An A to Z guide to employee engagement

These 26 pointers will help you build a superstar team.


Building an engaged workforce is perhaps the biggest challenge today’s employers face. The benefits are many—increased customer loyalty and improved internal efficiency, to name a few—yet it can be tough to cultivate an engaged workforce.

This A to Z list about engagement from an employee’s perspective will help you determine where to focus your attention. Armed with these insights, you will be well on your way to developing engaged workforce you want and need.

Ask : Ask me questions, ask me for ideas, or ask me to participate. You will grab my attention and begin the process of capturing my heart.

Behave: How you behave towards me, my co-workers and those we interact with tells me a great deal. When you treat us like adults and contributors, we can move forward.

Treat me as overhead, a resource, or human capital (whatever that is), and I will drift off to another place. Yelling, screaming or ignoring me—except when I mess up—won’t work either.

Communicate and collaborate: If you want me to be engaged, help me understand what’s going on in the company. Tell me what led to or shaped our decisions. In other words, communicate with me. It’s from this foundation that you, me and others on our team can work together to clarify opportunities and determine how we will succeed. Let’s collaborate.

Deliver: When you make promises or say you’ll get back to me on something, please remember to deliver. You will build credibility and trust. If we can rely on you, rest assured you can rely on us.

Encourage and empower: This is actually a simple concept. When you tell me I did something well, I smile more. I learn, and carry that perspective forward. Let me know that you trust me to get the job done in the way that makes the most sense to me. Encouragement and empowerment are keys to keeping me engaged.

Feedback: Tell me how I’m doing. And not just once or twice a year—all the time. Tell me when you like what I’ve done; tell me what didn’t work and why. Providing both positive and constructive feedback regularly will help me improve. You’ll be surprised at what I will achieve.

Goals: Provide me with goals I can work toward. Better yet, let me in on developing goals that make sense to me, our team and the company.

Hello. How are you? Stop by now and then to say hello and ask how I’m doing. Ask about my family or just talk a little. Did you know I play golf? It couldn’t be simpler. It shows you care, and more important, helps build the bond we need to enjoy our time at work.

Integrity: Earn it, keep it, and reap the rewards. I’ll do the same and so will our teammates. Just imagine the possibilities.

Journey: Just like the company, I’m on a journey. Let’s find a way to connect the two. It will take some work, of course. You’ll need to get to know me a little. Find out what you can about my goals, ambitions, hopes, dreams, and where I hope my journey will lead me.

Find out who I am outside of work, too. I will return the favor by getting to know you. Remember to also share the company’s journey. Only then will engaging me become possible.

Knowledge: Share what you know with us employees, and allow us to share what we know with you. Make sure we share amongst ourselves as a team. Then, help us apply that knowledge in a way that leads to success.

Listen: Actively listen. Listen with your ears, eyes and mind. Let me know what you heard to make sure that is what I intended to say. When you do that, you will be surprised by what you learn.

Meaning: My work has to have meaning, because I’m here for much more than a paycheck or social time. I want to contribute. Work with me to build that meaning and link it with our goals. Then you’ll really begin to capture my heart and mind.

Notice: Take notice of what I do and how I do it. Better yet, take notice of what our team does both individually and collectively, and give us credit for our efforts and achievements. Don’t forget that taking notice includes letting me know you did.

Opportunity: Use what you know about me to consider opportunities for me to get involved in other areas. From special assignments, leadership roles, and cross-organizational work to training and development, I appreciate the chance to deepen my capabilities and contributions.

Passion: Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Questions: Ask, consider, answer, probe and challenge. Questions are the gateway to deeper levels of awareness, understanding, knowledge and potential.

Recognition, rewards and relationships: Let’s redefine the three Rs. Recognize what I do and reward me appropriately. Build a relationship with me on a professional and personal level. Forget the three Rs at your own peril.

Smile: A smile really goes a long way. Try one on for size and you might be surprised by how far it goes.

Trust: Showing that you trust me and giving me a reason to trust you is perhaps the most important of the ABCs. Without trust, the rest is meaningless. Remember that we earn trust over time. While it’s not hard to earn, it’s very hard to get back once we lose it.

Unify our team: Work with us as a team and let us work on our own as a team. There is a difference. Allow us to work together to build our vision and set our goals. Let us have ownership and participate in the way that makes the most sense to us. Let us share our hopes, dreams and fears with each other so we can work together.

Victory: It’s important to us that you celebrate our wins, whether they’re large, small or anywhere in between. It lets us know our efforts paid off, that you care, and that you notice.

We: As the saying goes, many hands make light work. Let us in on what’s happening and we can succeed together.

X-traordinary: The results we can achieve by working together will be extraordinary.

“Yes and,” not “yes but”: When you say, “Yes, but…” our conversations and my creativity shut down. Next time, try “Yes, and…” You’ll be surprised by where it may lead and how it will make me feel.

Zenith: If you follow the ABCs of employee engagement, my full potential and commitment will be yours.

Ken Milloy runs Milloy Management and writes a blog , where a version of this article originally appeared. This article ran on Ragan.com in November 2011.

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