Employee engagement is no longer an HR problem, it’s a business problem, and there are few CEOs and business leaders who aren’t scratching their heads when they look at flat or declining employee satisfaction.  Here’s a scary statistic: A survey by Gallup in 2013 reported that fewer than 30% of employees in the US and Canada are engaged. This cost companies between $450-$550 billion in the United States alone. It shows up in quality defects, healthcare costs, and customer service—just to name a few  examples.

Many companies turn to compensation, benefits and career planning as the answer, and while that’s certainly a factor, it doesn’t address some of the deep and abiding drivers of engagement.   This is where business leadership comes in.  Engagement happens when people are inspired to work for a company, when they believe in that company, and see how they can contribute.  What high-value employees want more than anything is to contribute to something bigger than themselves, to make a difference, to do something that matters.  This is especially true as the Millennial generation moves onto the scene, since research shows what they care about most are teamwork, mentoring and work that contributes to a common goal. 

If you’re a leader who needs to rally the troops and create more engaged teams, what can you do?

If you follow my Thoughts for Tuesday column, you know about our research on Executive Presence. While you might not normally tie presence to engagement, it turns out these two topics couldn’t be more interrelated. The dimension of Character (show graphic) is particularly important. How? Well our research shows that Character is made up of five distinct facets: 

• Authenticity – Being genuine and transparent

• Integrity – Being true to your values

• Concern – Conveying that you sincerely care about people and their development

• Restraint – Being moderate and deliberate in your words and actions

• Humility – Knowing you don’t have all the answers and being willing to learn

How you demonstrate these qualities has a direct impact on how you inspire trust, credibility, and goodwill. You’re able to win buy in faster and get people over obstacles and periods of upheaval and change. When you make a tough business decision, people are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.  All of these drive engagement.

The first step in developing a leadership team that connects with hearts and minds is to notice how employees view them, and that’s one reason why we’ve developed a research based model for executive presence, and a corresponding training for leaders called the Executive Presence Mastery Programs. 




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