Mastering the Seven Drivers of Employee Engagement

A few months into the angst of the COVID pandemic, I had an epiphany.

“Holy cow – 2021 is going to the year of turnover.”

I reasoned that the stress, pain, rapid pace of change and overall misery of the pandemic would be more than many folks would voluntarily prolong.

The organizations who reacted poorly to the pandemic would stand to lose a vast portion of their workforce. The ones who did well would still see a high uptick in turnover rates by employees who simply needed a change. Only the best leaders would be able to retain their majority of their teams.

Much to my chagrin (sometimes it hurts to be right), my intuition was spot on. I just didn’t realize it would be extreme enough to gain the term “Great Resignation.”

As the social contract between employers and employees continues to shift, leaders’ best bet is to focus on the basics. If you want to engage and retain your top talent, it’s crucial to understand the impact of these seven engagement drivers on your team.

Positive Leader Experience

A person’s experience with their leader continues to be the most important factor determining their engagement and retention. But it’s not about being a “great” boss or avoiding being a “bad” boss. That’s too simplistic. Just like customers can have poor experiences at great companies, the best leaders stay consistent.

As a leader, keep in mind that your personal brand is simply the experience others have with you. Members of the team are the ultimate customers. Serve them well, and they’ll stick around.


Running a sprint is invigorating. Completing a marathon is exhilarating, if you were able to adequately prepare ahead of time. But running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace isn’t just demotivating, it’s debilitating.

Unfortunately, this dynamic affects many professionals. People quit so the work gets redistributed until it becomes a wellbeing risk for the ones who stay.

Challenging times will come – there’s no avoiding them. But on the best teams, challenge ignites collective effort instead of stressing and burning out the members of the team to the point that they look for other options.

Clear Expectations

Did you ever take an exam in school that had different information than you expected to be on the test? If you received a much lower score than you anticipated, you were probably upset! Did you try to get the score amended? Did you get upset? Did you put in less effort next time or give up?

That’s typically how people react when they work hard but find the expectations for their work were unclear. Clarity compels. Ambiguity discourages.

Appropriately Paced Change

Gallup reports that 70% of change efforts fail – but it’s not because of poor decisions, but poor change execution. Pace of change is a common culprit. People only have so much capacity – especially when it comes to change.

Great leaders are able to decipher what is most important among all that is important – and they plan the work of the team accordingly. Three strong wins are always more preferable than a dozen failures – especially when you can choose when, where and how to fight each battle.

Opportunity to Learn & Grow

Most people want to be, do and have more tomorrow than today. But it takes growth process to get there. Top talent always has an eye on the next opportunity. This is a good thing. You don’t want members of the team who plan to coast.

The responsibility for career growth lies with each person, but leaders help by providing support and encouragement.

Sense of Belonging

Have you ever felt out of place on your team? How long did it take before you were looking for a new team to be a part of? There’s a difference between being a member of a team and being a valued member of a team.

Everyone deserves a seat (and a voice) at the table.

Connection to Purpose

There’s been a strong emphasis on purpose in the past decade. Unfortunately, it’s mostly focused on the organization’s purpose. “Here’s OUR purpose – tell us how you connect with it!” But purpose goes both ways. We should also ask, “What contribution are you most excited to make here and how can we best support you?”

Engagement isn’t an event, it’s a process. The more we make these drivers an ongoing priority, the higher engagement we can expect to see from our teams. Better yet, let’s engage with them in the process!

This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:

Engaging & Retaining Teams

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