If you want to increase employee satisfaction on the people that matter most to you, stop attaching their happiness to pay raises. Start thinking about "emotional currency" and how you've led your people along the way.

Let me candid here. When we read about leadership by the greatest thought leaders of our time, what it really boils down to about having great teams and high performers who are happy and satisfied -- it's ultimately about how you engage your workforce.

But the biggest mistake you and I will make is thinking that engaging your workforce is an initiative that resides in HR.


It's every leader's responsibility to take the lead, with HR playing a partnership role to make sure the needle on engagement is moving.  

So lets agree on terminology. What exactly is employee engagement?

The simplest definition I can think of comes down to this:

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to his/her boss, the organization, and its goals. It's about what happens from the neck up -- the feeling that we're all safe in the direction the bus (in a Jim Collins Good to Great sense) is headed.

Your Secret Weapon: Releasing Discretionary Effort in Employees

And the reason this definition is so important is that when your employees are emotionally committed, they give -- wait for it -- discretionary effort. This is the type of productivity that is hard to beat because it's intrinsic.

People will go above and beyond, they will go the extra mile, and they will do things that exceed expectations. You can see discretionary effort in any organization, at any level, with any job title, from the janitor to the VP.

For example, an engaged sales rep will prospect for business just as hard on a Friday afternoon as she would on a Monday afternoon. In manufacturing, engaged workers make fewer mistakes and have fewer accidents. Safety ratings go up.

Feelings and emotions drive human behavior--what people care most about and commit themselves to in their lives. Consequently, how leaders make people feel in their jobs has the greatest impact on their performance by far.

I encourage you to think about what employee engagement looks like in your respective companies, teams, and departments. How are you driving engagement in your workplace?

The first step I would tell my clients is to self-diagnose. Let me bring you a quick assessment that will only take ninety seconds.

Check each of the following questions that you would answer with a "yes." If you can check more than ten of these, you may be well on your way to engaging your employees at a high level.

Your Engagement Self-Assessment

1. Do people believe that you want to hear their ideas and will value them?

2. My employees understand how their daily work helps accomplish the organization's goals.

3. Do others follow your requests and commands because they "want to," as opposed to because they "have to?"

4. Do others communicate their ideas and vision for the organization when you are around?

5. Do you frequently acknowledge and recognize each employee for his or her contribution - in ways that matter most to each?

6. Do people believe that you are committed to helping them develop and grow?

7. Do people feel a strong sense of community in the organization that you lead?

8. Do you regularly offer career path guidance to your people?

9. My employees would say that they never receive any surprises during formal performance reviews.

10. I help my employees understand how they can better serve the organization.

11. At work, my employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday.

12. At work, people's opinions seem to count.

13. In the last seven days, an employee has received recognition or praise for doing good work.

14. You regularly talk to your people about their progress.

15. I help build confidence in my employees by communicating how their work matters.

So how did you do? Whatever the case, know that employee engagement should be a non-negotiable in driving your business.

This post is an abbreviated version of an on-demand webinar I conducted recently about the top eight reasons why companies lose their best people. If you want a free download, just subscribe below and I'll be glad to send it to you.