Human Resources: Employee Engagement is Critical to Success

As business owners and managers, you have to deal with the level of engagement that your staff exhibits with your business. This concept of engagement was introduced by Marcus Buckingham and the Gallup organization. In Buckingham’s book “First, Break all the Rules” he reported the results of the Gallup studies on the subject:

• The majority of employees (55 percent) are not engaged at work. That is, they are just putting in their time. Worse yet, there are 19 percent who are actively disengaged. Not only are they unhappy, they are spreading their discontent among the rest of the staff.

• Only 26 percent of employees are actively engaged in the company business.

• Engagement is critical to the business. The Gallup data showed that the companies where the employees were actively engaged were:

• 50 percent more likely to have

lower turnover

• 56 percent more likely to have higher

than average customer loyalty

• 38 percent more likely to have

above average productivity

• 27 percent more likely to report

higher profitability

The mechanism that Gallup used for evaluating engagement was the Q12 questionnaire. When I consult with business owners, I use that same questionnaire to gain additional insight into what is really going on in their businesses. The results of my experience confirmed the findings that Gallup achieved in its studies—a lack of actively engaged employees is the main reason for poor results within a company.

With the exception of two of the questions, the Q12 really is an evaluation of the management of the company and its effect on the employees. There is an adage about retention that “Employees do not leave companies, they leave managers.” Talented employees want to work for great leaders. Talented employees may join a company for a number of reasons, but they stay and are productive because of their relationship with their immediate supervisor and co-workers. The Q12 focuses on things that managers should be doing, but fail to do.


Rules of Engagement

Ask yourself the following questions to see how you are doing as a leader:

Do your employees know exactly what is expected of them? Good managers make sure that an accurate job description for the position exists, an employee handbook defines the rules of conduct and company benefits, and procedures are clear for each function within the company. It is also essential that the employee is performing a job that enables him or her to do their best work. In addition, it is important that the employee has the benefit of the right materials and equipment for high-quality performance.

Does the company have a vision that the employee can connect with? Great leaders make sure that the vision, mission, values, and goals are clearly understood by each and every employee. A clear vision is critical in helping people understand where the company is going. The vision is a picture of the future that produces passion for people to follow. The mission lets them know the purpose of the company and what the organization is all about.

Do the managers make the employee feel valuable? Great leaders convey every day that their employees’ work is worthwhile, and they make the employee feel they care about him or her as a person. They value employee opinions and they provide recognition and praise for doing a good job.

Does the company provide opportunity for growth and development? Performance discussions are not only about the negatives. They should include a frank discussion of the employee’s ambitions and result in career development training and mentoring. It is also important that performance discussions are not just annual events, but are ongoing conversations.

As a leader you must remember that you are on the stage every day. Your people are always watching you. Everything you do, everything you say, and the way you say it sends signals to your employees. These signals affect your performance and the performance of your staff. Remember, it’s the countless little moments every day that make a great or a weak company. It’s showing that you truly care that makes all the difference.

Many leaders today are tired and worn thin, and it shows throughout their entire organization—all the way to the bottom line. If your business is not achieving the results you need or want, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror. Great leadership is what separates the winners from the laggards.


Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates, a consulting firm specifically for the graphics industry. Visit to learn more. Contact Debra at to get a free copy of the Q12 questionnaire.