Create a more profitable future for your business with employee engagement By Karen O’Donnell, Toastmasters International

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 06:10 am

When we think of teamwork and sense of engagement we often turn to nature for our inspiration. It may be a flock of geese flying on their long journey across the ocean maintaining perfect formation, a brood of ducklings swimming rapidly behind their parents, bees collecting pollen and producing wonderful honey.

Translating this into a business environment we think of employee engagement. Ideally we want to achieve a workplace where there is a supportive environment in which everyone has a genuine sense of belonging and works to achieve the financial and other company goals.

In the natural world our examples have a common vision and purpose. When we are able to create the supportive business environment our teams have the potential to be actively engaged with the organisation’s vision and purpose. They can adopt them wholeheartedly.

But, how many employees are actually actively engaged?

When the Harvard Business Review recently surveyed business leaders, the results showed that less than a quarter are actively engaged. But those who are, are much more productive, they actively find solutions to work challenges and they have a real sense of belonging in their workplace.

More than a quarter actively disengaged; there is a disconnect between them and the company and they don’t feel supported. These employees usually take more sick days and frequently talk negatively about the company, its products or services.

That leaves half the employees who are just turning up and getting on with work but without any real loyalty to the company. They might be happy enough with their job, however if they got a call from a local recruitment firm, they could easily move on.

By putting a little more time and effort into this group, you could turn it around and tap into the huge potential.

Start actively communicating with these employees. This will begin the process for them feeling like an integral part of the team. In time this will reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, improve customer retention and therefore significantly increase profits.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Leon C. Megginson

The time has come to adapt our approach so that organisation and employees work together more effectively.

A person to person approach will result in internal relations being improved.

One approach to improving employee engagement is to use the 3 Cs to Soaring Success: communicate – collaborate – celebrate


There is an increasing variety of communication tools available to teams. Many are time-saving like texts, emails and conference calls. These are efficient and easy, though frequently result in miscommunications. Having an ‘old fashioned’ face-to-face chat with someone over a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to connect with colleagues.

Early in my career, I had a manager called Alex, a friendly Scottish chap who always took time out to talk his team members one-on-one. He took time to get to know me. We would review progress from the previous week, and look at goals for the coming week.

Alex would always finish by asking; ‘Karen, what do you need from me to reach your goals this week?’ It was great knowing he was offering his support and it encouraged me to give him and the team my best.

Top Tip

Schedule one-on-one ‘conversations’ with each person who reports directly to you. The start of the week is a good time to do this. Develop an interest in them as a person. You might well be told of challenges they could be facing personally and for that week, they may not be able to give you 100%. Knowing this, you can organise support through the other team members. Showing empathy will be repaid in many ways. You can take this time to review progress from the prior week, and review priorities for the current week.

I do this weekly with teams and always end these meetings with the same question…. What specifically do you need from me this week?

By maintaining this sense of ‘connection’ your team is more likely to expend less energy and complete projects more quickly – just like our feathered friends. This again translates to bottom line financial benefits.

A little time spent engaging with your team, building trust, will save time in the long run by avoiding future complications and increasing engagement.


Do you recall when a colleague or boss listened to your suggestions and took on board your ideas? It’s a great feeling when your recommendations are considered and even implemented.

Effective collaboration comes from each team member feeling as though they are an integral part of the success of the organisation.

Top Tip

Develop a corporate culture of listening. Use team brainstorming to involve everyone and unearth creative ideas. When you encourage ‘idea sharing’ within your company, you empower employees to come up with ideas to generate new products and services for your organisation. They are also in the best position to come up with improvements for efficiency and effectiveness. Teams that feel ‘inclusiveness’ have members who want to both collaborate and succeed.


When we are acknowledged and appreciated, we are more likely to help and co-operate with other team members.

As the Roman philosopher Cicero wisely said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others’

Recognising achievements with an ‘employee of the month’ award or at the end of project is not uncommon. However, by then the good deed has faded in peoples’ memories. My recommendation is to celebrate immediately and frequently. Frequent acknowledgment even in the form of micro-recognitions, triggers our intrinsic motivation and will lead to us working harder and more efficiently and effectively.

Top Tip

When I thank a team member, I use the power of three: (1) say thanks, (2) specifically mention what they did that’s worthy of praise and (3) explain how it is in line with the company’s vision and goals.

Catch team members doing good things and thank them for it. The two simple words ‘Thank you’ have an immediate impact. This will be magnified if said with other present.

Growth and employee engagement go hand in hand. By incorporating these Three Cs with the underlying foundation of communication, you will have a fully engaged team where each employee believes in the direction the organisation is going, they feel they belong and are an integral part of the business. By actively encouraging communication with peer and leaders, and by celebrating, even small achievements, each member will feel their input really matters, they will enthusiastically support fellow team members, assist customers and promote the brand.

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