From Fortune 500 companies to lean startups of five, the success of a company will always depend on its leaders’ staying connected with their teams. Staying in the loop with employees starts with creating a culture of employee engagement.

First, it’s important to understand what employee engagement is and what it is not. There is a misconception that engagement is the same as employee satisfaction or happiness. Employees can be satisfied or happy while still not being fully engaged. While job satisfaction is important, it does not tell the entire story. Leaders must unearth a much deeper understanding of the employee experience. Employee engagement is a discretionary act; engaged employees are so invested in the company that they make the choice to give non-mandatory effort, because they want to go above and beyond.

iHire’s 2019 talent retention report found that 51.7% of employees have left a job voluntarily in the past five years. Simply put, employees who are not highly engaged in their current role or who are dissatisfied with their growth opportunities and company culture tend to leave.

Here are a few ways leaders can tune in to their employees before they tune out.


Listening is one of the most important skills leaders can possess. Taking the time to sit down with their team members and understand their thoughts, suggestions, comments and concerns enhances their engagement.

It’s easy for leaders to confuse an employee’s concern with complaining. However, as people experience issues or obstacles, if they really care about the organization, they communicate them. Intuitive leaders can differentiate between employees who are complaining and employees who are voicing worry or distress because they care.

Align Employee Passions With Strengths

Leaders can make an effort to understand each team member’s passions and strengths and then give them opportunities to grow in those areas. When leaders can align what their employees love doing with their strengths, employees become highly engaged.

Invest From Within

In the current economy, it’s important for employers to develop their current staff. The job market is stable, enough so that people are more apt to consider greener pastures with another employer. Employees are looking to grow. Developing them within the company sends a strong cultural message that leaders are willing to invest in their futures.

The cost of employee turnover can be much greater than investment in employee growth. Developing a culture of growth is about building strong employee capabilities within the organization that allow it to become more agile as a business. When its teams are equipped with the right tools, the company will grow by leaps and bounds.

Establish Relationships

Organizations large and small must foster an ecosystem of relationship-building early on in the employee journey. Strong internal relationships formed early in an employee’s onboarding are a key determinant of whether he or she stays long term. Relationships with their manager, peers and other colleagues can help shorten time to performance and determine ultimate success.

Five Steps to Greater Employee Engagement

1. Start With Listening

There are two things leaders should always listen for: What are people’s aspirations, and what are their barriers? When they understand and unpack these questions with their team, positive change can occur.

2. Understand What Drives Your Team

Why do team members go to work each morning? What drives their passion? When leaders can answer this question about each of their employees, productivity and positivity are a direct outcome.

3. Leverage Strengths

Good leaders always notice, name and nurture their team members’ strengths.

4. Value and Appreciate People and Their Contributions

Great leaders recognize their team members’ strengths with specificity. Being able to call out exactly how someone created a positive change or outcome on a specific project does wonders for employee morale and engagement.

5. Provide Opportunities for Development

Many employees will not ask for help when they really need it. Leaders must notice and be there to guide their team when they need them the most. Helping an employee create a development plan, providing coaching and offering performance support will help them become more engaged and productive.

There is no doubt that customers are a business priority. However, most companies now realize that employees are the engine that drives success. Leaders at all levels must make a conscious and consistent effort to engage their team members — who, after all, ultimately impact business results.