How Important is Employee Engagement?

by Corrine Casanova

According to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report, 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged essentially meaning they are indifferent about their job. The report also showed that:

  • Only one in five employees strongly agree that their leaders are setting good direction
  • 15 percent strongly agree that their leaders are making them excited about the future of their company
  • 13 percent of employees strongly agree that their leaders are effectively communicating with the organization

Culture Plays a Part

It’s no secret that engaged employees drive productivity. Dan Barnett, a global consultant and speaker, addressed the role of culture in businesses. “Culture is fundamentally all about people. If you want to have employees that are engaged and empowered and really put their passion into their work, culture is going to be a huge part of that because in the end your culture affects everything. When you hire people to fit your culture they are going to be way more involved and engaged in doing their work.”

When asked about what drives business culture, Barnett responded, “It’s what you recognize, what you reward, what you hire people for doing and what you fire people for not doing. That’s your culture in the end. So, if you want to build a culture built around certain core values that you care about, you have to stop and think. Am I recognizing that value? For example, at Enron, their core value was integrity. Their culture had nothing to do with that. Their culture was about one thing—20 percent growth every single year. And they didn’t care how they got it. People lied, cheated and cooked the books to get that 20 percent and it destroyed that company. Their culture had nothing to do with integrity.”

Jeffrey Benjamin, author, speaker and owner of Breakthrough Training, felt that the key to retaining and engaging employees is during that crucial hiring period. “As long as they have a good attitude you can pretty much train them to do anything, whatever that technical skill is required. If they don’t have a good attitude it is really hard to train someone into a good attitude. Ask yourself, are they positive? Do they have good energy? Do they have a good attitude? Someone can’t just work on changing their attitude around in 30 days and suddenly be different but they can spend 30 days or less on a technical skill,” he said.

Benjamin is also a believer in organizations primarily being a learning organization first and foremost. For example, a construction company saying they are a learning organization that teaches skillsets and soft skills to employees and they just happen to construct buildings too. He believes that when businesses invest in their employees it makes the culture better and helps retain employees as they will automatically tie what they’ve learned to working at the company or organization.

Having a clear direction is essential when forming a culture. That all boils down to the question, “What is your why? Why are you in business? What do you care about and why is it important?” Barnett noted, “People have to know why you are doing what you are doing and why they should care about it. There is always a why. You just have to think about what that is and then get clear about it. Once you know why you are doing it, what will it look like in the future? The more you look at that, the more your people will actually know what to focus on and help you get there. If they don’t know, they can’t help you that much. They will do their job differently if they actually know why and what it will look like in the future.”

Get Clear About Your Employee Engagement

There are companies like Gallup who provide anonymous surveys to companies for a small fee to measure employee engagement. In northern Nevada, the deadline is fast approaching for the annual Best Places to Work, hosted by the Northern Nevada Human Resources Association. There’s still time to get nominated as nominations close on January 26 and the winners will be revealed April 26. Even if your business isn’t nominated, it’s a simple process where employees take the anonymous survey which provides a quick snapshot of employee engagement at your business. Nominations take place at


2017 winners include:

Company Industry Size
Patagonia Retail Trade Xlarge
Greater Nevada Credit Union Finance & Insurance Large
Reno Buick GMC Cadillac Retail Trade Medium
One Nevada Credit Union Finance & Insurance Small
Sierra Nevada Journeys Not-for-profit Micro


Valerie Cotta, EDAWN workforce development program manager, sees employee engagement tools as a great way for employers to understand their employees needs and wants. She cautions, however, that if the employer isn’t ready to hear the feedback and do something about it, they shouldn’t do it. By doing nothing with the feedback, employee morale can take a dive. “To truly grow a company so it’s the best place to work you have to have the leadership that believes it and you have to have the belief that employees are not just a cost on your P&L. You have to believe that your employees are the core, the culture, are the history are the essence of your business and their knowledge and learning is why you are successful,”Cotta concluded.


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