What’s the Environment Like?

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, I looked at trying to define what Employee Engagement is, and why you might want to have it. This part begins to explore how to get it.

We have already discussed that ‘Employee Engagement is a choice that people make, when the environment they work in makes them feel like it’. We also posited that the question was “What do leaders need to do, to create that environment?”. But the first question is “What does that Environment look like?”

Like most things relating to Employee Engagement, there are many sources of information about this. There are complicated models of structures and processes which aim to explain it. However, in my experience, whilst there are a lot of things that can make a difference, there are only a specific few key ones which do. These are:


People need to understand things. They need to know what is expected of them and how well they are performing against this; they need to know where the organisation is going, and the part they play in getting it there; they need to know what other parts of the organisation are doing and why objectives may conflict; they need to know where they are going next. One of the things that Daniel Pink discusses is that people need a purpose. Leaders need to align individuals to their purpose within the company, and have them be genuinely clear on what it is. If you want to hear Daniel Pink discussing this, there is an excellent example here.

Feeling Valued

People need to feel (not be told) that they are valued by their manager and the organisation. They need to know that what they do contributes. This involves some of the information from before, (they understand how their purpose or their goals fit with the overall goals of the company), but it’s so much more than that. It can be as basic as feeling that their manager is interested in them and what they have to say; when they do a good job it is acknowledged; when they do a bad job, it is called out; their opinions is asked for and considered (it doesn’t have to be implemented). Even saying ‘thank you’ to people is helping make them feel valued, but how many times does this not happen?


Obviously, you cannot give people the choice of whether they want to perform to minimum standards or not, but if you are going to engage people, they need to feel that much of what they do involves choice. This can be anything from how they perform a task that is delegated to them (your way may not be the only, or even the best way), or working with them to come up with their objectives for the coming period; it could involve giving them more authority and responsibility and trusting them to work out how to perform (with your support). What it is not, is telling them they can step up to the mark or leave – this is not a genuine choice.


This describes the balance between challenge and ability. For people to choose to become engaged, they must feel in Flow. This means that they must feel that what they are doing is challenging enough to match their abilities, without being too challenging. Sure we have all said to someone ‘I know you can do it’, but if they don’t feel that they can, the result is typically de-motivation and stress. Flow comes from people having the clarity of where it is they are trying to get to, understanding their purpose and how this contributes to the whole, and being supported in choosing the next steps. Flow is something that is a consistent outcome of non-directive coaching. If you would like to know more about Flow, read Flow: The Phsychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounce mee-hi cheek-sent-mee-hi).

As I said before, there are many things about the environment which affect how people feel at work. It is true that if they don’t have the right tools, or don’t feel they are paid enough, they will not engage. However, in my experience, if they have Clarity, Feeling Valued, Choice and Flow the other things are focussed on considerably less: they will engage with their work and add that discretionary effort that businesses need so much right now.

If you would like to find out how VR Growth can help you and your leaders create this environment, get in touch.

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In part 4 of this series, we will look at some of the things that Leaders need to do, to create this environment