The Leaders Advisory Blog

To unite the two most crucial parts of business: the results that come, and the people who create them.


By Tony Walmsley

In this short article, I address engagement from the perspective of the employee. The individual. As unique to the next person as there are individuals on the planet. The thing with engagement and broad brush-stroke approaches is the failure to capture and respond to individual differences. This is not about behaviour. This is about what is.


So let’s unpack 5 key actions to increase employee engagement.

  1. Identify what matters to each employee that could affect their engagement.
  2. Provide each employee with an environment in which they can thrive.
  3. Let each employee work to their natural strengths.
  4. Ensure leaders and managers are fully engaged.
  5. Keep improving relationships between employees, colleagues and managers.

1- Identify what matters to each employee that could affect their engagement

When we accept that what one employee finds important to them, another couldn’t care less about we can begin to understand engagement.

It sounds straight forward, but this is complex, as the issues people are likely to care about are as unique as each of us is different. The response, naturally, will vary from person to person. Leadership plays a crucial role here as only when managers understand this can the fundamental issues driving disengagement be tackled.

Leaders who can identify what each individual cares about and what motivates them can become more valuable as trusted agents in the formation, maintenance and optimisation of teams and flow.

2- Provide each employee with an environment in which they can thrive.

Due to our individuality, one work environment that sees one person thrive, can have the opposite effect in someone else. When companies proudly talk about their great culture, they have either provided an environment that caters extremely well to an infinite number of differences, or they believe that one size fits all.

It would be a very rare organisation that is not harbouring some problems that walk and talk.

Everyone needs a work environment in which they can thrive and this is largely determined by their personality type. It is relevant to optimising existing teams and mitigated by shrewd recruitment.

The lesson here is to find managers who can work with colleagues to discover how to modify the work environment, to make it more compatible for each individual. The small things are what erode engagement over time. Unseen. The small things count.

3- Let each employee work to their natural strengths

Although humans are very adaptable, they are always at their best when working to their natural strengths. It takes energy to cope and adapt, which leads to burnout if sustained for too long. Stress, like disengagement and fatigue, accumulates unseen. Followed by a surprise resignation, ill health, or worse.

We all have natural strengths that are identifiable according to personality type. Only when a leader becomes aware of an individual’s natural strengths can they help them work towards them. Focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong is great approach. Positive intention leads to positive outcomes, while a focus on weaknesses creates a deficit mindset.

Where an employee gets to work to their strengths more and more, the weaknesses are mitigated with little or no attention or energy being lost. This is a happier, more productive workplace. It can happen overnight.

No one is naturally good at everything. If you know that an individual is not naturally good at checking details, then help find ways where checking details is not an essential part of their remit. This leaves the employee more time to do what they do well. They feel better. They have more energy. Their level of engagement rises.

4-Ensure leaders and managers are fully engaged

If you can’t change the leader, change the leader. This statement is open to interpretation. As you can’t change personality, In this context it’s about growing in self awareness, regulation, acceptance and influence.

It is highly unlikely that a disengaged leader will experience highly engaged teams. With the modern workplace moving at such a pace that even the high performers can feel overwhelmed, it is not unusual that leaders given responsibility to manage others are often under a high level of stress themselves.

Everything that applies to employees, also applies to managers, leaders, and directors. Make sure that all the same steps and considerations are taken to help all levels of the business fully engage.

Understanding yourself is the first step to helping others.

5-Keep improving relationships between employees, colleagues and managers

The greatest challenges businesses face are human. People are complex. When you put two people together the complexity grows and more again with the formation of teams. Relationships need work to minimise the impact of small frictions that build animosity.

In the absence of good relationships it is unlikely that high levels of engagement will exist. The starting point to better relationships always starts with understanding self. When this approach is applied and extended to understanding and appreciating others, strong relationships can be fostered.

At this point, there may be something worth measuring. There is certainly something worth maintaining.

The Leaders Advisory is a Performance Coaching and Leadership Development organisation that uses applied psychology to help companies improve their engagement, productivity, and wellbeing. Tony Walmsley, founder is a Performance Coach and Profiling Specialist with a 30-year history as a business leader, professional football manager and coach educator.

Written by Tony Walmsley