Tips for Inspiring Employee Engagement

Share This Post

It’s well understood that upbeat and highly motivated employees achieve more than their negative, disgruntled peers. Recognizing the link between attitude and job performance, human resources experts used to talk a lot about the need to enhance “employee morale” and build “job satisfaction.”

In recent years, however, the buzz has been all about increasing productivity and innovation by promoting “employee engagement.” Definitions vary, but the Gallup organization describes “engaged employees” as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”

Your engaged colleagues are the builders – the ones who are moving the organization forward. You probably enjoy working with these animated people. Folks who aren’t engaged may do the basics, but they won’t be passionate about tackling challenges or breaking new ground. And your actively disengaged coworkers can spread their unhappiness around and undermine the whole group’s progress.

According to Gallup Daily tracking, only about 32 percent of U.S. employees are engaged at work. And, despite a wave of engagement improvement programs, that number hasn’t fluctuated much since Gallup started its measurement in 2000.

Experience shows that there’s no one simple way for leaders to jumpstart a surge of workplace enthusiasm, but many small steps can help.

My client Heidi began reading about employee engagement as she started a new assignment. She had moved out of the busy headquarters office of a Federal agency to become director of a low performing regional office.

Heidi is talented, personable and deeply committed to the service mission of her agency. To date, her rise through the government ranks had been rapid and smooth, and she’d made many friends along the way.

When Heidi arrived at her Midwestern post in the dead of winter, the climate inside her office felt as cold and frightening as her icy commute to work. Three of the top ranking members of her team had applied for the directorship, and now all three made it clear that they resented having the position go to her, an outsider. And while the attitude of those senior staffers seemed to vacillate from sullen to openly hostile, most of the dozen other professionals just seemed tired and disinterested.

Heidi developed a set of principles for stimulating new energy and commitment from her team. After a year, she has seen a mood shift, and the office’s performance statistics are up.

These 8 strategies are helping Heidi to stimulate better work from her more fully engaged team members:

  1. Meet in person. Heidi’s predecessor, Jill, was described as a brilliant but reclusive workaholic. Jill spent long hours alone in her office, with the door closed, and she’d make her wishes known by shooting out frequent emails. Particularly during her early weeks on the job, Heidi elected to meet often and face to face with her team members. She shared news from around the agency but generally tried to listen more than she spoke. As Heidi concentrated on listening, she grew better at resisting the urge to feel defensive or disheartened from the flow of negativity.
  2. Empower the team. Jill had talked often about her own high standards, and had tried to control the workflow so that every project was done in exactly the way she would do it. Heidi looked for ways to delegate more responsibility, and make assignments that allowed professionals to show off their strengths and personal styles. She caught an early break when her embittered deputy left for another job, enabling her to distribute his responsibilities so that more people could share in team leadership.
  3. Reward good work. As a Federal manager, Heidi had limited control over bonuses and raises. But she found other means to express appreciation for excellent work. For example, she shared an insightful staff memo with high-ranking colleagues in Washington, she worked her network to snag a plum speaking invitation for one of her experts, and she asked her people to speak about their successes at meetings with sister agencies.
  4. Find learning opportunities. Heidi saw that many of her team members had been doing the same kind of work for years, and they were bored. She made training a top priority, and encouraged each person to commit to a professional development path. She also shuffled assignments so that most folks enjoyed more variety, and she came up with new projects that meant learning for everyone involved.
  5. Clean up. When she agreed to take the job, Heidi negotiated a budget to improve the office’s aging physical space and furniture. Early in her tenure she involved her team in planning the modest office redesign. And she designated certain days when everybody wore jeans to work and pitched masses of old documents and other clutter. When the renovations were done, the fresh new atmosphere gave most people a boost.
  6. Have fun. In an early meeting, one employee told to Heidi, “Once this was a fun place to work, but Jill didn’t believe in fun.” On the job, “fun” might mean that the tasks are stimulating and coworkers are good partners for brainstorming. But sometimes “fun” just means having a good time. Heidi found ways to vary the routine with surprise treats and entertaining meetings. She invited clever speakers to come to staff meetings, she encourages humor as long as it wasn’t mean-spirited and she created a committee to create events like surprise pizza parties.
  7. Remember the mission. Most members of the staff began working for the agency because they believed in public service. But they had become cynical and discouraged. Heidi invited reports about the full scope and value of the agency’s work, and she encouraged team members to join agency-wide or other professional committees. She regularly looks for ways to remind people of the value of their work together.
  8. Take care of yourself. Even though she had family members nearby, Heidi was a bit lonely in her new town. And after a week of struggling to be relentlessly positive, she often felt like spending the entire weekend in bed watching old movies. Heidi knew that negativity can be contagious, and in order to inspire her team she needed to remain optimistic and energetic. So a key element of Heidi’s leadership philosophy is to find stimulating activities and build supportive relationships when she’s away from the office. As part of her program of self-care, she decided to act on her lifelong dream of horseback riding. She rented a horse housed near an indoor riding arena, and she takes lessons every Saturday.

Engaged employees need strong relationships and lots of communication with their managers. To launch an effort to energize your colleagues, consider a round of meaningful conversations.

For more tips on how to engage your team or rediscover your own enthusiasm at work, check out my new book Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO

More To Explore

How to Choose a Coach

The value of coaching is permeating the organizational world. Successful senior executives have always relied on confidants to give them honest feedback – a critical

First Time Working With a Coach

It is important to make the most of your coaching experience. The coaching process is a thought provoking and creative process designed to inspire you

What Happens In a Coaching Session?

Consider for a moment the different styles and personalities of your colleagues, friends, neighbors, babies, or puppies.  Coach personalities also run the gamut. But, ECCA

Our Coaching Process

Coaching is used to support the development of current and future organization managers and executives. It is an individually customized process that seeks to raise

Ms. Uman also works with teams: the interplay of one-on-one coaching with members of a team while simultaneously focusing on team dynamics has helped her clients develop collaborative behaviors and increase trust among team members, improve personal and team accountability, and improve productivity by individuals and the team as a whole. Ms. Uman specializes in gender dynamics within teams, woman-managed teams, and teams where women are in the majority. She helps these teams identify the behaviors that undermine others, and develop both an attitude and behaviors that help the team members and leaders become more powerful and effective.

As a certified organizational consultant, Ms. Uman specializes in conducting organizational assessments and developing reports that illuminate the patterns and themes of organizational behavior, enabling organizations to move positively and effectively into a successful future.

As an organizational trainer, Ms. Uman designs, develops and conducts a broad array of workshops including leadership development, teambuilding, career development, running effective meetings, and managing gender differences. She has received the certification as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) designated by the International Coaching Federation.

Her clients include:

  • Crestline Hotels
  • Georgetown University
  • Intelligence Community
  • National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health
  • JBS International
  • Russell Reynolds Associates
  • American Psychological Association
  • Software Engineering Institute

Ms. Uman holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a Master’s in Education from the University of Maine, and certificates in Organization Development and Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University. Her experience includes serving as an instructor at George Mason University, Georgetown University, Northern Virginia Community College and Mt. Vernon College. She is certified in aa array of assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) EI.20 (Emotional Intelligence) and EI 360, Change Management (Prosci) and was also certified by William Bridges and Associates to conduct workshops and provide consulting services on managing organizational transitions.

As a coach, Mandeep brings this experience, and his fundamental belief in each person’s innate abilities, to create the non-judgmental and energized space for leaders and teams to truly get in touch with what is important to them, and rev up the energy and momentum to make it happen.  His clients take ownership of their own power. They also leverage their own observations to get deep insights into what’s holding them back and then break those habits.  A number of his clients have reported their work together has been transformative.

In addition, these leaders and teams begin to accept the world as it shows up, rather than the way they wish it would.  That accepted, they hold the courage of their convictions pragmatically, communicate their vision authentically and directly, and set about influencing the people, networks and systems of which they are part to create the enabling environments within which their organizations, projects and people succeed.

Mandeep considers himself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to express his passions through two completely different careers separated by two decades.  The path of transition has been bumpy and fascinating, and has provided Mandeep the direct experience and insights which make him the coach he is.

Mandeep is also an Executive Coach with the American University Key Executive Leadership Programs.

As a consultant, Mandeep facilitates interventions with senior leadership teams, helping them surface key issues and create jointly owned action plans to solve them. He is adept at uncovering unclear, missing or misaligned roles and accountabilities, business process gaps, and unspoken organizational agreements on topics that are undiscussable.  Mandeep can create environments within which teams bring up the elephant in the room.

Mandeep has a background that spans 35+ years of hands-on experience creating, and facilitating the creation of, solutions to complex problems involving multiple stakeholders.  In his career, he has worked internationally, across cultures and organizational boundaries, to build IT Systems, reengineer business processes, provide organizational and innovation consulting services, nurture client and employee relationships, and grow companies in roles spanning coaching, facilitation, individual contribution, and project, line and executive management.  He has done this within large international organizations, federal and local governments, non-profits, consulting companies, and start-ups.

MANDEEP’S CLIENTS have included a wide range of organizations:

  • Government & International Organizations: The World Bank Group; DFAS, EPA, FBI, FEMA, ICE, NIC (National Institution of Corrections), OCC, TSA, USSS; Fairfax County, VA.
  • Non-profit: US Green Building Council
  • Private Sector: Allegis Group, Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, Progeny Advanced Genetics, Turner Construction (US); Applied Materials (USA, China & Taiwan); Grupo Elektra (Mexico); Tata Chemicals, North Delhi Power Limited, Samsung, IBM and  Konkan Railways (India); and EFI (USA and India).


  • Georgetown University Certification in Leadership Coaching (CLC)
  • ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  • The Leadership Circle Profile (LCP) & Collective Leadership
  • Hogan Assessments (Hogan Personality Inventory [HPI]; Hogan Development Survey [HDS]; Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory [MVPI])
  • Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI);
  • DiSC Assessment


  • MBA, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta
  • BSEE, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur