employee engagementTalk about employee engagement has never been louder than it is today. But much like the distortion you get in your music when you turn your speakers up to the max, more talk hasn’t made this topic clearer. Let’s take a few minutes to dispel the myth of employee engagement, turn down the volume, and get clearer about what it is and how we can create it.

How Important is Employee Engagement?

Before we get to the myth, let me be perfectly clear. The goal of having an engaged and committed team is one of the most important goals an organization or leader could have. When employees are engaged, a whole list of powerful and valuable things will be true. When people are engaged in their work, they are more likely to:

  • Stay in the organization – so retention goes up.
  • Talk positively about the organization – which can attract new talent (and improve perceptions of customers).
  • Be more productive – something every organization wants.
  • Collaborate more effectively – leading to innovation and better decision making.
  • Have better working relationships – so communication is more effective and destructive conflict is greatly reduced.
  • Help their teammates – which helps build skills and culture more rapidly.

The list could go on, but I talk to leaders all the time who are looking to improve just one of those things. Often, the answer is increasing employee engagement.

In other words, the importance and value of employee engagement isn’t a myth at all. It is a profound truth.

The Myth

But there is a myth – that employee engagement is something leaders and organizations do to people. It is seen as programs to be added, perks to be provided, or some magic mixture that, when provided, leads to employee engagement. The thinking goes… “What do we need to do so they will be engaged?”

The Truth

When we are engaged, we feel a sense of ownership. We care about our work and those we do it with and for. And we are willing to do what is needed to create success.

This truth leads to two important points:

  • We benefit greatly when we are engaged. Employee engagement is valuable and beneficial to individuals, not just to the organization.
  • Engagement is a personal choice.

Think about it:

  • Can someone make you take ownership?
  • Can someone else make you care?
  • Can someone make you volunteer your time and talent?

Employee engagement is a choice each team member makes individually. People choose to engage (or not).

While the approach of leaders and the environment they create can help create employee engagement, and while well intended efforts of senior leaders may help, ultimately none of it “solves” employee engagement.

Your Next Step

Organizationally, if your goal is to create greater employee engagement, you need to do four things:

  • Create a stated goal to help more team members choose to be engaged. In other words, shift the way you think about your goal.
  • Understand the current level of employee engagement – and where the gaps might be.
  • Reassess your current approaches to see if you are chasing employee engagement in ineffective ways. If so, reassess or stop those activities.
  • Support skill building for your leaders to help them create an environment where it is easier for people to decide to commit to and engage with their work and team.

As an individual leader, you don’t have to wait for the organization to take any of these steps. Since individuals choose to engage, you can set your own goals, work to understand what your team members want and need from work, and help them choose to engage – for reasons that matter to them. When you do this, you are approaching employee engagement based on what it really is, not as a mythical thing to achieve.


Do you want to create an environment on your team that makes it easier for people to choose to engage? Want to figure out how to create the levels of communication, collaboration and cohesion that will create great results? These are the questions our new book, The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team For Everyone’s Success, can help you answer – wherever your team members work.

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