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The Essence of Engagement

November 16, 2020

Belinda Sy, Principal Consultant


What if you could predict how ready leaders are to engage their employees?

Pandemic or not, engaging employees is undeniably something most organizations aspire for. Which is probably why, if you search “employee engagement + covid,” you will find hundreds, even thousands, of articles talking about how to maintain or improve it. But what if you could predict how ready leaders are to engage their employees? Wouldn’t that be something?

5 out of 10 are Ready: Good News or Not?

Leaders who successfully engage employees effectively create an environment where people are committed to the organization, who feel a sense of pride and job ownership. In a sample of almost 15,000 leaders, a little more than 2,000 were assessed on their ability to do just that. The good news? Fifty-four percent (54%) were rated Ready or Strong. 

The bad news? Forty-six percent (46%), or 4.6 out of 10 leaders needed some form of development. The picture was a bit more optimistic at the mid-level where eighty-one percent (81%) of 600 leaders were ready versus a fifth who were not. DDI’s Leadership Skills Research sheds some light on why this is so and it has to do with how leaders strike that balance between execution and engagement as they make those transitions.

Engaging Behaviors

  • Creates shared purpose. Focuses the team on its mission and its importance to the organization by putting forth a common reason for why they are all working together.
  • Provides ongoing feedback and appropriate guidance. Gives timely, specific, and appropriate feedback about performance, and development needs while reinforcing efforts and progress.
  • Uses compelling language and tone to stimulate others’ thinking and actions. Employs vivid analogies and illustrations to create mental images and communicate with more impact.

Executing Behaviors

  • Translates initiatives into action. Determines action steps required by breaking ‘monumental’ goals into implementable parts.
  • Creates role clarity and accountability. Gets employees to feel the weight of the goals by increasing awareness, establishing performance standards, and/or monitoring outcomes and results.
  • Aligns systems and process. Thinks of the organization as a machine and having multiple moving parts that are connected to one another or that need to work together to work optimally.

Deconstructing Engagement: Not Just About Skills

Skills to engage employees revolve around three main targets (aka competencies): empowering others by delegating decision-making authority; coaching by providing timely guidance and feedback to help others excel, and creating a shared purpose to inspire team cohesion. 

But there is more to engaging employees than just competencies. There are certain personality dispositions, e.g., micromanaging tendencies, low sociability, and high imperceptiveness, that can derail even the most well-meaning leaders

How can DDI help?

  • Learn more about how to improve employee engagement and what skills will make the difference.
  • Drive team engagement. Our Boost Engagement and Retention Program helps leaders develop the most critical skills they need to build morale and engagement.
  • Extend reach to those often neglected.  
    • One of the reasons people become disengaged is when they feel they are overlooked—especially for promotions to leadership. This can be especially true for younger workers who are eager to see a path to leadership but may not be ready yet. Our Early Identifier assessment can help you spot people who have the potential to lead.
    • Many employees may feel even more neglected during this pandemic because they are unable to get meaningful interaction with the company due to current constraints. The use of asynchronous mobile apps provide cost-effective reach to such groups while providing a personalized interaction.

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