The Problem: A Lack of Engagement at the Office

It is well-known that culture drives performance. In fact, 90% of leaders think an engagement strategy will have an impact on business success. So why is there such an engagement problem at work, and why aren’t most business leaders doing anything about it? Barely 25% of leaders even have an engagement strategy.

Why is there an engagement problem?

After reading some interesting research (like these stats, and this article), there are many claims out there such as:

  • Employees feel underutilized and underpaid – especially the millennials.
  • Employees lack the tools to be highly engaged.
  • There is a lack of trust in leadership.
  • Employees aren’t receiving performance feedback.

These all may be true, but the primary issue is this:

An employee cannot engage in something they know nothing about.

If you want to engage your employees in your company culture, you have to educate them on the culture itself –your mission and core values. As it stands today, only 42% of employees can recite their values. Of those, only 29% understand and act of them.


58% of employees cannot recite their values.

Why aren’t leaders doing anything about it?

I would suspect one reason has to do with time. According to Gallup, the average time worked by full-time employees is now 46.7 hours a week, with half of salaried full-time employees working 50+ hours a week. A business leader doesn’t have any time to spend.

But perhaps they would if they realized the benefits of employee engagement. Countless studies show that employee engagement through a strong, aligned culture leads to increased performance. This includes financial impact, employee loyalty, decrease in turnover, an increase in customer satisfaction, and stronger quality of work.

However, the primary reason is maybe they just don’t know how. How do you engage somebody whose attention span is now shorter than a goldfish?


 Our attention span is now shorter than a goldfish.

Start by defining values. If a company already has core values, they are part of the way there. But most core values are too ambiguous for employees to act on. I have come across this real life example:

Two accounting firms have the value “Excellent Client Services.” When asked to expand on the meaning, the first accounting firm explains it take risks – push boundaries to get every penny back for their client, even at the risk of potentially being audited by the IRS. The second accounting firm describes it to mean play it safe – a few missed bucks isn’t worth being in the crossfire with the IRS.

The value “Excellent Client Services” is great. Yet, as an employee I need further clarity to act in accordance with the company culture.

Defining values as much as possible gives guidance for an employee to act. Without it, ambiguity will cause a person to do nothing.

Once defined, help employees learn the values through repetition. Alignment is key, and practice makes perfect. Try using Dilemmas as a way to test employees – see if their answers match the company’s. As employees are learning, empower them through positive encouragement. Send a positive email, or try one of the many kudos platforms out there.

Your turn! Why do you think there is an engagement problem at work, and why aren’t most business leaders doing anything about it? Do you know if you have an engagement problem?