In a 2017 survey, Gallup reported that two-thirds of American workers are not engaged. As of late, employees tend to be more apathetic and cynical about their employers. Even as companies create more team-building programs and greater rewards and incentives, the needle doesn’t seem to be moving.

According to workforce specialist Brad Wolff, the first step to employee engagement begins with the company leaders. We’ll share Wolff’s four tips to improving employee engagement in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Wolff says that to improve engagement, company leaders need to look honestly and objectively at the company culture and how it influences the way employees think and act. As the adage goes, culture before strategy. This requires taking a hard look at the root causes of employees’ engagement levels. Below are the psychological drivers that form engagement, according to Wolff:

1. To feel valued and understood. Management should earnestly listen to employees’ concerns, opinions and ideas with the intent to understand and consider their merits before responding. This replaces the common responses of defending positions or punishing employees for expressing contrary views. Management isn’t required to agree with their employees but it’s important they try to listen, understand and consider their input.

2. To express our gifts and talents. Management should a focus on aligning roles and responsibilities with the gifts and talents of the employees. People are naturally more enthusiastic and engaged when performing tasks they enjoy and are skilled in.

3. Meaning/purpose in what we do. Employees should have a clear understanding of how their work impacts the miss ion and vision of the organization. Don’t expect them to figure this out on their own. People are much more motivated when they realize their efforts truly matter and are being acknowledged.

4. Internal drive for progress or development. Employees are at their best when there is “healthy tension” to meet clear and reasonable standards. This means fair and consistent accountability and consequences based on performance that are relative to agreed-upon standards. Being too nice and lax harms engagement since people inherently desire growth and realize that standards and consequence help them do this. People are motivated when they focus on questions, such as: What did I achieve today? What did I learn today? How did I grow?

Wolff said that if the emphasis is on “Look at this nice thing we just did for you,” rather than, “This is how we value you as a human being,” there is a high likelihood for failure. Examples of this “nice thing we just did for you” include most team-building events, company newsletters or happy hours. They’re nice add-ons, but they don’t address real, authentic engagement. Consider an educational-based workshop that employees are required to attend to bolster their skill sets.

So take time to work at the cause-level and create new habits of thinking and behavior that will drive engagement for the long term.

Source: Brad Wolff, the managing partner for Atlanta, Georgia-based PeopleMax, specializes in workforce and personal optimization by helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. He is a speaker and the author of People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage.