Getting employee engagement right: A recipe of 10 Cs

Monday, 29 November 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Engaged employees produce exceptional results. Last column dealt with several such success cases.This time, let’s address a fundamental question related to our discussion.

How can we achieve employee engagement? How do we know it is there? How would they add value to their organisations? The answers to the above would come from an exploration. It is the journey of engagement to effectiveness.   

Seijts and Crim, two researchers of organisational behaviour offer interesting insights through what they termed as “10 Cs for employee engagement”. Essentially, they deal with what corporate leaders should do in order to strengthen employee engagement. The key focus in each C can further be expanded into possible initiatives. Let’s discuss the details with local realities in mind.


Leaders must show that they value employees. This can be done by maintaining open channels so that employees can approach their superiors to discuss matters in a mutually beneficial manner. Disconnect leads to disengagement, with dire consequences.


Leaders should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement.  They should  show employees the way forward in terms of career advancements and options, in motivating them to perform in exceeding expectations.  As one leading multinational claim, “we do not offer jobs, but careers, the careers that brand them for life”.


Leaders must communicate a clear vision. It should be shared and supported. This includes building an awareness on vision, mission and strategic priorities among the employees, in ensuring that they are clear about  why  they are doing what  they do. It reminds me of the famous story of how President Kennedy went to NASA complex,  during the  peak of moon mission in late ’60s. He saw a minor worker sweeping the floor, and had asked her as to what she was doing. Her response was stunning. “I am helping to send a man to the moon”.  This is indeed a classic case of connecting to the organisation vision with clarity.


Leaders should clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their functioning in the organisation.

This involves ensuring proper conduct of the performance appraisals by training the managers as to how to give constructive  feedback objectively. As the communication gurus advocate, what matters more is how you say than what you say.


Leaders give recognition to others. Exceptional leaders do so a lot.  Appreciating of good performance of employees by reward and recognition, in a timely fashion is something essential. Gone are the days of “employee of the year” or “employee of the quarter” or even “employee of the month”. What matters is giving due recognition to the “employee of the moment”.


Leaders should make sure that employees know how their contribution matters. This can be done by introducing a transparent mechanism of objective setting and then connecting individual objectives to broad organisational objectives. Tested and proven mechanisms such as Balanced Scorecard can be handy in this respect.


Leaders need to set the boundaries with the buy-in of the   Employees . This involves setting the boundaries of activities  with proper systems in place with the involvement of  employees, so that they  are a part of the decision making process. Modern day control is more viewed as a way of ensuring consistency through conformance, as opposed to coercive courses of action.


Great leaders are team builders. They create an environment that fosters trust and collaboration. By doing so, they ensure that teamwork is given due prominence with associated mechanisms such as team-based rewards to strengthen it.


Leaders should strive to maintain organisational reputation and demonstrate high ethical standards. They should demonstrate being ethical in decision making, so that employees will strengthen their admiration of the organisation. Credibility can be compared to a glass tumbler. Once it is cracked, it is irreparable.


Good leaders help create confidence in a company by being exemplars of high performance standards. It involves practicing  “walking the talk” at  all levels so  that employees have  better trust and confidence on their superiors. That has far reaching consequences, including better relationships and higher results.

The 10 Cs discussed above should be appropriately blended with organisational priorities, with sound HR practices in place. Once all Cs are taken seriously and put into place, the organisation is well geared to move forward in the path to progress.

One cautionary remark however is about the need to have a broader perspective towards work. Employee engagement should by no means confine the employees to the workplace, depriving them of their family and social obligations. In research literature, higher job security, increased social support and the existence of family friendly policies have been shown to reduce the incidence of work-family conflict. Whilst striving for employee engagement, ensuring a proper balancing of other aspects needs careful consideration.

The best way of summing up the 10 Cs is to link all of them to one “big C”. CARE. Employee-care is the surest way to ensure customer-care.

(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a Senior Faculty Member and a Management Consultant attached to the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He also serves as an adjunct faculty in International Human Resource Management at the Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA. He has over two decades of both private and public sector working experience in diverse environments including Unilever and Nestlé. He has engaged in consultancies in more than 10 countries. He is a Commonwealth AMDISA Doctoral Fellow and Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. and an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa. He is also a member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.)

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