Sep 2, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Your job has the potential to be the centerpiece of a great life, but only if you’re engaged at work.

Despite employee engagement becoming a priority for CEOs, Gallup’s research of workplaces all over the world reveals a sorry state of affairs – employees who are actively disengaged outnumber their engaged colleagues by an overwhelming factor of 2:1.

But there are companies who are dramatically bucking this trend, with engaged workers outnumbering actively disengaged workers by a 9:1 ratio.

Th things you won’t find in less engaged companies

To understand what may be driving that tremendous advantage, an analysis of Gallup’s Great Workplace Award winners uncovered seven (7) factors notably lacking in less engaged companies.

  1. Hire involved and curious leaders who want to improve Leaders’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors have powerful trickle-down impact on their organizations’ cultures. Great leaders don’t just talk about what they want in the management ranks – they model it and keep trying to get better every day. By displaying a little vulnerability and visibly working on improving themselves, they signal how to get ahead.
  2. Have exceptional HR capabilities — The best HR professionals have a gift for influencing, teaching and holding executives accountable. Many executives rise through the ranks without much management training, so it’s vital for HR to teach leaders and managers to stretch and develop employees in accordance with their natural capabilities.
  3. Meet basic engagement requirements before expecting an inspiring mission to matter — When employees know what’s expected of them, have what they need to do their jobs, are a good fit for their roles, and feel their managers have their backs, they’re more likely to commit to what the company is trying to accomplish. Conversely, if these basic needs aren’t met, even the most exalted mission may not engage them.
  4. Never use the economy as an excuse — In periods of belt-tightening, engagement often takes a hit, but exemplary companies call this into question. They’ve also had to respond to challenges, but have maintained – and improved – their strong cultures. They’ve achieved this by being open, making changes swiftly, communicating constantly, and providing hope. Employee engagement is one of the few things managers and leaders can influence in times when so much else is out of their control.
  5. Trust, relentlessly support and hold managers accountable — The experiences that inspire and encourage employees are local. Strong teams are built when the teams themselves size up the problems they’re facing and take a hands-on approach to solving them. Exemplary companies lavish support on their managers, build their capability and resilience, and then hold them accountable for the micro-cultures they create.
  6. Have a straightforward and decisive approach to performance management — Companies with the highest engagement levels know how to use recognition as a powerful incentive. Indeed, a hallmark of great workplaces is that they’re filled with recognition junkies who see recognition as a powerful means to develop and stretch employees to new skill levels. Meanwhile, they see tolerance of mediocrity as the enemy.
  7. Don’t pursue engagement for its own sake — As it becomes increasingly possible to measure and track engagement accurately, some companies start “managing to the metric.” Great employers keep their eyes on the outcomes greater engagement will help them achieve.

The post appeared in a somewhat different form on

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.