Leadership

Why Aren’t Employees Engaged In The Workplace And How To Fix It

By Jule Fuller

A Simple Solution For Increasing Employee Engagement In The Workplace. 

Much has been written about employee engagement in the workplace, but no one is asking the all important question of why aren’t employees engaged? Could answering this simple question be the answer to solving the age-old problem of employee engagement?

Since Covid, employee engagement issues have been on the rise. Covid has forced people to question their lives and in doing so their work. Advances in technology are allowing greater opportunities for self-employment. This, in turn, allows people to create work that has meaning and purpose for them. People no longer feel bound to work for someone else.

Covid and technology have highlighted the problem of employee engagement, but it is not the cause of the problem. The purpose of this article is to firstly highlight the major reason why employees are not engaged in the workplace. Secondly, it offers a simple solution for addressing this age-old problem of how to increase employee engagement in the workplace.

What Is Employee Engagement?

According To The Society Of Human Resource Management , “The term employee engagement relates to the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to an organisation. Employee engagement has emerged as a critical driver of business success in today’s competitive marketplace. High levels of engagement promote retention of talent, foster customer loyalty and improve organisational performance and stakeholder value.”

The Importance Of Employee Engagement In The Workplace

Based on over 50 years of employee engagement research, the company Gallup research has revealed that “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees - across industry, company size and nationality, and in good economic times and bad.”

Additionally, Gallup reported  that “only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% in the U.S. fall into the “engaged” category.”

When Gallup  compared employee engagement levels, they found that top- and bottom-quartile business units and teams had the following differences in business outcomes*:

81% reduction in absenteeism

58% less patient safety incidents (mortality and falls)

18% reduction in turnover for high turnover organisations

28% less shrinkage (theft)

64% less safety incidents (accidents)

41% reduction in quality (defects)

18% increase in productivity (sales)

23% increase in profitability

These statistics highlight its importance that employee engagement has on organisational performance. However, the real concern here is that employee engagement issues are not new. Why does employee engagement in the workplace continue to be a problem?

Why Aren’t Employees Engaged In The Workplace?

To gain your own insights into this question, ask yourself. ‘What job/s engaged you the most?’ Common responses are, a job you were passionate about. A job that played to your strengths. A job that made you feel your work mattered. A job that had real meaning, purpose and value. A job where you made a difference.

According to Deloitte’s Talent 2020 Report  of 560 employees, its summary findings had one very clear message “engage employees with meaningful work or watch them walk out the door”.

The company Page Up found similar results. In their report, they discuss how “HR consulting company Penna conducted research into the role meaning plays in employee engagement. They found that employers who can unlock the secret of what provides meaning at work will find the key to employee engagement. Regardless of age, sex, region or length of time with their employer, 55% of respondents said that their motivation levels would increase if they were doing meaningful work. An additional 42% said they would be more loyal to their employer. Over one third said they would take more pride in their work and be willing to put in extra hours to ensure the job was done.

“In short, says Penna CEO Gary Browning, someone who has found a true sense of meaning at work, is far less likely to leave than one who is simply paid a lot. Put simply, organisations need to provide more than just a job.”

According to Gallup research, “people want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what they’re good at. Their research found that the key drivers for employee engagement were purpose, development, a caring manager, ongoing conversations and a focus on strengths. People want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what makes them unique. This is what drives employee engagement.”

Who’s Responsibility Is Employee Engagement In The Workplace?

Whilst employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility, the major influencer is the leader. They are the ones who have the most direct control over creating environments where people feel they are doing their best work.

According to Gallup’s research, “the greatest cause of failure in employee engagement program’s is: Employee engagement is widely considered “an HR thing. It is not owned by leaders, expected of managers, nor understood by front-line employees. Employees want relationships, particularly with a manager who can coach them to the next level. This is who drives employee engagement.”

Gallup’s research  also revealed. “The manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement”.

According to Deloitte’s Talent 2020 Report. “When it comes to retention, employees are telling us that leadership matters: A workforce is far more engaged and committed when it trusts its leadership, receives clear communications about corporate strategy, and believes its leaders have the ability to execute on that strategy. In other words, employee retention is not simply an HR function; it should be driven by business leaders.”

All the research clearly confirms the following three facts. Firstly, employee engagement in the workplace is a major problem. Secondly, there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and organisational performance. Thirdly, that leadership plays a pivotal role in influencing employee engagement.

Why Aren’t Leaders Fostering Employee Engagement In The Workplace?

Before looking to a solution to the age-old problem of employee engagement in the workplace. It is important to understand why leaders and organisations continue to create workplace environments which do not foster employee engagement.

An insight into this can be found in Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last. In his book, Sinek outlines four major hormones which, when triggered, influence the way we respond to people and situations. The hormones include:

Endorphin: The hormone that masks pain;

Dopamine: The hormone that helps us accomplish things;

Serotonin: The leadership hormone;

Oxytocin: The love hormone;

Simon calls the first two (endorphin and dopamine) selfish hormones and the last two (serotonin and oxytocin) of altruistic hormones. Selfish hormones help us accomplish things, and altruistic hormones help us relate and better collaborate with others.

The endorphin and dopamine hormones bring progress and help us accomplish things. Often, the need for personal accomplishment comes at the expense of others. That is why they are known as the selfish hormones.

Dopamine can be linked to high performance in the workplace, rewarding you when you achieve more. If you are a leader who constantly strives for personal success to prove your worth, you may be addicted to dopamine. This addiction usually comes at the expense of your employees' interests.

Serotonin and oxytocin are the chemicals that help us feel confident and are part of a group. They help the group work synergistically and empathically. That is why they are known as the altruistic hormones they help us relate and better collaborate with others. To put these hormones to work, you need to be invested in the needs, interests and advancement of others.

It is not surprising that many leaders are driven to succeed, and their brains reward them for doing so. They are literally addicted to personal success because of the craving for dopamine hits. The question is how do leaders balance personal success with their employees' success?

How To Increase Employee Engagement In The Workplace?

Is there a simple way to increase employee engagement? 14 point plans and more employee engagement surveys will not solve the problem. Only changing leadership behaviours can resolve the issue. We need a new leadership mindset, one that engages both the selfish and altruistic hormones. One that allows leaders to create environments where employees are highly motivated to perform well.

Gone are the days when people turn up to work for a pay-check. Society is evolving along Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People want work environments that move beyond the needs of physiology, safety, love and belonging, esteem. People are looking to fulfil their full potential as a person (self-actualisation) The research presented in this article confirms this. 

If leaders support their employees to fulfil their potential, not only are they going to be more invested and motivated, but productivity, sales and profits are going to reach an all-time high. Think about the results that can be attained when everyone is operating at their peak potential.

You only have to look at the new crop of millennials who are hitting the job market. They are not content to just turn up. They want to make a difference and tend to be more altruistic in their approach to people and society. The old style of leadership will not work with millennials. Sooner or later, leaders are going to be forced to change.  

So what is the simplest way for leaders to help people fulfil their potential? It’s about shifting the focus from getting things done to one of being growth minded in all decisions and actions. A growth minded mindset is both selfish and altruistic at the same time. It allows for a leader's success as well as their people. It doesn’t look to singularity. It embraces the whole. It considers the organisations' growth, leaders' growth, employee growth and customers' growth. A growth-minded mindset makes every decision a simple one. Does what we are about to do grow the organisation, its people and its customers?

Such a simple question allows leaders to rethink success. Everything is rethought in terms of growth. All actions and decisions are based on allowing the organisation, people and customers fulfilling their potential. By asking this one simple question, better decisions are made that lead directly to greater sales and profits.

Take, for example, systems design and implementation. What would happen if leaders asked before design? ‘Will this system grow the organisation, its people and its customers?’ How much money, time and problems would that one question save?

How many decisions are made that are at cross purposes with its employees, customers and organisational performance? A growth based mindset ensures unity across all parts of the organisation.

Next Steps

As a leader, you can start the journey to a leadership style that is both selfish and altruistic. One that ensures everyone’s needs are satisfied. You can start your journey today with this one simple question. ‘How, as a leader, can I grow my people? What actions can I take now that would allow my people to fulfil their potential?’ Keep it simple. What are small, simple actions you can take to help your people grow? Even just starting a conversation with your people. ‘What can I do to help you build on your strengths and help you fulfil your potential?” 

Helping them does not have to involve expensive training programs. It is about bringing out the best in them. Helping them express what they are naturally good at. Giving them greater opportunities to express their natural talents and succeed. If you are brave enough maybe even asking “As a leader have I been bringing out the best or the worst in you? Remember it is all about growing your people to realise their unique potential. Not the standard cookie cutter approach to leadership. ‘I need this completed by….’ By giving people tasks that play to their strengths not only do you improve employee engagement, you instantly increase performance and productivity. 

Then, as you start to grow your people move onto the next question. ‘Are the decisions and actions I am taking growing me, my team, organisation and our customers?

There has never been a better time to begin your journey to becoming a more successful and effective leader. A leader that makes real difference in the world. You have the power to create high levels of employee engagement in the workplace. Are you ready to use your power and influence to advance people and the world?

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Jule Fuller


Jule Fuller has over 30 years of experience in education and training assisting people to realise their true potential . She has held senior management positions of National Learning and Development Manager for Sales with Westpac Bank; Head of Learning and Development for Merrill Lynch Australia; Head of Labour Market Programs Unit at Blacktown TAFE as well as her own training consultancy business.


In 2020 Jule developed a new ground breaking assessment tool called the Authentic Self Profile. In 2022 Jule created a new revolutionary leadership model called Growth Minded Leadership. 


Growth Minded Leadership empowers leaders, employees and  organisations to maximise their performance and potential. It synergises the concepts of self actualisation, neuroscience, talents profiling and teamwork to allow organisations and its people to succeed and achieve exponential growth. 

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