What’s better than employee engagement?

While many organizations proclaim that people are their most important asset, a good many fail to act as though they really believe it. But that doesn’t make it any less true that talented and engaged employees can provide the most sustainable source of differentiation; a competitive advantage that competitors simply cannot replicate. Tapping into the energy of engaged employees has become all the more important in a climate where organizations are straining to do more with less.

But, here lies the catch. Many companies enjoy high levels of engagement, yet still struggle in terms of performance. High employee engagement alone does not guarantee an organization’s effectiveness. From a motivational perspective, leaders have these employees right where they want them – but when it comes to allowing them to be as productive as they can be, they are missing out. The truth is, engaged employees need to have the confidence that the organization is doing all it can to promote their success, rather than having to worry about obstacles in the form of non-essential tasks or procedural red tape.

What employees need is enablement– systems that support them in achieving their goals. An ‘enabled’ work environment essentially points to two do’s. The first, ‘optimized roles’, is to ensure employees are aligned to their job roles such that their skills and abilities are being put to good use. The second relates to a ‘supportive environment’, where work arrangements are structured in a way to facilitate, rather than hinder, individual productivity. For true enablement, employees must have all essential resources at hand that are required to get a job done – information, technology, tools and equipment, and financial resources.

How can your organization listen for signs of a gap in employee effectiveness? Here’s my take on it:

  1. Managers must combine engagement (the use of motivational tools), with enablement (the act of providing employees with effective resources)
  2. Managers must listen carefully to their teams for common frustration themes, and address them by prioritizing goals, advocating for resources and minimizing workflow disruptions
  3. Employees are likely to feel better about staying late or coming in early if they are working on tasks with a clear purpose and are given the authority necessary to make decisions
  4. Instead of waiting for the annual review to discuss performance, managers should create a culture of dialogue about goals, priorities and challenges throughout the year
  5. Organizations must provide adequate training, support, and discretion to grow—and not hold employees back with excessive procedures, decision processes, lack of resources and overly narrow roles
  6. Interdepartmental communication must be strengthened
  7. Managers need to identify where individual goals are competing with shared goals and must work to eliminate, or at least minimize these obstacles

Effectiveness, when implied as a result of both ‘engagement’ and ‘enablement’, has proven to impact the bottom line.  Our research with hundreds of companies shows that organizations in the top quartile on engagement, exhibit revenue growth 2.5 times more than those in the bottom quartile; but those in the top quartile on both engagement and enablement achieve revenue growth 4.5 times greater!

Employee Performance Employee


Customer Satisfaction Financial Success
Increase in employees’ above performance expectations Reduction in turnover rates Customer satisfaction rates Revenue growth
High Employee Engagement 10% 40% 71% x 2.5
High Engagement + Enablement 50% 54% 89% x 4.5

Companies with high engagement levels also demonstrate 40 per cent lower turnover rates than those with low engagement; but those that both engage and enable employees display a 54 per cent reduction in voluntary turnover rates.

Clearly, this shows just how central employee engagement can be to an organization’s success – but only when combined with appropriate levels of employee enablement.