· 2 min read · Features

Engagement is a bug you want staff to catch


When running a business you get to learn new things every day. And as clichéd as it sounds, ultimately the backbone of everything is the engagement of your staff.

Quality delivery, increased sales and new ideas all increase as a result of people enjoying their jobs and ‘believing in the cause'. Furthermore, engagement is contagious. 

The world is more open than ever before. Conversations are overheard and social media has huge influence; when someone is either engaged or disengaged it seems to spread more easily. 

There are good and bad 'viruses' when it comes to engagement, and there’s a way of dealing with each of them. Left untreated they will escalate and significantly impact your business – and your people. 

The bad viruses are potential ‘cancers’ that can spread in a company. Some people flourish in a negative atmosphere; they always see the glass as half full and spend most of their time next to the water cooler. This group can sometimes try to blame the company for anything and everything. 

Then there are the good viruses, the engaged employees. These people take their careers in their own hands and relish new responsibilities as a way of progression. They’ll roll up their sleeves and muck in when times get tough. Ultimately, these are the people that will come up with new ideas and grow your business. 

So how do you spread the good viruses and contain the nasty ones? 

You have three options to deal with the disengaged: 

  • Prevention is better than cure. Hire the right people and make that decision based on attitude and personality, not just skills. Give them a good start in the business and make sure your managers give plenty of encouragement.
  • Create the right environment from the start. Viruses spread more easily in certain environments. This is where your values come into play – make sure that they are actually built with engagement in mind. Create a workplace that promotes open and honest conversation, encourage meetings in open spaces rather than meeting rooms. And when someone is disengaged, deal with it head on.
  • Sometimes you just need to nuke the virus. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you nuke your staff (!) but sometimes things just don’t work out. If someone comes into your office day after day coughing all over their colleagues you’d send them home until they’re better. We often sense early on that things aren’t working out but hope that they will improve. When they don’t, sometimes you just need to prescribe a strong medicine and send that person home; but this time they shouldn’t be coming back. 

And some tips for spreading the good viruses? 

  • Share the love. When people do a good job let everyone else know – make sure that employees are aware of each other's success. Not only does this recognise the achievers and make them feel good, it also radiates a positive message. 
  • Be creative with benefits. Benefits don’t have to cost a lot of money. Use the resources you already have to give everyone something extra. For example, we have a training room that’s used on different evenings for yoga and Spanish lessons. These benefits do a great deal for engagement. They give our people a common experience, and contribute to health, wellbeing and personal development.
  • Celebrate success. We all work hard and are often ‘too busy’ to celebrate good things. However, this is your best opportunity to spread positivity throughout the organisation. Social gatherings are often the occasions when people let their hair down, vocalise and share their love of where they work. 

Nick Goldberg is managing director, UK & Ireland at Lee Hecht Harrison