We’ve all probably experienced the feeling of just going through the motions. We wake up, get dressed and go to work (or stay in PJs and hop on zoom). There are those days where you’re not quite yourself. You’re on autopilot, maybe doing the bare minimum.

On the flip side, we probably have also experienced the high of being challenged, trying new things, doing meaningful work and feeling engaged.

The term “engagement” gets thrown around a lot (by everyone and myself include!). But what does it really mean to be “engaged”? Every individual is different but there are some key things that we all unarguably want if we want to feel happy at work.

The Cost to Team Disengagement

Aside from the fact that we all want to feel more motivated to get up in the mornings, there is a real cost to employee disengagement. Just retention costs alone, some studies predict it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average to replace an employee. So that means if the employee’s annual salary is $60K, the cost to replace that employee can range from $30-45K.

As you can imagine, that cost can add up. And this doesn’t take into account how this impacts the performance of the team as a whole, as well as the stress that comes with a decrease in headcount.

So it makes sense that we prioritize retaining our best talent!

How engaged an employee feels is greatly influenced by the leader. By understanding how humans feel engage with work, we can take more intentional actions towards employee engagement and retention.

What Makes Us Feel Engaged?

An employee is engaged when they feel that their work is meaningful, they’re valued, respected and heard, there is opportunity for growth and that they can have fun.

1. Their work is meaningful.

While not everyone cares about making an impact on the world, we all want to feel like our work matters at the end of the day.

As a leader, it is important to:

  • Helping your team understand your organization’s, as well as, team’s mission.
  • Identify ways to communicate your vision for team success.
  • Get to know what really matters to each individual on the team (e.g. what are their values? What gets them excited?).

2. They are valued.

Aside from feeling like our work matters, we also want to feel like WE matter.

As a leader, you can help your team see that they are valued by:

  • Helping them use their strengths to make an impact on the team.
  • Providing positive feedback and expressing gratitude for their work in a specific and genuine way.
  • Leading empathetically and adapting your style based on the team’s needs. Giving the team a sense of autonomy builds trust.
  • Be more intentional on what and how you delegate.

3. They feel respected & heard.

This one is a pretty big one. I think we have probably unintentionally shot down someone’s idea or cut someone off in a meeting at one point or another.

Practice being more open to new ideas and feedback and let go of feeling the need to control outcomes. Here’s a old post on creating intellectually safe environments at work.

4. There’s opportunity for growth.

I think it is safe to say that while not everyone wants a promotion or a raise, EVERYONE wants to grow in some way. Growth looks different for everyone and it doesn’t have to be tangible.

Get to know what growth means to each individual team member. Understand what their goals are, look out for development opportunities, coach them and empower them to achieve their goals.

5. They can have fun.

Just like growth, fun looks different for everyone. While group activities and happy hours can help build rapport, what matters more is how you incorporate play into the work that you do. It is understanding how to incorporate more of what your team feels passionate about into their work.

Refer to my old post on incorporating more play into work!

Engagement Looks Different for Everyone

There is a high cost to leading a disengaged team (monetarily and energetically!). How everyone feels engaged at work looks different. As a leader, what actions can you commit to going forward to understand what engagement looks like for each individual on the team?

To help you lead with more purpose and intention, check out my free guide on “3 Exercises to Lead with More Engagement.”