Keep Your Employees Engaged...Before It's Too Late

This article appeared in the February 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Although many don’t realize it, one of the most valuable assets a company can have is its personnel. The staff can make or break a business based on their level of commitment, motivation and interest in their work. While engaging employees already is a complicated skill to master, incoming generations of workers are bringing with them new expectations and desires for the workplace, making it even more difficult to keep all employees engaged.

In fact, the number of employees looking to leave their current job is higher among millennials, with 48 percent saying they will likely look for a new job in the next three months and 56 percent in the next 12 months.i

Did I mention that the millennial workforce (those born between 1977 and 1995) makes up the largest portion of workers in America?

Worried yet?

Are you aware that 68 percent of American workers are disengagedii, costing organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually?iii

How about now?

It is clear that the importance of keeping employees engaged has reached critical heights. If companies hope to maintain and grow their businesses into the future, the key is to ensure employees are engaged.

Although the majority of leaders agree that improving workforce engagement would improve their organization, only 25 percent have an engagement strategy.iv Do you?

First, let’s define engagement. Workforce engagement can be interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. It is a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. Engagement is something the employee has to offer the employer. It cannot be taught or required, but rather must be inspired.

Engagement is not just about keeping employees happy. To be frank, many employees have no problem with sleepwalking through the workday, putting only time — but no passion or interest — into their work. They embody what Jack Welch, author and previous CEO of General Electric, said many years ago, essentially stating, “Never mistake activity for accomplishment.”

The goal with engagement is to go beyond task completion, inspiring employees to feel passionate about their work and motivated to perform their best. This requires creating an environment that prioritizes communication, promotes empowerment and offers opportunity for growth. Our surveys conducted among manufacturers consistently tell us that employees are looking for respect, accountability, trust, opportunity, communication and transparency within the workplace. They want to be cared for and listened to. They want management to believe in them, then they will be encouraged to help the company succeed.

This engagement “strategy” starts with leadership. They must support engagement, and not just by saying they do. They must play an active role and provide the resources and budget to make it happen. This is one of the most important investments a company can make in their business, as it will benefit the organization down the line when employees reach higher levels of engagement, efficiency and productivity than ever before.

Heed this warning: You must set your company apart and promote employee engagement or else the competition could steal your most valuable employees. This is especially critical with the talent shortage now facing the industry, making it increasingly difficult to find skilled workers to fill positions. Now is the time to show your employees they are valued and give them the leadership they deserve, before they decide to look for it elsewhere.

  1. “Study: 41% of employees will only accept jobs offering flexible work schedules” HR Dive. 9/6/18.
  2. “Employee Engagement in U.S. Stagnant in 2015” Gallup. 1/13/16.
  3. “Empowered to be Engaged: New Report Unpacks the Role of Rank-and-File Workers in Bolstering Employee Engagement” PR Newswire. 3/2/17.
  4. “Engaged Employees Are Good For Your Bottom Line!” Emplicity. 12/6/17.

About the Author

Michael BeelsMichael Beels is Lean Program Manager with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). He may be reached at 888-414-6682 or