Engaged Employees Are on The Rise

Plus A Few Tools to Help You Keep Up

· Whit Webster,Engagement,Leadership

Gallup recently released results of its annual employee engagement study and the results show more companies catching on, with 35% of employees feeling engaged, representing an 8% increase since Gallup began measuring engagement in 2000. This is great news for people in the U.S. as a greater percentage of workers are feeling supported in their roles. However, those companies that do not do a good job of supporting their people will struggle to compete in a marketplace where competitors are getting higher productivity from their engaged employees. The Gallup study shows that companies with a highly engaged work force are 21% more profitable than those that are not, which I discussed in a previous post.

As an investor in small businesses I have witnessed and observed many types of cultures over the years. When I started paying attention I noticed that companies with highly engaged people shine brighter than the rest. Throughout my journey I have noticed some key characteristics that seem to be present across highly engaged cultures. Here are a few:

Deep communication throughout the organization

Highly effective teams develop and grow through effective organizational communication. When people feel like they have a solid sense for what is going on, they trust others, and spend more time focusing on their work instead of worrying about what others (including the boss) are doing.

“THE ULTIMATE HIGHER LAW When you appeal to the highest level of thinking, you get the highest level of performance.”
― Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business

Hire for not only skill, but for cultural fit

Hiring people based on their ability to fit within the fabric of the organization is essential. Bringing in people that don’t fit with the culture will create a toxic environment and will drive good people out. One of my greatest mentors in life, Red Scott, used to say “hire smart, fire fast!” As a kid, I felt that was heartless, until witnessing leaders not being willing to put the time into hiring the right fit, and then unwilling to make the hard decision to remove the wrong fit. Those companies ended up with demotivating/toxic cultures.

Team level planning

When you dictate a plan to your team, they will follow your plan and not take ownership or give it their all. But, when you share the organizational goals and let teams and individuals come up with their own plan to help accomplish the organization's goals, they are far more likely to help you efficiently achieve those goals. Added bonus they will feel more valued and thus “more engaged” in the process.

“Your execution really takes off when you involve the next level of managers and everyone else in your execution planning. It’s the process of planning together rather than dictating a plan from the top down that helps get everyone aligned and committed to executing the plan.”

– Patrick Thean, Rhythm

A team or family culture

People want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This is why clubs and other social networks exist. Great organizations have a feeling of togetherness that others do not.


How often have you heard “don’t trust the boss”? Great companies have trust throughout the organization. Leaders of these companies accomplish this by communicating, admitting fault, showing that they are human, getting to know the people all the way down the org chart, showing empathy, showing a willingness to take responsibility, and most importantly by trusting their people.

“Letting go and trusting others to do things well is one of the more challenging aspects of being a leader of a growing organization.”

― Verne Harnish, Scaling Up

A burning hunger for learning and personal/organizational growth

Great people, just like great companies, know that they must continue evolving and improving if they are going to stay relevant. People rarely leave companies where they feel they are being challenged and are growing. Help your people grow and they will help you grow.

People feel supported and rewarded

When people feel like everyone on their team has their back, they are more willing to stick their neck out to do the right thing. Southwest Airlines understood this early on. Their goal was to provide the best customer service in a funky/fun environment. They did not accomplish this by beating customer service mantras about the customer being #1 into their people, they did it by putting their employees first, supporting them over the customer. They had their back and let them go out and be their best selves for the customers.

Talk to your people, share your goals, give them the freedom to make mistakes, and put your people before your customers. Your company will rise above the rest.

Enjoy the journey!


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