Skip to main content

Cultivating Engagement




"When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute."

-Simon Sinek

measure engagement

Some CEOs believe that  employee engagement is the single most important metric for their organizations. The reason is simple: If a team is highly engaged, everything else falls in place. Performance and service levels improve, and retention improves significantly. If you are not measuring your team's employee engagement as a leader, you are flying blind. There are a variety of platforms that you can use to survey your team, such as Qualtrics (free for UGA employees), Survey Monkey, and others. 



Important : Make changes based on your team's feedback whenever possible, but  no matter what, be sure to acknowledge ALL feedback. If something isn't possible, explain why. This type of dialogue is the first step toward building a genuinely engaged team. 




"If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you. "

-Steve Jobs

define your mission AND values 

People, process and culture: These are the three ingredients of winning teams. You can have the best processes in the world, but if your culture is lacking, you will not succeed, or at least will not reach your team's potential. Conversely, teams with an exceptional culture will almost invariably be high performing even if your processes are not the best.

Culture starts with mission and values. We are not talking about those generic platitudes that organizations hang on their walls. We're talking about a specific direction where your team is headed and specific behaviors that will take you there. Jack Welch has a great excerpt on mission and values in his book Winning

Spend time (as a team!) creating your mission and values statements. Plotting your strategy and defining your values as a group can transform your team. Then, make sure you, as a leader, are living these values every single day. And, make sure that your team members are publicly recognized when they live them. 






"The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo."

-Bob Iger


Ideas change the world. Most of the time, the people that are best qualified to solve your team's problems are the ones closest to the problems themselves. We're talking about the people who come to work every day and execute the tasks necessary to keep your operation running. They know which tasks are redundant, time-consuming or inefficient. They know what  frustrates your customers or your employees.

Create a cadence of innovation. Make it standard practice to ask your team members to ask what should change. What is working well? What takes more time than the value it creates? What should we be doing that we aren't?  What redunant tasks could we automate to free up time for more strategic activities? 

Provide an anonymous feedback option. As leaders, we should constantly encourage our team members to challenge the status quo. And, praise them when they do! Some people will not share tough feedback unless it's truly anonymous. Create mechanisms that make it easy to share anonymous feedback. 






"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

-Maya Angelou

care, authentically 

As a leader, you are likely faced with constant pressure, deadlines, challenges and deliverables. It is very easy is to become so task-focused that you neglect the people side of success. In fact, as a leader, growing and nurturing your people is your most important task.

This is easy to say but not always easy to do.

Make relationships with your team member a priority. A simple, "How are things with you?" goes a long way. Then, listen. Authentically. 

Most of us spend more time with our colleagues at work than our families. Authentic relationships are not optional. Not if you want to build a winning team, anyway.  





"Leadership is not weilding authority - it is empowering people."

-Becky Brodin


Ownership works best when it is shared. This is a simple concept that is intuitive enough, but many leaders do not put it into practice, despite the fact that empowered employees are generally more productive, more engaged, less likely to leave, more creative, more innovatative. The list goes on. 

Check out the below chart from the SHRM article Empower Employees to Make Things Happen




Asking “What is legal?” Asking “What is the right thing to do?”
Avoiding risk Serving customers and employees
Managers view [your team] as an obstacle and a cost Managers view [your team] as a collaborator and an asset
Decision-making is top-down Decision-making occurs at every level of the org chart
Managers assign specific tasks Managers coach
Company rewards are based on rules and orders Company rewards are based on delivering business results
Employees tend to be afraid of making mistakes Employees feel empowered to take action
Organization is bureaucratic and slow Organization is responsive and fast
Customers tend to get frustrated Customers tend to feel satisfied
Employee engagement is low Employee engagement is high
Employee turnover is high Employee turnover is low


Next, take a look at your leadership style. If you are not empowering your team members, why not? Is it a fear that they will make mistakes. (Yes, they will - everyone does.) But, we also learn and grow more quickly through mistakes. Trust us, the risk is worth it. 

Take a (rather extreme) case study from Google. They encouraged employees to spend 20% of their time on their own projects that they felt would have the greatest positive impact on the company. They called this Innovation Time or 20% time. The result: Gmail, AdSense, Google News and more. In other words, some of the cornerstones of the company. Other major corporations like 3M have also implemented this concept. 

We are not suggesting that you carve out 20% of your team members' time for side projects. But, if you are not empowering your team as a leader, you are missing significant opportunities. 




"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach."

-Tony Robbins

be flexible 

Now more than ever, our workforce values flexibility. And, that is a great thing. The good news is that, in many case, we as leaders have the ability to be more flexible and still achieve the same or better results. 

Side note: Consider the fact that flexibility means much more than a remote workplace. No doubt, remote work has advantages. And, it has disadvantages. For growth, development, collaboration and creativity, it is hard to beat in-person interaction. The vast majority of commuication is non-verbal. Those with consistent in-person interactions gain a strategic edge. They gain experience not just in the transactional and verbal, but also  in the intangible and interpersonal. As a leader, do not underestimate how much these skills play into long-term success and the career trajectory of your team members.  

So, whether or not your team has flexibility in remote work options, leaders should explore their options for flexibility across the board. For example...

  • Do you have the ability to flex schedules? 
  • Is your business model conducive to four 10-hour days? 
  • Or to work outside traditional business hours?
  • Or to shift start/end times?

Flexibility in work structure is also important for a leader to consider...

  •  Take a look at the expectations your are setting for your team. Are deadlines predicated on true deliverables?
  • Are there items where you could provide more flexibility or autonomy and allow your team to rise to the occasion and showcase their abilities? 







"Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients."

-Richard Branson

SHOW total compensation

Obviously, a significant factor in employee retention is salary. We would argue that culture is the most signficant factor, but salary is the bottom line. 

Many individuals at UGA do not truly understand their total compensation. They know what their paychecks say, but they do not understand their true earnings. UGA invests significantly in its employees, much more than many organizations. This becomes problematic when employees try to make apples-to-apples compensation comparisons. 

Every individual's total compensation is different. It depends on benefits elections and other factors. One way to estimate total compensation is to look at the fringe benefits estimator that UGA uses for sponsored project proposals and other things. 



Example: Many  indivduals would be suprised to learn that an individual earning $48,000 may have an estimated total compensation over $70,000.  Again, these numbers aren't precise and are predicated on each person's individual elections. But, when comparing jobs, it is worth evaluating the investment that UGA makes into each and every employee.