In a June 2019 study, ADP research reported the results of a global survey on workplace engagement. The results were in line with Gallup research that reports similar high disengagement scores. ADP surveyed 19,000 workers around the globe and found only 16% of employees report being fully engaged. Even worse, the United States was one of four countries that experienced a decrease in engagement during the last 3 years. 

At Meaning-Centered Leadership, our goal is to support healthier workplaces. When leaders are able to create meaning for their employees engagement is multiplied. Engagement starts with leader/follower relationships. 

In our soon to be published book, Meaning-Centered Leadership: why meaning matters in your organization, we use research to support our claim that workplace meaning can increase individual and organizational well-being. In the first part of our book, we cover Engagement. Research reports like ADP’s shows that our work is needed now more than ever. 

There are three things leaders can do to increase follower engagement:

  • Build Trusting Relationships
  • Demonstrate Care and Concern
  • Use Active Listening and Open Communication

In their report, ADP stated, “Trust is a foundation of engagement: Employees who trust their team leader are 12 times more likely to be fully engaged in their work.” The low levels of disengagement suggest leaders need to constantly and consistently focus on building trusting relationships with their followers. 

One key to building trusting relationships is showing care and concern for others. The process of building a culture marked by teams that care for one another builds meaning in the workplace. It starts with focusing on trusting relationships marked by care and concern. The followers in our research selected, “Creates an environment of trust among leaders and team members in the organization” as the most crucial element of the leaders ability to build relationships. This supports ADP’s findings: “Employees who identify with being Fully Engaged also indicated they have a sense of belonging and trust in their leaders.” 

An essential element of building trust is displaying character through actions. Follower surveys in our research found that character is the number one leadership behavior that followers desire. Those followers also indicated that active listening is an important way that leaders display character. 

The encouraging news in ADP’s report is that low worker engagement can be impacted by leaders who build trusting teams. Leaders who focus on building trusting relationships through care and concern and active listening will be able to increase engagement among their teams. And they will take the first step in becoming meaning-centered leaders.