How to Boost Workforce Engagement

If engagement is better for workers and better for businesses, why don’t we have more of it? 

Survival requires three things: food, water, shelter. These are the basic elements essential to sustaining life. You could call them the elements of the “Survival Equation”. Having these elements is sufficient to eke out a living. But, unless you are a lizard, completely satisfied with a warm rock and the occasional cricket that happens to wander by, most of us want more than simply eking by. We do not want to merely survive, we want to THRIVE! We want to be engaged in our lives and satisfied with our jobs. Our employers want this too. Engaged workers are more productive, more satisfied, and way less likely to bail at the first opportunity that comes along. A Watson-Wyatt Worldwide study showed that companies with engaged workers held a double-digit advantage over their competitors in productivity and profitability. [1] Unfortunately, a Gallup poll revealed that 60 percent to 70 percent of employees admit that they are not working to their full potential. [2] YIKES!

If engagement is better for workers and better for businesses, why do not we have more of it? Whether we are on the employee or the employer edge of the spectrum most of us spend a lot of our time feeling vaguely dissatisfied questing for “I will be happy when, I will be happy if.” And perhaps most of us do not really know what we want, so we spend our lives questing after the “next”: next car, next job, next relation, etc. Mindfulness gurus tell us to be in the moment, but what if our moments “Suck”? If you are not Pollyanna enough to believe that simply thinking makes it so, “Bloom where you’re planted” yadda, yadda, yadda, you may be sliding into the ninth circle of cynicism. But do not abandon all hope, there is a pathway to higher engagement. Even though life is not all rainbows and unicorns, there is a solution that has been proven to work. It has worked everywhere it has been applied; testing continues. Engagement is actually the sum of two conditions: individual satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

Compared to happiness, satisfaction is easier to quantify. Individual satisfaction requires three elements: hope, control, and equity.

  • HOPE: We are not trapped in our current situation and our future holds possibilities.
  • CONTROL: We are not helpless victims of our circumstances. We have the power to navigate our circumstances and advance towards our hopes and dreams.
  • EQUITY: We are treated fairly. Our efforts are rewarded according to their merits and others are not given undue deference at our expense.

When we find ourselves in situations where the fundamental satisfiers of hope, control, and equity are present, we are generally satisfied. But, just because we are satisfied does not mean we are committed to our jobs or to achieving the goals of our employers. We have all had satisfied coworkers who were completely nonproductive. We become committed to our employers when we are drawn to the purpose of the organization, feel included, and are in alignment.

  • PURPOSE: It is hard to be committed to something that you do not value or feel is relevant.
  • INCLUSION: Even if we think the organization’s work is relevant, we will not feel committed if we feel that we are not relevant to the organization.
  • ALIGNMENT: We can feel strongly about the mission of the organization, we can feel like we are part of the team, but these will not keep us engaged if we do not have congruence between our values and those of our employer. We also need to match our needs for autonomy or direction with our employers’ need for control.

Combined, these six elements form The Workforce Engagement Equation©.

Compare your own situation, element by element, to the equation to see if there is something lacking in your solution set. If you are dissatisfied, do you have hope? Feel in control? Believe you are treated equitably?

If you are not feeling committed to your job, do you feel excluded? Do not feel strongly about the work? Or do you feel like your values are misaligned with that of the organization’s? Perhaps you feel constrained by your manager’s style?

The first step towards a solution is defining the problem. Once defined, you can then craft solutions that work. Send me your comments or questions and together we can explore how to create the conditions where you and your employer THRIVE!


  1. Watson-Wyatt Worldwide Study, November 8, 2005
  2. Gallup, The 2013 State of the American Workplace Report