According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report, 21% of employees are engaged. The report defines engaged employees as highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. It goes in-depth about why engagement is low, impacting productivity and profitability. I come away with one main reason why engagement is low: company culture. More specifically, management practices.
Many employers have practices that do not focus on the employee. Some like to exercise too much control over employees, and others are more focused on processes rather than people. I also think life outside work blends with the one at work. Expecting employees to “leave their problems at the door” is no longer realistic. These approaches define your company’s culture more than any written values or mission statement found on the walls.
We need more employee-centric practices focused on the needs and wants of the employees. This is what culture is all about. Your culture is defined by your practices and how you operate helps, or not, to improve engagement.
To help you get started, I prescribe the following five employee-centric practices you must put in place to improve engagement.
1. Be committed Stop with the lip service! Improving workforce engagement requires desire and commitment from those at the organization’s top. If you don’t believe better engagement is needed, or believe this is just another management fad (really?), then this lack of belief will lead to a lack of commitment. Employees will see right through it. Executives must dedicate time to their agendas to discuss employee issues and, in many instances, must commit to investing dollars. 

“Managers must never forget that life happens; employees have a life outside of work that affects them in the workplace”    

2. Listen to employees. Then Take Action Begin to listen to employees. You can conduct roundtables, execute a short employee survey, or institute an employee advisory board. Ensure to complete these frequently; don’t do it once a year as it is not frequent enough; quarterly should be a good start for any of these activities.

You must be willing to do more listening than talking. Often, those in charge are good at talking and dismissing a lot more than listening and solving.

Regardless of the activity, here are some of the most important areas to review with your employees:
•  Tools & resources: do they have the tools and materials they need? Are the processes pain-free?
•  Work expectations: do they know what they are being asked to do? 
•  Care for employees: does their supervisor treat them respectfully and listen to their opinions
•  Recognition: are they being recognized regularly?
•  Team: do they feel the team is supportive? Does the team work together?
•  Development: are they getting the needed training to perform what is expected?
Once you identify areas to improve, take steps to do so. Communicate along the way. Even if you will not take action, explain why. The idea is to show you have listened and are working towards improvements.
3. Manager Training. Life Happens! Start small. You can begin with a program focused on emotional intelligence (empathy). The goal is to move away from a command-and-control approach to one focused on becoming “removers of obstacles.” Managers must never forget that life happens; employees have a life outside of work that affects them in the workplace. Many large employers are now implementing well-being initiatives focused on the employees’ personal life. You may start reading or hearing the term “thriving” to describe this well-being focus. Thriving is looking at an employee’s personal life and how they feel about it (i.e., basic needs such as food or a place to live, money, and health, including mental health). The outside world affects employees and how they feel at work. Managers can no longer ignore this and must be more empathetic, allowing for some flexibility in the workplace 
4. Discuss performance openly and regularly   (ongoing)   No, it is not about implementing a rating scale! It is about regularly   talking to your employees, especially supervisors with direct   reports. Require all managers to have one-on-one meetings weekly.   Frequency is more important than quality, so don’t strive for   perfection. If you believe a weekly meeting is too much, reduce the   number of direct reports you have, or perhaps you should consider   not being a leader of others.   Focus on 2-way communication. Ensure these   conversations involve questions about what the employees’   needs, the obstacles in front of them, what they like to achieve,   and the progress of goals. Ask: “what do you need from me   and what obstacles can I help with?” Then, work to remove   the barriers.
Also, discuss the employee’s strengths or interests and how these   can be used in the workplace. Employees who feel their strengths   and capabilities are being used will make them feel valued, helping   to improve their engagement.
Document the discussions with a focus on transparency and   alignment, not with a focus on “documenting issues.” Give the   document to the employee, ask them for feedback, and correct it as   needed.  Then repeat the above throughout the year. 
5. Implement a basic training program.   Start with a training program that focuses on the actual work   employees do. Employees must know what is expected and how   to deliver on those expectations to feel engaged. Develop a   training guide, even if it is paper-based (although more advanced   mechanisms exist) for new and existing employees. Start with   one position at a time if you don’t have the resources to address   this on a larger scale.
Consider implementing a train the trainer program that teaches   those who will be trainers how to go about it. Training others   requires the understanding that it is about the other person, and some   techniques help improve the delivery of training. Do know that not   every good employee makes for an excellent trainer. Therefore, your   superstar employee may not be the best choice.
The above actions are general and may have to be adjusted based   on organization size, resources, growth stage, etc. I also recognize   there are other vital areas to address when it comes to engagement,   such as selection, onboarding, growth & development, benefits &   wages, recognition, social and political involvement, and simplifying   systems and processes. All of these need to be considered and   reviewed with an employee focused at hand. We must recognize that   a move toward more employee-centric practices is necessary. The   data is clear, and the change is happening. Moving toward employeecentric   practices is essential to improve engagement, remain   competitive and improve profits.