Working With Purpose: What Employee Engagement Is Truly About

A term often thrown around in the corporate universe is “employee engagement,” and though it’s often treated as a singular concept, it’s really just a cog in a bigger machine that doesn’t fully function without all of its parts. By simple definition, to engage means to occupy attention, to attract, to please. If you Google the term you’ll find lists of ideas on how to keep employees engaged – and you will surely find some great suggestions and truly helpful information. We think of employee engagement as encouraging participation and sparking interest, but it isn’t just volunteering together or having ice cream socials. At the risk of sounding like a sappy greeting card, here goes… employee engagement isn’t merely about activities or perks, it’s about how you make your employees feel. You can’t have true engagement without a number of other factors, so here are some vital components that keep that “bigger machine” running strong:


This seems fairly obvious, but somehow employers don’t always connect the dots. It’s not just the “stuff” you do for people. Bringing in coffee and donuts for everyone as a way to “engage” them is very nice, but staying and drinking your coffee with them, chatting, showing kindness, taking interest in what they have to say – that’s another level, and that’s how you connect. Don’t just arrange a volunteer project, show up and work alongside your team, and maybe choose a cause that has special meaning to you or someone in the group. Create an atmosphere in which your employees feel like they are a part of something bigger than just a job, and not just working to pay the bills. Also, be as transparent as possible. Some companies have a culture of unnecessary secrecy, which breeds a feeling of elitism and distrust. If your company culture mirrors that of a middle-school cafeteria, then you need to make some changes.


Beyond wanting to be seen and heard, employees want to feel valued. Positive feedback, encouragement, and a simple “thank you” can pay tremendous dividends. Yes, providing perks shows appreciation, but employees feel genuinely valued when they know their feelings and opinions matter. Listen to their ideas and implement the good ones, offer opportunities to spearhead projects, celebrate their accomplishments and milestones, encourage professional growth and advancement, and certainly give praise and credit whenever it’s deserved. Beyond being valued in the sense of feeling appreciated, employees want to feel that what they do makes a difference. If you convey to them that they are a vital part of the organization, then their efforts will reflect those expectations. 


All of these warm fuzzy feelings you create among your employees will give them a sense of belonging. People are emotionally driven, and in regard to their needs at the workplace (where they spend almost half of their waking hours) it boils down to simple psychology. In the hierarchy of needs, once basic food, shelter, and safety needs are met, the next boxes to tick are things like belonging, love, purpose, and esteem. Some companies mange to cultivate that feeling of family, and that’s the kind of atmosphere where you’ll find dedication, trust, and purpose.

All the good stuff you put out there – your investment in your employees, your attention, your care, your interest – will all come back to you in the form of production and loyalty.  It all trickles down from the top, so management should be aware that they are setting the tone. Be approachable, ask questions, listen, and show your humanity. Employees who feel valued and connected will reciprocate your good will with hard work, devotion, and a positive attitude. When you’re feeling that team spirit, the last thing you want to do is let the team down – and that’s when your employees will be truly engaged, and working with purpose.

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