In the digital era, companies more than ever need to create human-centered workplaces with the primary focus on their No.1 stakeholder -- employees

To do that, leaders need to get in the game of engaging employees, but play it strategically with a long-term focus, not for short-term gain.

This means fostering an environment where employees want to go to work, where the work has meaning and purpose, and where people feel like they belong to a family.

Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory firm, found that two out of three workers were not fully engaged at work, with almost one-fifth being completely disengaged. 

Talent is critical to any company's success. And as people spend the majority of their hours at work, leaders must figure out a way to leverage their most precious resource in a manner that works for both companies and employees.

Being that I'm a big fan of impactful leadership books that address the engagement crisis, one recently came across my desk that is worthy of the spotlight. 

In Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data, Rishad Tobaccowala investigates what drives disengagement and how successful companies best engage their talent.

Tobaccowala is senior adviser to the Publicis Groupe, the world's third-largest communication firm with 80,000 employees, where he served most recently as its chief growth officer and chief strategist.

Tobaccowala says the reasons for disengagement are threefold:

  • Leadership: A disconnect between employees and their leaders when employees do not trust that their leaders have their interests at heart
  • Values: A lack of emotional connection to the organization they are working for
  • Quality of work: The work is not considered meaningful or rewarding

To address the engagement crisis, Tobaccowala suggests that the most successful companies display the following characteristics:

1. A caring, development-oriented boss  

Bosses foster meaningful work experiences. In fact, a great boss supervising someone who isn't paid particularly well and has a mediocre job drives more employee happiness and growth than a bad boss supervising someone in a high-growth, high-paying position.  

Who is a great boss? While the personalities and abilities vary, most who fit this definition have the following traits in common:

  • They celebrate the team more than themselves
  • They possess integrity; they are approachable
  • They recognize that their people have lives and pressures outside of work

You've heard the saying, "People leave bosses, not companies."  Bad bosses suck the meaning out of the work environment, and people who work for them can't wait to get out of their jobs, no matter how well they might be paid.

2. A feeling of pride  

People care a lot about working for organizations with mission, purpose, and values to which they resonate. The litmus test is whether, in social situations, they are happy to tell others about where they work and why they work there versus shying away from talking about their companies. Proud employees believe they have found the right company culture for themselves -- that the company is a reflection of them, and they are a reflection of the company.

3. The quality of colleagues 

I've often cited Gallup research that has repeatedly shown a link between the quality of co-workers -- in the form of strong work friendships -- to high engagement. In fact, employees who report having a "best friend" at work were:

  • 37 percent more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
  • 35 percent more likely to report co-worker commitment to quality
  • 27 percent more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
  • 27 percent more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work
  • 21 percent more likely to report that at work they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day

What many employees find meaningful -- and a big reason for coming to work with a bounce in their step -- are the work friendships and relationships they make and sustain over time. Developing a sense of camaraderie and a belief that your team is smart, fun to work with, and successful means a lot to team members.            

4. Opportunity to acquire new skills and grow 

In a rapidly changing world, the ability to learn and grow is more meaningful than ever before -- it helps people retain their marketability and it allows them to keep their skills current.  

Tobaccowala explains that he was able to retain the best talent--talent that could have been paid a lot more elsewhere--by telling new hires receiving an offer the following:

Check back in six months and you will be worth even more. Why? Because you are learning and growing new skills. The day you are not worth much more outside you should leave. Until then, keep growing and you can always monetize that in the future.

We are living in transformative times where companies continuously need to reinvent themselves. To attract and retain the best talent, companies need to understand that people need more than money or perks. They need to be proud of the company they work for, feel connected to their leaders and colleagues, and be proud of the work they are doing.