Only Consistent CEO Communication Can Drive Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the new buzzword – remember reengineering and rightsizing?

Companies claim that employees are their most important assets – and they are. But what a disconnect between words and actions.  For example, many companies are allowing their employees to choose flexible work arrangements.  This can be particular advantage to young families raising children.  But does it really work in practice?

According to a recent Catalyst report, Work-Life: Prevalence, Utilization, and Benefits, “91% of women and 94% of men agreed that they could be flexible with their schedules when they had a family emergency or personal matter, but only 15% of women and 20% of men agreed that they could use a flexible work arrangement without jeopardizing their career advancement.”  This is not encouraging employee engagement.

And what does it say to employees when there is a layoff and guards usher the “rightsized” employees out the door after they get the axe without even being allowed to pick up their personal belongings?   Bet most employees are not engaged trying to do their best job for the company.  After seeing mistreatment of other employees, those remaining are most likely engaged in looking for another job.

I’ve long contended that the CEO is the Chief Communications Officer of her company.  The CEO is the driver of employee engagement – that is, motivating employees to do their best work for the company they believe cares about them. The CEO must be communicating directly to employees with the good and the bad and how they can help themselves and the company to be better.

There are excellent examples of CEOs who are leading the engagement process, but not enough of them.  In previous posts, I’ve referenced Tony Hsieh, CEO of, who is famous for the wacky and wonderful culture he’s instilled there with employee engagement that’s over the top.  He is in constant communication with employees and with their customers.  Go to You Tube to see many videos of a happy and engaged Zappos work force.

The Issue: Maintaining Employee Engagement

For MGM Grand’s COO Gamal Aziz the challenge is maintaining the company’s remarkable employee engagement during tough times for the hotel and for Las Vegas.  In a Business Week article and accompanying video, Mr. Aziz discusses how critical it is to continue to engage employees during a very difficult environment for this Las Vegas hotel and casino.  He’s communicated with employees about the company’s problems in weathering the recession with fewer guests spending less money.

As a result, “employees are willing to give their all,” he says.  For him, it’s about employees “having a voice” in the success of the company.  Even though things are tough, he has committed to “not move away from commitment to employees.”

So what does it take for employees to feel engaged?  Based on in-depth research involving millions of employees over the years, The Gallup polling organization has developed and identified 12 core elements of employee engagement that predict performance.  Here they are.

The 12 Elements of Engagement

I know what is expected of me at work.

I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

My supervisors, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

There is someone at work who encourages my development.

At work, my opinions seem to count.

The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.

My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

I have a best friend at work.

In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

© Gallup, Inc.

There are no doubt other drivers of employee engagement.  I’d be interested in hearing from you with stories about what makes employees want to work their hearts out for their companies.

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  1. Great post, as always Jeannette. I find it interesting that one of the 12 “Elements of Engagement” is having a best friend at work. I can certainly understand how that’s important, but it must also be equally difficult when an employee loses their “best friend” to a layoff. Are companies going to need to consider the buddy system when deciding who to let go?