When it comes to lack of employee engagement, the first (and often the only) party to be charged guilty is the Executive. After all, isn’t internal culture a dish prepared and served by the Executive? But is the Executive the only stakeholder responsible for creating a culture that drives engagement?

The 2015 Engaged Strategy study on the state of employee engagement in Australia identified five key drivers for employee engagement, four of which were related to aspects of leadership. The fifth key driver, however, was the employee’s commitment to the organisation’s strategy.

Considering the low levels of employee engagement in Australia, employee commitment assumes a much higher significance. When I brought this up in my conversations with industry leaders, one CEO put it to me this way: If you look at the organisation at a micro level, every employee is in a business relationship with the organisation. Employees are getting a monetary compensation in exchange for doing a job. As such, they must be engaged; there is no other option.

Clearly, there is some level of engagement that leaders expect of employees. Specifically, according to a HBR article by Larry Bossidy, this is what leaders expect from those that directly report to them:

  • Get involved
  • Generate ideas
  • Be willing to collaborate
  • Be willing lead initiatives
  • Develop leaders as you develop
  • Stay current
  • Anticipate
  • Drive your own growth
  • Be a player for all seasons

If you look at each of the qualities mentioned above, you might realize that they go beyond just job skills. In fact, they are life skills and, unfortunately, they are not taught effectively at schools or universities at a practical level where they can become regular habits for individuals.

At this point, you might think that you already have a robust training and development program in place to equip your employees with the necessary skills. But have you asked yourself if your employees are resilient enough to get through tough business situations? Do they have the confidence to conduct difficult but crucial conversations with their staff, peers and superiors? Are they capable of truly thinking creatively to find innovative solutions?

We suggest that the expectation gap between Executives and Employees can be bridged when the leadership provides clarity of direction, vision and expectations. They must do this while creating a space where employees can grow by developing the necessary ‘life skills’ to become ‘mighty champions’ i.e. employees who are resilient, creative, and optimistic communicators that can flourish even under stressful conditions.

Real engagement is a two-way street. It can happen only when there is a certain level of mutual commitment to make your business strategy successful. However, to help your employees make this commitment, your focus should be to enhance their overall experience at work by providing them with more than just job skills.

To get a better understanding about employee-led engagement and how organisations can benefit from driving it, my next article will look at the latest practical scientific interventions that use Positive Psychology to increase employee productivity, performance, and well-being.