The phrase ’employee engagement’ always lands on me flat, lifeless.  There’s distance inherent in the phrase that, well, doesn’t actually feeling engaging at all.

Yet, what makes employees actually want to greet their work and their co-workers with energy and focus, now that I can get behind.

And that can all be summed up in one word. Care.

When people feel cared about . . . . .

they respond with all sorts of energy, enthusiasm, and passion. So much so that they’ll even go the distance when it’s required, what the experts at Gallup call ‘discretionary effort.’

Like those times the office is buzzing under a tight deadline and the IT guy happily stays late. Or, when the office manager comes in with everyone’s favorite coffee because it’s crunch time and she knows the impact of a great cup o’ joe.

Gallup also has some great organizational ideas about improving employee’s engagement: focus on engagement at all levels, hire top notch managers to coach employees on their ‘engagement goals,’ and periodically survey employees to get their input.  All great ideas that research bears out.

We know that organizations with higher levels of employee engagement enjoy higher net profit margins with less turnover, absenteeism, safety incidents. And, beyond the basics of compensation, and advancement opportunities, engaged employees reveal the impact of care: they trust their leaders, they have good relationships with their bosses, and they care for themselves by managing their own work-life balance and stress levels.

When people know you care about them, they care back. They commit their energies and loyalties toward forwarding the organization’s vision and goals, not just their own.

So what if we simply called it care, and committed to practicing it. Every day.

Employee Engagement = CARE

Steps for supporting high levels of energy, enthusiasm and, yes, engagement, in the workplace. Start practicing today, and notice the results.

CARE = Creating Actively Resourceful, Reliable, Rockin’ Employees
  • Get to know the names of your colleague’s partner and kids, extended family even. Ask what they’re up to with genuine interest. Listen.
  • Greet someone each morning at work, using their name. “Morning, Joe.”
  • Offer to do that nasty task at the office that everyone hates.
  • Acknowledge not only wins, but disappointments too. “I know that deal (project, grant, plan, report) didn’t pan out like you’d hoped, yet I thought you handled it well.”
  • Pay it forward. Pop to buy coffee or lunch — for someone unsuspecting. Smile about it.
  • Take time, especially if you’re a big boss, to thank someone for closing the loop on a tight deadline, when everyone’s nerves are on edge.