Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

The 15 Key Strategies Successful Managers Use to Engage Employees.

By James Ball | Jun 29, 2015 | Staff Retention

Contrary to popular belief, employee engagement isn’t just about thinly-veiled, extravagant PR stunts (like turning your office into the Starship Enterprise or an adult-sized playground!)

Employee engagement has much more to do with the day-to-day nurturing of your staff and the smaller gestures which lead to a substantial increase in loyalty, productivity and output.

It’s about building a team who genuinely care about your business.

Below we’ve outlined the 15 strategies that super-successful managers use to engage their employees – without spending a fortune on Star Trek-themed offices, of course!

1. Involve Your Employees.

“Real engagement is about the capacity and appetite to share power with others that have something to contribute.”  John Smythe, Owner of Engage for Change.

Employees want to feel like they’re genuinely involved in a business, affecting change and making a valuable contribution to its success.

The more involved you make employees feel, the more engaged they’ll be and you never know what great ideas are lurking behind the creativity you’re stifling.

2. Trust Your Employees.

“90% of engaged employees in UK have a manager who lets them do their job!” Red Letter Days.

Do you trust your employees?

Or are you constantly micro-managing, ‘checking-in’ and controlling them?

Great managers will hire fantastic employees in the first place and then let them get on with their job.

The increase in accountability and responsibility will mean employees will care more about the outcome and be more proud with the successes.

Would you feel valued if your boss were constantly breathing down your neck?

3. Don’t Ridicule Bad Ideas.

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” Linus Pauling.

We can’t all have great ideas, all of the time but it’s really important to keep an open atmosphere where good or bad they are at least welcome.

I used to have a manager who would praise great ideas – and rightly so.

Unfortunately, he would also absolutely crush any ‘bad ones,’ humiliating whichever staff member dared to suggest them.

Soon, it was very difficult to get any sort of opinion from his staff members – and he wondered why!

4. Reward Your Employees.

This is a fairly obvious one – everyone likes to be rewarded for good behaviour!

That doesn’t mean you have to give out pay rises willy-nilly, offer huge bonuses or even take the entire team out for an expensive meal.

A reward can be as simple as a sincere “thank you” for a job well done.

Do you ever show your employees your appreciation?

It could take as little as 5 minutes and could be as simple as a short and sweet email, but it could make a huge difference to your team’s culture.

Studies show that 80% of highly engaged staff received some form of reward or recognition for work well done”

5. Celebrate Success.

In the same vein, a great manager will not only recognise, but will also celebrate successes within the team – great and small, simple or complex.

From reaching a team target or winning an award to receiving a great testimonial or bringing on board a new client, you should celebrate!

You could…

  • Send around a weekly ‘success email’ congratulating individuals and teams.
  • Publish a weekly ‘success newsletter’.
  • Buy everyone lunch.
  • Let everyone leave early on a Friday.

…the options are endless and they really don’t need to be expensive!

6. Set Smart Targets.

Before setting targets for any of your employees, make sure that they’re SMART

S: Specific. Be clear and detailed. Make sure your employee understands.

M: Measurable. How will you know whether a target has been met? The key is clarity.

A: Achievable. Setting goals that employees can’t achieve will frustrate and demotivate them.

R: Relevant. This should go without saying…

T: Time-based. Make sure you set and stick to a realistic deadline.

It goes without saying that deadlines and targets will occasionally be missed, even by your top staff members.

Try not to be too harsh; work out what went wrong and try to fix the problem rather than showering them in guilt.

7. Check In, Often.

How often do you sit down one-to-one with your employees and review their performance (either formally or informally)?

Unfortunately, getting together on an annual basis just isn’t going to cut it if you want a highly-engaged workforce.

Weekly, fortnightly or monthly reviews have been proven to increase productivity, because employees know exactly what’s expected, when and any issues are ironed out right away.

Everyone wants to know whether or not they’re on track.

Section Two92% of engaged employees have had someone talk about their progress in the last 6 months.

8. Be Positive.

During those performance reviews, it’s absolutely crucial that you remain positive and don’t harm your employee’s self-esteem.

Positivity breeds positivity – guess what negativity breeds…

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer constructive criticism.

Together, you and your employee should (positively) find ways to improve, progress and grow.

Recruiter Pro Tip

If you genuinely can’t think of any positives to bring to a review with a particular staff member, it may be time to consider their place in the business.

Yes, it’s important to focus on the positives, but if there are none…

How long should you give an under-performer?

Find out in our three-part blog series, starting here.

9. Fight for Your Employees.

One of the most common workplace gripes occurs when managers don’t stick up for the team.

It’s true, sometimes you will have to discipline your staff.

But you’ll also sometimes have to have their back; particularly when other staff (probably your superiors) are treating them unfairly.

If you don’t, not only will you look weak and lose all respect (‘they’ll never stick up for us because they’re a coward’) but you’ll also lose all trust from your team.

  • If you know that someone deserves a pay rise, training opportunities or a reward, fight for them!
  • If your team is getting blamed for something that’s not necessarily their fault, stick up for them!

Trust is a two-way street and your employees are MUCH more likely to work hard for you if they see you working hard for them!

10. Assess Your “Culture.”

Company ‘culture’ is another one of those dreadful buzzwords that makes us all shudder a little, but nevertheless it’s a vital consideration when managing a team.

A good manager’s spidey senses will immediately tingle when the culture of their team isn’t quite right. It’s then up to you to work out…

What’s causing the problem? Do staff feel undervalued or overworked? What exactly has changed recently?

When you notice that the team culture has diminished, you must work to fix it immediately before it’s too late and the disengagement is rooted too deeply.

11. Can Resolve Conflicts.

Of course, the culture could be off for slightly more sinister reasons.

All it takes is one or two bad eggs to completely ruin the entire atmosphere of a team – you must have come across those bitchy little cliques before?

Great managers will quell any conflicts and negativities that arise sensitively, without causing more trouble (team events are a great way to bring people together.)

Recruiter Pro Tip.

If it gets really bad, it might be worth calling employees in for individual meetings and just asking them straight.

If someone is causing trouble then people will be glad to get it off their chest!

See our previous blog: Dealing with staff that cause you problems: 10 Top Tips to learn how to deal with truly troublesome staff.

12. Ask for Feedback.

Have you asked your employees how they feel lately?

Most managers completely forget or purposely avoid asking  their employees for their feedback (especially when they’re feeling a little guilty about staff neglect).

But asking a simple question could be your strongest weapon against employee disengagement!

Don’t bury your head in the sand!

It’s much better to know what’s going on in your team’s mind, than cluelessly fumbling forward.

Have you ever considered a staff survey to find out exactly what your employees think?

13. Dare to Care.

You probably shouldn’t be best buddies with the staff you’re managing, (it’d be much harder to discipline a friend if it ever came to it) but who said bosses should be emotionless robots?

Often, managers are all too quick to be ‘professional,’ forgetting that their employees are human beings too!

It takes just five minutes to enquire about a person’s weekend, family or a special event they attended, yet it can perk up someone’s mood for the entire day.

Of course, it’ll also show that you value them, increasing their loyalty and engagement with the company.

14. Be Honest.

Great managers will keep employees in the loop; sharing the good, the bad and the ugly (within reason, of course – some things are legally best left unsaid).

If change is afoot, be open, let your employees know what’s going on.

Chances are, they’ll know something’s up anyway; you’re not fooling anyone with your umpteen meetings, bad mood and general air of secrecy.

Keeping secrets tends to leave staff feeling nervous, unsure and unloved.

15. Stick to Your Values.

“If an employee sees the stated values of an organisation being lived by the leadership and colleagues, a sense of trust in the organisation is more likely to be developed, and this constitutes a powerful enabler of engagement.” Engaging for Success: David MacLeod and Nita Clarke

If a company advertises a certain set of principles, then they should be readily exhibited in the every day culture of the company, management and employees.

If you state that you’re an environmentally friendly company – then you must offer your staff members environmentally friendly options (recycling bins, environmentally-friendly equipment etc.)


If you want to improve your team’s efficiency, productivity and output without spending an absolute fortune on over-exaggerated showmanship, then all you really need to do is think like a leader! 

  1. Keep your people happy and engaged.
  2. Build trust within the team.
  3. Never ignore a problem in the ranks.
  4. Stick to your values.
  5. Dare to care.

You’ll notice that the strategies we’ve outlined above are just really easy, really small changes in attitude and behaviour.

But they’ll make a huge difference…you’ll soon notice the increase in engagement and a brightening of mood.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

If you really don’t have to time to consider all of the above, then delegate!

Is there someone on your team that you could nominate as the “team engagement specialist?”

Said employee will come to you with any problems, engagement ideas and questions from the team, limiting some of the work you’ll have to do.

(You will have to do your own reviews though I’m afraid!)

Good luck making your employees happy!

PS.  To discover more recruitment insider secrets, click here and we’ll pop over an email to you each week (some light-reading to take those terrible Tuesday blues away!)

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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