10/12/2015 08:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are You Really Engaging Your People?


People Crave Involvement

One characteristic of a highly performing workplace is a culture in which employees are very engaged, involved and empowered. The basic premise is that people should be involved in every decision that affects them. In fact, various business research books have studied the topic at length and have concluded that most people actually crave involvement and given the right culture will jump at the opportunity, especially when the organization is based on mutual trust and respect. Yet many organizations that seem very progressive and openly invite participation and seek opinions still struggle with full employee engagement and continue to struggle with employee retention as well.

The Need to Balance the Equation

A deeper dive into the topic reveals that the issue relates to "how" organizations get their employees involved and "why" the organization desires employee involvement in the first place. At the current time, many organizations place a significant amount of emphasis on the results and benefits to the organization when employees are motivated to contribute. Meaning, they frequently look at the benefits principally from the perspective of the organization. It's assumed that if there is employee involvement then it's good for the employee and it will create feelings of belonging, value and respect. It's further assumed that the result is happier employees which in turn is beneficial to the organization. It's not that the employee side of the equation is missing, but rather the motivation to the organization is primarily centered on organizational benefits. In fact, organizations will go to great lengths to create measurements and metrics to validate the ROI and benefits of employee involvement to the organization.

What's in it for the Employee?

The mistake is that many organizations do not place enough emphasis on the other half of the equation and ask, "What's in it for the employee?" Feelings of belonging, value and respect are of course paramount in importance and do go a long way towards employee engagement. However, in my non-scientific and informal survey of employees that left their organizations even though by all accounts they were valued and engaged contributors, they almost always comment on the lack of the organization's ability to meet their personal needs as one of the top reasons for leaving. Today's workforce is happy to engage and contribute professionally while at the same time, they view their organization as a vehicle to assist them in achieving their personal goals and dreams. They are looking for organizations that can help them grow and explore their passions and dreams. They are looking for organizations that will help them move further than they might be able to do so by themselves. Gone are the days of blind loyalty to an organization or even loyalty based on feelings related to contributing and being part of a team. This should not be a surprise given that it is a paradigm shift that has been occurring for years and will only continue to accelerate as our workforce continues to change. Today's workforce (and the workforce of the future) desires much more than ever before.

Balance Personal and Professional Outcomes

When an organization only looks at employee involvement from a largely one-sided corporate benefit perspective, it's missing out on opportunities to more fully engage with their people. As a leader, developing people personally and professionally is one of your core responsibilities. Leaders must realize that employee's value how their professional life contributes to their personal life. To fully engage employees, leaders will need to create an alignment between a focus on the benefits to the organization and a focus on the passions, desires and dreams of the employees involved. If the company is able to provide an environment and culture that values the employee's passion and purpose equal to the value to the organization, then a much more positive outcome will result.

Keith Richards is a Partner with HPWP Consulting focusing on high performance leadership transformation and corporate culture development. He is a former C-Level executive who has developed highly performing work cultures throughout his career. He is a regular radio commentator, keynote speaker and blog author. Connect with Keith through email ( and Twitter at @KRLeadership.