7 hallmarks of outstanding employers

Engagement can be elusive in many workplaces. Take these cues from organizations that keep their employees motivated and committed to big-picture objectives.

Even though employee engagement has become a priority for CEOs, Gallup’s research of workplaces worldwide reveals that actively disengaged employees outnumber their engaged colleagues by a ratio of 2-to-1.

Some companies are dramatically bucking this trend, however, with engaged workers outnumbering actively disengaged workers by a 9-to-1 ratio.

To understand what may drive that tremendous advantage, an analysis of Gallup’s Great Workplace Award winners uncovered seven factors common in engaged companies.

1. They hire involved and curious leaders who want to improve. Leaders’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors have powerful trickle-down impact on their organizations’ cultures. Great leaders don’t just talk about what they want in the management ranks; they model it and keep trying to get better every day. By displaying a little vulnerability and visibly working on improving themselves, they signal how to get ahead.

2. They have exceptional HR capabilities. The best HR professionals have a gift for influencing, teaching and holding executives accountable. Many executives rise through the ranks without much management training, so it’s vital for HR to teach leaders and managers to stretch and develop employees in accordance with their natural capabilities.

3. They meet basic engagement requirements before expecting an inspiring mission to matter. Employees are likelier to commit to the organization’s goals when they know what’s expected of them, have what they need to do their jobs, are a good fit for their roles and feel their managers support them. Conversely, if these basic needs aren’t met, even the most exalted mission probably won’t engage them.

4. They never use the economy as an excuse. In periods of belt-tightening, engagement often takes a hit, but exemplary organizations don’t buy into that. They’ve responded to such challenges and have maintained—and even improved—their strong cultures by being open, making changes swiftly, communicating consistently and providing hope. Employee engagement is one thing managers and leaders can influence in times when so much is out of their control.

5. They trust, relentlessly support and hold managers accountable. The experiences that inspire and encourage employees are local. Strong teams are built when the teams themselves size up the problems they’re facing and take a hands-on approach to solving them. Exemplary companies lavish support on their managers, build their capability and resilience and then hold them accountable for the micro-cultures they create.

6. They have a straightforward and decisive approach to performance management. Companies with the highest engagement levels use recognition as a powerful incentive. Great workplaces are filled with accolade junkies who see recognition as a powerful means to develop and stretch employees to new skill levels. Meanwhile, they see tolerance of mediocrity as an enemy.

7. They don’t pursue engagement for its own sake. As it becomes increasingly possible to measure and track engagement, some companies start “managing to the metric.” Great employers keep their eyes on the results that greater engagement will help them achieve.

A version of this article first appeared on ‘a’ Magazine.

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