Employee Engagement Leadership

CEOs you play a crucial role in engaging your employees. Here’s how

engaging your employees

CEOs and employee engagement go together like avo and toast. A Millennial told me that. 

CEOs play a critical role in engaging their employees. As a result, they hold the power to increase productivity by optimising their workforce. 

As a busy executive, you’re most likely fatigued by the phrase that workplaces are changing. Add to this the rhetoric of Millennials, Gen Zs and AI and things start getting overwhelming. After all, you just want to retain your top talent and grow your business, right?

We couldn’t agree with you more. In order to achieve those stellar results, you need to improve your employee engagement. You may be thinking this is a role that management should be tasked with? You’d be right. Connecting with your employees to ensure they own the vision of the business does requires a real connection from the top brass. That’s you.

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Let’s look at this through the lens of a survey conducted by Twitter: 

Employees at the company were given two separate surveys asking about factors that were most influential in their job satisfaction. According to findings of this survey, the CEO was cited as the top driver of employee engagement at the company. In an article, penned by Gallup, Who drives employee engagement, manager or CEO?, readers were prompted to consider the extent of responsibility CEOs carried within their organisations when it came to employee engagement. 

Gallup states that as much as 70% of the variance in engaging employees stems directly from a manager’s behaviour.

This doesn’t mean that managers are the sole determinant of employee engagement levels. Employees are also responsible for their own engagement. They need to bring their whole selves to work every day and use their expertise to fulfil the organisation’s vision. 

Employee engagement is generally defined as the perceptions of employees about an organisation. Gallup’s definition of employee engagement also includes clarifying the expectations of employees. It also listed frequent learning opportunities and surveys that enable employees’ voices to be heard.

Within this context employees are more than likely to strongly associate these expectations with the leader of the organisation. Employees see the CEO and the organisation as one and the same. So, it does present a unique opportunity for CEOs to boost employee engagement by ensuring that these expectations are being driven by themselves and the managers to ensure it filters down into the various teams. 

Good leaders are visible on the front lines. In a Gallup study of 190 organisations it was found that executives had significant influence on employee engagement. From the study it showed that CEOs had the most prominent influence over indirect engagement. This was particularly through the influence they have on the managers who report to them. This is one of the reasons that managers must buy into the organisation’s need for engagement. 

By now you’re probably thinking that it’s just simply impossible to engage with every employee within your organisation. Yes, it’s physically impossible to engage with every employee within your organisation. No, you can’t indirectly engage with every employee through your management teams. 

When managers understand the importance of employee engagement to the organisation, the employee experience shifts positively. It’s important for CEOs to stress to managers the importance of clarifying objectives for employees to give them a clear purpose. This is how you can engage with every employee. 

Remember, people leave managers not companies, so it’s imperative that managers are equipped to engage and recognise their teams. In a study Gallup also found that when executive teams are engaged, managers are 39 percent more likely to be engaged. As a result, employees who report to these managers are also 59% more likely to be engaged. This substantiates that CEOs can indirectly impact employee engagement. These findings also further make the case that employee engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and shouldn’t be seen as an isolated activity. It is a strategic objective that disseminates from the CEO and is executed by managers to ensure that day-to-day engagement occurs. 

If you’re also desirous of implementing a more practical approach, Marcel Schwantes, in his article 6 Things Good CEOs Always Do To Connect With Employees cites a few things organisations could undertake to directly impact engagement levels. These include:


  1. Informative lunch and learn sessions
  2. All-hands-on-deck employee forums 
  3. Daily executive rounding
  4. Authentic open-door policy
  5. Employee council 
  6. Shared notes relating to executive meetings 

Deloitte reported that retention and employee engagement is the second biggest challenge (after leadership) that businesses face. Studies have shown that when employees are confident in their leaders, they’re more likely to be engaged and committed to the organisation’s vision.

According to Gallup however, a meagre 13 percent of employers strongly agree that the leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organisation. The time for leading silently from behind the glass doors is over. CEOs must get out in front and show that the organisation is a connected entity brimming with human potential and a passion to drive its people forward. If you want to drive productivity, employee engagement is critical to achieving this. 

Engaged employees are vital to your business. You can start your journey through the process of employee recognition. Simply download our eBook to get you started today 👇

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