Employee Engagement: 3 Essential Targets (Part 3)

Previously, I examined of the Why and the So What we should forget trying to motivate staff and instead focus on employee engagement.

Let’s now have a look at 3 essential elements you should focus on and some practical examples on HOW to go about it.


As I argued previously there is a direct link between employee engagement and employee contribution. This link expands to include job satisfaction. Hence, in seeing how we can best engage employees I suggest we look first at the elements of job satisfaction.

There are various models that assist in exploring Job Satisfaction. One of the most useful ones I have found comes from Malcolm Gladwell.

It has three parts:

“Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.” — Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers)

So, for work to have this “enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, [which] is the strongest and most pervasive drive” (Daniel Pink, Drive) we need to focus on these three things:



Autonomy does not need to mean working solo. In essence, everyone reports to someone else. However, for the parts that you can you should provide relative autonomy to the team members.

It is thus important to first agree on the Purpose, the expected result and the framework instead of the method. Then, as a manager, supervisor, team leader or fellow team member focus on providing support, guidance and feedback.

e.g. with my team we have developed a system whereas, each team member can select a pet project (a product) to work on for a number of weeks and then present to the team. The caveat is that the product is one that when delivered will have a perceived value to the team and that it is aligned with our team’s mission. Then each team member has the autonomy to work within the framework towards the agreed goal. Many great improvements to our processes and ways of thinking have come from this initiative.

This is one way to promote autonomy within the team.

Another simple way is based on the motto:

“Don’t report a problem, recommend a solution”.

e.g. team member is expected to formulate their communication so that if there is an issue the focus is on the recommended ways of overcoming it as well as reporting it rather than merely reporting. This is another way to promote autonomy.


Dealing with this concept, I often hear the argument “I cannot make this job interesting. It involves one repetitive task and it requires very low skill level”.

It appears that, for some, some positions are perceived “boring” by definition. This view though does not assist in keeping employee retention levels high. It also creates substandard realities for people who can certainly offer more if given a chance.

What can be done about it?

Try asking the questions:

  • Can the mix of work change?
  • Is there a Continuous Improvement Project that the team member can engage in on the side?
  • Is there a better way to do this?
  • If the job does not require much skill and is repetitive why is it not automated? That’s a meaningful project in itself.
  • Are there strengths the team member has which can be useful on other projects within the Organisation?


This is another point that has drawn much discussion. Do we focus on carrots or sticks.

Provided that the hiring process have delivered well suited team members to the requirements of the positions, I firmly believe that the daily interactions should be based on creating positive relationships. Hence, maximizing each team members’ strengths.

This is best done by rewarding positive behaviors and contributions as well as, working with the team to correct any behaviors and outcomes that do not contribute to the team success.

Rewards, of course, need to be customised to the character and what “talks to each individual”. In saying this, there is one need that is perceived to be universal.

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James

Here are some practical ways to reward effort and stimulate contribution:

1) Feedback

i) A productive way to do this is to start feedback loops as standard daily practices. A structured way to provide feedback can be found here and here.

Promoting such interactions and providing ways to go about many benefits including better bond between the team members, less frustration from each others behaviours as frustrations are positively verbalised and others.

ii) Another way to approach feedback is by performing a SWOT analysis for the team involving the whole team. A recap of how this can be done can be seen here.

2) Boost Organisational Conversation

Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind in a recent article in HBR provide some insight on the use of an element that is part of a new model of leadership. The element of organizational conversation and conclude that:

“For an inclusive leader, the term “employee communication” takes on a provocative new meaning. For generations, that term has referred to communication aimed at employees. Today, by contrast, more and more leaders are seeking ways to leverage the value of communication performed by employees”

Examples of how to do so can be found here.

3) Celebrate Successes

Allow each month for the team to reflect on the performance and projects and put forward examples of their success e.g. what each member considers the biggest success of the month. This contributes to understanding each other better and what each perceives as success. The Successful stories can also be used as a form of cross training if a quick presentation is given on these projects to the team.

Another example: As mentioned before our team has developed a system of “products” within our team that each team member can work on as a pet project for 8 weeks. At the end of 3 such sessions, every six months, we all vote deciding on the one “product” that contributed the most in our development as a team. The person that is issued a certificate acknowledging their good work.

Lot of benefits have flowed from these initiatives and hence, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

So, what are the ways you engage your team? 

[Image credit: 123rf.com]

About Geovrakas
George Vrakas (MBA, CCMP, CMILT) is highly reputed in the field of services procurement and logistics and has presented on topics such as, Globalisation, Services Procurement, Leadership, Continuous Improvement and Personal Productivity at various venues and Universities in Melbourne. He has also been the host at industry events and published articles on Procurement and Contract Management at various online publications. George was a Board member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport Australia (CILT Australia) from 2011 until 2016 and also a member of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM). George holds an MBA from Victoria University specializing in International Supply Chain Management and Applied Economics, he is also a certified Commercial Contract Management Practitioner (CCMP), a Green Belt Lean Six Sigma expert and holds a Lloyd's Maritime Academy certificate in KPIs for Ports and Terminals. He also holds certification on variety of topics primarily relating to Contract Management, Negotiations, International Regulations, Problem Solving and Change Management.

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