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November 8, 2021

The Secret to a More Engaged Employee? Take Their Well-Being Seriously


After years of polite but often back-burner interest, employee well-being is getting increased attention in organizations today, especially considering the significant changes, challenges and stress brought on by COVID-19. In the effort to build a stronger and more committed workforce today, well-being is becoming an important part of how we think about engagement, and what it means.

Engagement – based on my experience – is an emotional connection that employees have to work. That emotional connection brings all kinds of benefits. It helps employees feel more excited to come to work because they are connected to their colleagues and leaders and feel they are doing work that’s meaningful and interesting. It also often results in something extra – extra time, extra energy, extra brainpower. Employees go above and beyond with discretionary effort because they’re motivated to do so.

3 Components to Employee Engagement Today

As you work to build more engagement within your own workforce, consider the three core components as we define engagement today:

  • First, people’s well-being is not only considered, but understood and respected.

    The 2021 Gallup State of the Global Workplace Report makes a case for leaders to be concerned about employees’ non-work-related life experiences.

    Pointing to the mental, emotional, social, financial and caregiving challenges that many of us experienced during COVID-19, Gallup noted the potential for employee burnout and identified five elements of overall well-being:
    • Career well-being—you like what you do every day
    • Community well-being—you like where you live
    • Social well-being—you have meaningful friendships in your life
    • Financial well-being—you manage your money well
    • Physical well-being—you have the energy to get things done

Whether you define well-being that way or not, its importance is top-of-mind for a majority of employees today and worthy of serious consideration to driving engagement.

  • Second, employees feel listened to and heard. We’ve heard a lot about this important component, but its importance can’t be underscored. Often, leaders think they are hearing employees, yet aren’t doing the consistent work to actually hear them – regular touchpoints, moments to connect one-on-one, and consistent communication channels that are easy to access and navigate, allowing for questions to be raised and addressed. Leaders should be sure they are regularly evaluating their communication efforts to ensure they are working effectively for employees, rather than simply assuming that employees are actually feeling heard.
  • Third, solutions that are individualized. This means offering enough flexibility and personalization to meet varying employee needs. One of the dilemmas facing leaders today is how best to follow HR policies and guidelines, and at the same time, respect an employee’s desire for individualized solutions.

How Do You Strike the Right Balance?

The opportunity now for leaders is to find the right balance between company goals and employee preferences. For example, how do leaders balance and follow HR policies, and at the same time, respect an employee’s desire for a solution that works for him or her? And, what’s the right balance of flexibility and re-energizing the office environment, with the need for in-person collaboration and engagement.

Leader Effectiveness is Key

As the main facilitator of employee conversations, companies should make leader effectiveness a priority, helping leaders shift how they think about leading teams in this new reality, and assisting with resources to have what I call “Heart First” conversations. This means having more authentic conversations that involve sharing meaningful insights and encouraging leaders to be more human in their interactions with their teams.

Unfortunately, many leaders are wholly unprepared to lead in this new way of striking balance and leading with authenticity, listening, vulnerability, setting and re-setting expectations, and self-disclosure, among other skills.

This isn’t something that comes naturally to many leaders, but it can be taught and practiced until it’s a muscle leaders have developed. When done well, I’ve seen it lead to remarkable leaps in employee engagement.

These leadership challenges are part of the reason why there was such urgency in getting employees back to the office as quickly as possible. Leading in-person is familiar territory for many leaders, and they have habits and rituals that serve them well; plus, there’s a belief among many senior leaders that work is best done when you can see one another. However, there are ways to accomplish this in a virtual world too. In fact, the best leaders can achieve this across all kinds of settings.

One of our global clients talks about it this way – the key to shifting ways of working is by shifting the ways leaders lead. They go hand-in-hand because the leader still makes the weather. I couldn’t have said it any better. In today’s challenging work culture, setting the right tone as a leader will go a long way toward engaging your team.

How are you shifting how you lead to build more engagement for your team?

David Grossman

Join us for a discussion on Monday, Nov. 15 at 3:00 p.m. CST on how to engage and retain your employees featuring David Grossman and Linda Kingman registration is open to all leaders and communicators. Click below to register today!

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