Six Rules for Success: Employee Engagement

August 25, 2022

The importance of retaining your employees is common sense. Retaining your best employees means retaining knowledge, continuity, team strength, customer relationships, and more.

If you’re like most companies, employee retention is challenging right now. Employees who stayed with you during the worst of the pandemic might now be more open to changing jobs for a variety of reasons, including more desirable work arrangements, better work/life balance, a better company culture, increased compensation … to name a few. The term “great resignation” has saturated our talent conversations, and it seems we’re making way for the new viral term of the moment: Quiet Quitting.

Factor in a growing talent shortage and it’s easy to understand why executive leaders and talent acquisition experts are becoming more conscious of and focused on employee retention excellence.

The key to retaining your employees is not found in amazing benefits, perks, and swag. It’s not found in compensation or amazing cultures. These things all help, but the core of employee retention is employee engagement, and employee engagement in the U.S. is in a slump.

According to a Gallup last year, only 34 percent of the 57,022 full- and part-time employees surveyed reported feeling engaged at work, while 16 percent said they were actively disengaged in their work and workplace. This is the first time in a decade that engagement has dropped year over year.

This all leads to a lot of buzz around increasing employee engagement to impact stronger retention (not to mention higher productivity and higher profits). With so much being written and said about increasing employee engagement, how do you find a simple approach that will work for your company?

We recently listened to an alphalist podcast where bestselling author Ken Coleman boils engagement down to six simple rules:



Rule 1: The Purpose Rule

People need to be using what they do best (their talent) to do work they love (their passion) to produce results that matter to them (mission). For employees, if any of these three things is out of balance or misaligned, you risk disengagement with an employee who feels “ho-hum” about their role, making them either bored, not as productive, or open to more exciting opportunity elsewhere.

(Note: This reminds us of the Hedgehog Principle from the classic Jim Collins book, Good to Great. Your company can achieve greatness if your organization can be good at what it does, you can make money at it, and it’s meaningful to you.)

Rule 2: The Expectation Rule

Your people need to know what to do, how to do it, and how results will be measured. They need to clearly know what to expect.

Employees want clarity not only on their goals but also, they want your perspective on what success looks. What results are expected? By when? How should results be achieved (systems, processes, compliance, teamwork)? Clarity breeds accountability, which especially crucial with remote or hybrid teams. It also helps employees feel successful.

Rule 3: The Relationship Rule

Your people must feel cared for by you, their leader, and they must feel connected to their team. This is wildly important. This is where belonging comes in and if they feel they belong, engagement will increase.

Caring for an employee isn’t just about the warm and fuzzies. Start with two simple questions: 1. How are you? and 2. How can I help you win in your role? Showing genuine concern for your employee as a person and openly supporting their performance builds an authentic connection and sense of belonging.

Belonging also comes from feeling like part of the team. The first time I participated in a Gallup employee engagement survey, we were asked to indicate how strongly we aligned with a series of statements. I was surprised when I saw that “I have a best friend at work” was one of the statements. I quickly learned that this dimension captures the strength of your connection to the team, an indicator of your sense of belonging.

Rule 4: The Recognition Rule

Employees need to be recognized for their achievements. Most employees feel pride when recognized publicly in front of their peers and management. Employees also appreciate 1-to-1 recognition from their managers. Recognition is the easiest rule engagement rule to master.

Rule 5: The Growth Rule

Your people must be challenged to learn new skills and step into new roles. “We are creatures of progress. And if we aren’t progressing, we start looking,” said Ken Coleman. Growth comes from learning new skills, working on new projects, stretching your brain, having new experiences, and developing new capabilities. Formal training must be combined with real growth experiences and opportunities to help an employee develop and grow.

Rule 6: The Crusade Rule

Employees must see how their work is a part of a cause greater than themselves. The more insulated an employee is from the company’s customers or end users, the more difficult it can be to establish this type of connection, but it’s still possible to help employees see a connection between their work and their internal customers or the effectiveness of a process. Helping employees see how they make a difference increases engagement.

The Common Thread

There’s one consistent element that ties all six rules together, and that thread is your managers. They’re on the front line of employee engagement, and they’re the most important link. How well are you assessing manager employee engagement effectiveness? What training do you provide so your managers become more effective at engaging your employees? How can you strengthen each manager’s competency in the six engagement rules?

Making progress in any or all of these six rules should increase engagement and retention. The simplicity of this approach should be encouraging to organizations who feel they can’t compete for talent as aggressively due to limited size and/or resources. Master these rules and you’ll keep your most important competitive advantage: your people.

Thank you for reading today’s Elevated Thinking blog. Elevation Talent Group helps HR and Marketing professionals achieve new heights at work, whether you’re seeking the next step in your career or you’re building your Marketing and HR teams. How can we help you aim higher? Contact us at

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