Improve your engagement

4 Steps to Improve Your Engagement

Resolutions for Personal and Professional Achievement

Full disclosure: A version of this blog appeared nearly a decade ago. Its principles are evergreen, however—and in today’s hybrid and virtual working world, it’s also even more important to figure out our individual engagement equations. So here is a dusted-off version with some updated context as you plan how to increase both your performance and satisfaction.

Here’s to more great days at work in spite of [you fill in the blank]!

Engagement Is an Elusive Goal

Many things can influence your engagement at work: organizational changes, behaviors of your manager and colleagues, challenges in your projects, your situation at home, and even local or world events (like a pandemic maybe?). That means you can’t stay fully engaged without effort. In fact, you can feel totally engaged one week only to be hanging on by a thread the next.

Engagement Is Not an All-or-Nothing Proposition

Not being engaged is not the same as being disengaged. Our X Model of Employee Engagement uses two axes (contribution and satisfaction) and five levels to describe where you may be in terms of your engagement. The goal is always to move yourself and others up to experience the highest levels of contribution and satisfaction.

Do Your Part to Improve Engagement

It’s unlikely that you can maintain full engagement on your own. In fact, we have an entire team devoted to helping organizations create cultures that fuel engagement. It’s fair to expect that senior leaders will create an inclusive, supportive workplace and that all leaders act in a fair, trustworthy, and competent manner. It’s true that leaders need to be crystal clear about the organization’s purpose, values, and strategy—and how you fit in. It’s reasonable to count on them to fix policies and practices that undermine engagement and high performance.

Yet no one can make you more engaged. Your engagement is a personal equation. It reflects your relationship with work, based on your values, your talents, and your aspirations. You need to own that equation. Take action, no matter what your employer does or doesn’t do.

Try These Four Things

1. Know what matters to you

If you aren’t clear on your personal aspirations and motivators, you can’t satisfy them on the job. For nearly 50 years, we’ve been helping individuals clarify their personal values, and we have seen how social justice and pandemic-related events have sparked “the Great Reflection.” Your values are your filter for your decisions and actions. Step back and reflect on what they are—and whether they’re being satisfied at work and home. If your actions, personally, are misaligned with what you believe, you’ll be miserable before you walk through the office door. If you keep your values front and center, they can be powerful fuel for great days at work.

2. Know what matters to your employer

We are talking about work, so personal engagement is not just about your satisfaction. To be fully engaged, you need to be a top performer. You can’t accomplish extraordinary things if you don’t know what the organization needs from you (and why). Market conditions and strategies can change overnight, so check in often with your manager. Recalibrate to focus your energy and talents on the very top priorities on your very long to-do list.

3. Build on your strengths

Buck Blessing, an employee-engagement pioneer and founder of one of our divisions, was known for saying, “If you address your development needs only, you’ll die a very average person.” Find out what you do well by asking for feedback (self-assessment is not enough), and then get better at it. Find opportunities to add value with your talents. Your employer will benefit, and you’ll be more engaged. Of course, fix any weaknesses that are career liabilities or impede peak performance. Average is not an ingredient in personal or professional success.

4. Commit or quit

Choose to be a star. Choose to take care of your health so you can wake up with energy during the work week and on the weekend. Choose to connect emotionally. Choose to leverage the things you can control in your environment that will support your best work. Choose to ask for help from your manager or others to improve your performance and engagement your team’s results. Choose to be more engaged.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you shook your head with cynicism as you read that last point, do yourself a favor: find another role—maybe another employer. Hanging on to a “good job” (e.g., it pays well, looks impressive) when you are not engaged is a bad strategy. You spend thousands of hours each year on the job. Make them count. Why plod through them feeling miserable or undervalued—or even just okay? Sooner or later, your performance will suffer and dissatisfaction at work will spill over to affect your personal life. Who wants that?

About the Authors

Mary Ann Masarech

Mary Ann Masarech spent the first third of her career writing, designing, and marketing skills training for top-notch consulting firms. She acquired a broad base of instructional design and client experience building learning experiences in sales, negotiations, account management, customer service, selection interviewing and leadership skills. The programs she designed were all about the “how.” (When “X” happens, do “A, B, C.”) When she joined GP Strategies’ BlessingWhite division in 2000, Mary Ann began to explore worlds beyond skills: The internal workings of individual learners – expressed as personal values and goals, the puzzling workings of organizational culture, and the often complicated dynamics of trust and relationships at work. She quickly realized there was no going back. As Lead Consultant for BlessingWhite’s Engagement Practice, Mary Ann creates practical tools and strategies that clients worldwide apply to create successful businesses and thriving workplaces. Think of her approach as "research meets real world." She is passionate about great days at work – where individuals experience the highest levels of personal satisfaction, apply their skills to what matters most, and deliver their best work to drive their employers’ strategies. As lead consultant, she also works with senior HR and business leaders on how to take meaningful action on engagement survey results to drive organizational performance. She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, Oct 2012), has written numerous research reports and articles, and is a well-regarded speaker on the leader’s role in engagement and building a culture of engagement. Mary Ann's commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the Norma Pfriem Urban Outreach Initiatives, a not-for-profit that addresses food insecurity (serving 10,000 meals a year) and education of underserved adults and children. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys her mostly-empty nest with her husband, 2 cats and a dog, cooking, reading and running (not simultaneously) in her spare time.