Building and Sustaining Engagement – Part 1

It’s time for the next one of Paul Spencer’s articles on employee engagement – the first of a series on how to build and sustain a culture of employee engagement in your company.  In Part 1, Paul explains the basic principle of engagement, discusses a three-step approach to transforming your organization, and reveals a couple of steps you can take right now to begin elevating engagement levels.  You can find out more about Paul on our “Our Resume” page, and you can contact him at

Building and Sustaining Engagement Part 1 – Let Your Leaders Lead

By Paul Spencer, PMP

You’ve been reading about employee engagement, and you’ve decided you want a piece of the action.  After all, what’s not to like?  Better bottom line, more creativity and productivity, and a happy team that wants to go the extra mile for each other.  You can elevate your organization and make a positive change in your team’s lives at the same time.  But how do you do it?

It’s easier than you think, and in this two-part series we’ll show you how.  In Part 1, we will outline a simple three-step approach to creating a culture of sustained engagement.  We’ll talk about the first step in detail, and describe a couple of things you can do now to increase your team’s engagement levels.  In subsequent installments, we’ll delve deeper into the remaining steps in the process of transforming your company.

All three steps are centered on one simple approach – training and empowering your leaders to focus on your people.  It’s about creating alignment on values, beliefs, and purpose, so everyone can get behind what you’re doing no matter what challenges arise.  Think back to the nine key engagement drivers.  Every one of them depends on how leaders work with their teams.  (If you’re not sure what the nine drivers are, see this article).  Building and maintaining engagement means incorporating the key drivers into everyone’s day to day work life.  Your leaders are the ones who will have to make it happen.  So you need to build a culture of sustained engagement in your leadership team.

Here are the three steps: assess the current state, implement the key drivers, and maintain commitment going forward.  You can remember them using the acronym AIM (Assess, Implement, Maintain):

  1. Assess: Does your leadership team understand the key drivers?  Are they engaged?  Where are the gaps?
  2. Implement: A focused, intensive effort to change the way you operate based on the assessment results.  Align the leadership team on vision, values, and purpose.  Empower them to create their roadmap to success by implementing key engagement drivers into the daily operating model.
  3. Maintain: Monitor ongoing engagement levels, and conduct follow-up work as needed to fine tune the roadmap.

First, you need to understand the current state.  How well do your leaders understand the key drivers?  How engaged are they (and their teams)?  You can use a variety of techniques here – surveys, interviews, and facilitated group sessions.  Make sure you provide an avenue for private responses, because not everyone will be willing to say what they really think in public.  Anonymous surveys and impartial third party interviewers can give people the comfort they need to speak their minds.

The assessment results enable you to identify gaps in your leaders’ understanding and implementation of the key drivers.  This information drives the Implement and Maintain steps.  Have a professional facilitator come in to lead the team to create a plan to close those gaps.  An experienced facilitator can guide the team to come up with their own solution, rather than imposing one on them.  The plan should also incorporate an approach for monitoring engagement levels and adjusting the roadmap as necessary.  When it’s done right, the team will feel connected, feel like they matter, and go the extra mile to get things done.

In the next article, we’ll go into detail on how to perform the Implement and Maintain steps.  Meanwhile, there are a couple of steps you can have your leaders take right now to increase your team’s engagement levels and provide a strong foundation for the work to come.  Encourage your leaders to focus on their teams by doing these things:

  • Provide positive feedback and recognition regularly.  Don’t let this be an ad-hoc thing.  Plan specific times and places to offer recognition – and make sure it is real recognition for valuable work.  Regular meetings and status reports are a good option.  The leaders of one highly engaged project team recognized individual contributions at the end of each morning standup, and gave team members the opportunity to publicly thank others who had helped them out.  They even provided an anonymous “thank you” box where team members who didn’t want to speak up could leave thank you notes for the leaders to read out at the next standup.  Starting out with meaningful positive recognition noticeably energized the team for the day ahead.
  • Make time for the team.  Schedule regular 1-1 meetings, and commit to keeping them no matter what pressures arise.  In those meetings, help each person understand their priorities, and provide them with constructive feedback.  Encourage them to share their input and opinions.  In today’s hectic environment it can be hard for managers to be available to their team, but it’s more important than ever.

Building a culture of sustained engagement seems like hard work, and as a result, many organizations are not willing to invest the effort and expense required.  But it’s not as hard as it seems.  Get started by following the suggestions in this article, and in Part 2 we’ll begin revealing the roadmap to successful, maintainable engagement.  You can transform your organization.  And when you consider the massive performance edge that engaged employees bring, you can’t afford not to do it.

At Positive Disruption, we specialize in helping teams create their own culture of sustained engagement.  We have developed custom tools for each of the Assess, Implement, and Maintain steps.  Our Pacesetter team performance enhancement workshop is the centerpiece of our AIM approach, and is designed to empower a team to create their own roadmap to success.  We have extensive professional facilitation skills and experience.  Call us today on 503-704-5250 for a free consultation.

Leave a Reply