Employee Engagement: Do You Have Cheerleaders, Vampires or Seat Warmers?

by Marcia Zidle, Featured Contributor

IN THE STATE of the American Workplace, Gallup’s recent research on employee engagement indicates that 16% of the workers are actively disengaged. This means that on average, 16% of the people in your company aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting Engagementout their unhappiness. Those are your Vampires.

Another 55% are not engaged. In other words, they are checked out, putting in time but not energy or passion their work. They are your Seat Warmers. Finally, 29% are really into what they are doing. They drive innovation and move the company forward. They are your Cheerleaders.

Gallup research suggested one major factor that makes all the difference in employee engagement. They found that supervisors play a crucial role in worker well-being and engagement. I’m sure you’ve heard the common saying, “People join companies but they leave managers.” Unfortunately it’s a reality in many companies.

In a recent webinar for Train HR, I presented 10 Smart Engagement Strategies for managers to boost employee engagement. Here are the top five:

1. Walk around! 
Though an old practice that dates back decades, the idea of managing by walking around has several timeless benefits. You’ll know more about your operations and your people. You’ll see firsthand what’s working and what isn’t. And you’ll very quickly find out the level of engagement of your workers.

2. Provide flexibility.
No two people are the same or work in exactly the same way. Engagement can suffer if people are required to follow a specific way of working which may not be optimum for them. Determine what tasks you can adapt that will help employees get their job done in new and proven ways.

3. View employees as an asset.
Treat your team members as an investment instead of a commodity or merely a production source. Like any asset, your employees will grow as you add more resources to support them. When you create a nurturing workplace that fosters meaning and mastery, your team will pay you back tenfold with their engagement and productivity.

4. Manage, but don’t micromanage.
Most employees don’t like their managers breathing down their neck. Distinguish the difference between checking in and checking up on your employees. Also, when managing, don’t dictate every detail of how to complete a project. Remember, employees can’t grow and gain new skills if you’re telling them exactly what to do for every assignment. They need a sense of autonomy to feel that they’re succeeding.

5. Give people honest feedback. 
It’s a human phenomenon: When someone is doing really well and you reinforce it with positive feedback, good performance becomes even better. People need to be seen and recognized — and not just once a year in a typically brief performance review. They need to hear what you think of their work often, with candor. When people aren’t meeting expectations, let them know that, too, so that they have a chance to improve. Don’t let your disappointments build and fester. If you talk to people regularly there’ll be no surprises.

Smart Moves Tip

The critical talent management issue businesses face today is how to keep engagement high and retain those key employees who are right now thinking about seeking greener pastures as the economy and job market improves. Some may think employee engagement is primarily a human resource concern. Yet Gallup’s research has found that managers are the ones primarily responsible for their employees’ engagement levels.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. Hello Marcia,

    Given the data below we should not be surprised by the engagement figures from Gallup.

    80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
    The two 80 percents are closely related.

    Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employee lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent 

    Employers do a… 

    A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees. 

    B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture. 

    C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job. 

    Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Talent

    There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
    1. How do we define talent?
    2. How do we measure talent?
    3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

    Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

    Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.

    Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few engaged employees.