Michael Specht

A blog from Australia looking at technology, management, Human Resources (HR) and recruitment.

5 Ways to Engage Employees

March 13th, 2008 · 6 Comments · Management, Work Life Balance ·

Over the last few days there has been a really stir over Jason Calacanis‘s “Fire non Workaholics” statement. While he has updated the words in his post (completely I disagree with his first version) I feel the bottom line message is still there. Jason wants his employees to be engaged and committed with him on the journey of his company, what CEO wouldn’t? But a large majority of employees will not be fully engaged or committed to a company without a reason. As a CEO, manager or leader you need to provide the right environment.

So here are five ways to engage your employees:-

  1. Show you care about them as a person, take 5 minutes each day to get to know one of your employees. You need to understand them, their struggles, frustrations and desires both professionally and personally.
  2. Invite them to join you and your organisation in doing something meaningful.
  3. Once you have invited them to something meaningful make sure you provide individuals goals. But not just any goals, sexy goals! They need be a driving force, give your employees chills down their spine when they talk or think about them. Your employees need to be able to deeply connect to their goals.
  4. Ensure timely recognition of performance, not just at an annual performance review. Send a quick handwritten note to someone who has delivered, not just above & beyond, or who has had a hard day.
  5. Provide your employees with extra responsibilities, allow them to grow and explore new areas of personal and professional growth. This is easy if you have completed step 1.

Once you have engaged employees then they will be fired up about your organisation and its goals. They might even act as workaholics for a period of time. But ensure this is balanced so they do not burn out, otherwise they will then disengage. By the way if you have completed step 1 above you won’t let them burn out because you will see and treat them as people, not machines.

Finally to quote Sir Richard Branson:-

“Loyal employees in a company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders. The process sounds easy but it’s not, and it has defeated some of the bigger organisations of the twentieth century.”

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kevin Howard // Mar 13, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Hey Michael,

    Your Branson quote just reminded me of something. I heard him being interviewed on the BBC world radio recently. He mentioned that when he bought what was essentially British Rail when it was privatised, he invited the staff to his house for the weekend, all 85,000 of them!


  • 2 Michael Specht // Mar 14, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Hi Kevin,

    I had heard he did things like that but not that specific example, thanks! I would mind having a house that could have a party for 85,000 people :-).


  • 3 Kevin Howard // Mar 14, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Michael, apparently is house isn’t *that* big, but it’s in the country with lots of grounds. So he put marquees up hired in caters and arranged for a few bands to turn over the weekend. I gather there was *some* scheduling of when people turned up!

    It was just after he took over BR and created Virgin Rail. He believes that sort of thing really makes a difference and helped his employees get to know him.

    I wonder what Branson would make of Jason Calacanis’ blog? I think he might find it hard to argue with a lot of it. Virgin’s early days were very comparable with the type of start-up environment Calacanis describes, but it was record shops rather than software development, without massive injections of VC funding if I (remember correctly).

    Although I don’t think Branson would advocate sacking people who weren’t workaholics, he did work people very hard and key people who didn’t see eye to eye with him soon departed, even some partners in the business.

    I’d like to know how Branson motivates people and how at the beginning he managed to get a bunch of very talented people to be so totally committed to Virgin for basic wages. I can’t imagine many of them would have been able to foresee what Virgin would become.

  • 4 James // Mar 18, 2008 at 7:57 am


    In reference to your point number #1, hypothetically, what would you think of a CEO/Manager/Leader that says to her staff “I don’t give a sh*t if your happy or not.” ?

    What do you think the outcome of such a statement would be on the staff and productivity?

    Do you think there could be any justification or any situation where you think this is appropriate, even in jest?

    Rgs, James.

  • 5 Michael Specht // Mar 18, 2008 at 8:19 am


    Fundamentally I think the CEO/Manager/Leader will fail to achieve their desired outcomes because their staff will become very disengaged and unproductive, worse would strike. We have seen this with the rise of the trade union movement where employers did not care for their employees.

    Is it appropriate, no. If you treat your people as machines then your business will fail. Not even sure it would be appropriate in jest, but I guess it might be.


  • 6 Mark Bennedick // Apr 23, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I absolutely agree with your second point relating to engaging employees with something meaningful. One particular example comes to mind for an event we conducted for Roche Pharmaceuticals. We took 300 of their sales people and renovated a house in a day as part of a team building day during their 4 day sales conference. The house (bequeathed by a lifelong supporter of Camp Quality) was planned to go to auction to provide funds for the charity and after our renovation efforts the house managed to achieve $85000 more than previously anticipated. The staff loved it, felt like they’d contributed something meaningful (which they indeed had!) and it created an amazing positive camraderie among everyone involved. Google are another company we work with who are committed to giving employees time to follow their passions during work hours and you really can see it in the attitude of the staff – they’re so committed to the company and it’s cause.