Employee engagement is critical to the sustainability of your company. You can define it by the extent to which employees commit to someone or something in their organization, how hard they work, and how long they stay as a result of that commitment. Employee engagement lends itself to better customer engagement, sales and profits. Ultimately, employee engagement boosts the bottom line.

A 2018 Dale Carnegie study on employee engagement identified three types of employees: engaged, unengaged, and actively disengaged. Engaged employees drive company initiatives and move the organization forward. I call these individuals  “influencers.”

The second group, the unengaged employees, do the minimal work to keep their job. They’re not bad; they just exist. I often call these people “retiring in place.” This group may be the most pivotal, since your goal should be to help these people move to the first group.

The final group, which is the most difficult and the most toxic to your current culture, are the actively disengaged employees. They have negative attitudes, they can be disruptive and their negative energy affects those around them.

Just because an employee has been with your organization for many years doesn’t mean he or she is continuing to add value. Think about the employees whom you consider the backbone of your company. These employees are highly committed, dedicated and motivated. Your goal should be to create a culture that encourages employees to stay and engage, which feeds into what I call team synergy.

Start by asking what your company values. Your mission statement should provide a guideline for the behavioral style, work ethic and priorities you desire in your employees. This understanding helps facilitate interviews, so that you’re hiring people who buy into your culture. It’s also important to incorporate these values into the daily lives of your employees, so you can retain engaged employees who believe in these values.

With respect to organizational structure, researchers and practitioners have identified six elements that lead to an engaging team environment:

  • You need a clear vision for your desired outcomes as a team.
  • The vision must be filtered down to all levels of the organization and operationalized.
  • You need ongoing training and a learning environment.
  • You need decision-making authority within the team.
  • You need team-based rewards and evaluations, or what I call “process goals.” If you have a big goal for your team, break it down into small, manageable steps, and establish rewards along the way. That approach encourages positive behavior change and keeps people motivated. (As an analogy, if you set a goal to lose 50 pounds, but the only time you received reinforcement was when you lost the entire 50 pounds, your goal would be pretty daunting.)
  • Lastly, you need a culture that’s open to various ideas and perspectives.

What constitutes a great team? Here are six elements that I’ve found differentiate great teams:

  • Aligned values: What motivates the individuals must align with the team’s goals and motivations. When considering your organization’s core values, also consider how they translate into behavior.
  • Trust: Team members must know they can count on each other to get the job done correctly and that as a challenge crops up, they will have each other’s backs.
  • Respect: Individuals need self-respect for their own ability to contribute as well as respect for other team members’ abilities.
  • Communication skills and the format to communicate effectively: A strong leader will facilitate those conversations.
  • Passion: A great team is made up of committed people who believe in what they’re doing and whose goals align
  • Soft skills: Technical – and technological – expertise is a necessary but insufficient ingredient for leadership that cultivates great teams and employee engagement.

The process of evaluating your company’s culture requires assessment of employees and determining the factors influencing employee engagement. Ask yourself what changes you can make to motivate and reenergize those employees who have a history of being productive members of your team but are no longer engaged. These investments in human capital provide a huge ROI because they create loyalty in your employees and thus in your customers. Investing in your employees and creating employee engagement is essential to your bottom line.