How To Keep Your Employees Engaged At Work

Engaged employees are a business imperative: they perform 20% better and give 57% more discretionary effort [1] Organizations with a high level of engagement have better quality, sales, income and turnover, profit, customer satisfaction, shareholder return, and business growth, and success. [2] It is estimated that currently only 19% of employees are highly engaged in their work, while active disengagement cost the UK economy between £37.2bn and £38.9bn a year [3].

Organizations often struggle to understand what creates engagement. Positive psychology research is revealing that employee engagement is primarily a psychological and social process. There are a number of steps organizations can take to increase engagement.


1. Create a positive culture

Actively introduce processes that increase positivity. For example by starting meetings with praise for last week’s achievements; celebrating successes; and creating a work climate of hope and good humour. Introduce ways of measuring people’s experience of positivity at work.


2. Learn to affirm the best

Recognize and develop best practice. Encourage virtuous organizational behaviour such as helpfulness. Recognize team and individual strengths, initiative and innovation, both formally through appraisal processes, and informally by leadership interest and focus.


3.  Turn strengths into talents

When people are able to use their strengths they are more engaged and perform better. Introduce processes that help people get to know and own their strengths, using psychometrics or best-self feedback. And help them develop their strengths into high performance talents.


4. Help teams play to individual strengths

The most productive teams are able to share the team tasks according to strengths, so encourage team members to swap tasks that fall in their weakest areas for those that play to their strengths.


5. Help people re-craft jobs around their strengths

Make the job fit the person, rather than trying to make the person fit the job, most outcomes can be achieved in more than one way. Help people find a way of maximizing their ability to use their strengths and talents, and minimizing the time they spend struggling with tasks for which they have no aptitude.


6. Create opportunities to experience flow

Flow is a psychological state so rewarding that people risk life and health to achieve it (think of mountaineers or starving artists). Find out where people experience flow in their work. Help them recognize it. Help them work out how to increase their opportunities to experience it.


7. Create reward rich environments

People are motivated and engaged by the opportunity to obtain rewards. Many things can be rewarding for people in their work environment: praise, appreciation and thanks, smiles, and opportunities. Create work environments full of small and easily won rewards that are salient to them.


8. Understand goal seeking

Before you set goals for someone you need to understand what they find rewarding. For example some people find public recognition rewarding, while others just like to know that what they have done has been helpful.


9. Help people find meaning in their work

People are very good at finding meaning in what they do. Everyone wants to believe we are spending our time valuably. Help them by making it clear why their work is important, what it means for them, you, the department, the organization, a better world.


Other Resources

Much more about strengths and managerial techniques such as the ones mentioned here can be found in Sarah’s new book Positive Psychology and Change

Sarah Lewis is the owner and principal psychologist of Appreciating Change. She is author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ and ‘Positive Psychology for Change’ both published by Wiley. She is also the lead author of 'Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management', by Kogan Page, the second edition is out in September.

See more EngagementLeadership Skills and How To articles in the Knowledge Warehouse.



Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with LeadershipCulture change and with employee Engagement.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715. A selection of strength card packs are available from our online store.


[1] Corporate Leadership Council 2004 Driving performance and retention through employee engagement: a quantitative analysis of effective engagement strategies. Corporate Executive Board

[2] Stairs, M. and Gilpin, M., 2010. Positive Engagement: From Employee Engagement To Work Place Happiness. In Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. and Garcea, N. (eds), Oxford Handbook Of Positive Psychology And Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[3] Flade, P., 2003. Great Britain's Workforce Lacks Inspiration. Gallup Management Journal, 11.