Understanding your employees isn’t just something HR should be good at. It’s something you, as a leader, need to be good at. Successful leadership is as much about being able to direct the people you’re responsible for, as it is about you being able to direct the company you’re spearheading. Yet, a 2013 Gallup report titled “State of the Global Worker Report” offers a startling reality check revealing a staggering 52% of workers feeling disengaged, a sentiment labeled by the report as including a “lost passion and energy [the workers] once showed toward your organization.” Disengaged workers rarely shift back to a statement of engagement. Rather, most (presently 18% of them currently there) regress into a state of being actively disengaged, which is a state were they have stopped producing high quality work. In fact, the plight of the worker affects a sweeping spectrum of employee types, including those with a college degree (72%), a postgraduate degree (70%), Millenials (67%), Generation X (72%), Baby Boomers (73%), and even the Traditionalist generation that expected workplace monotony (59%). The lack of identifiable gaps shows us one thing: that despite education and generational differences, the modern workforce has an expectation of the value it contributes and reaps from its place of employment.

The 12 Indicators of Engaged Employees

The Gallup report offered a 12 step true of false checklist to determine employee satisfaction, noting that the first two questions address basic needs while the remaining questions gauge (1) how employees contribute or feel they’ve valued, (2) whether employees feel they fit into an organization’s framework, and (3) any development opportunities afforded. The questions include checking true or false for each of the following:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • In the past year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

In reviewing the questions, immediate red flags include questions that question progress, growth and development. In a workplace that relies dominantly on yearly reviews with minimal monetary reward, with long to endless stretches in-between where mentorship and growth opportunities seem as likely as refuge in a barren landscape, it’s no surprise the modern workplace spanning four generations seems disillusioned and disengaged.

As you’ll surmise from the questions, engagement ties in with the value employees feel they reap from a workplace – and the indicators show that they’re more often than not subjective (mostly qualitative) markers. And since the best way to deal with a workplace pandemic is preemptively, I offer a bottom-up six step guide to mapping the mind of your employees – starting with recruitment.

Step 1: Recruitment

Team leaders vs. HR: which is the best to recruit or a job? I’d argue, hands down, it’s team leaders. The former recognize the grit needed excel at a job while the latter only really understand the checklist passed onto them. This is why attracting the best recruits starts with a search net cast by an internal departmental leader. One of the more popular routes for this methodology includes subscribing to social media platforms potential employees follow. A conversation between a team leader and a recruit will also be a better predictor for team success based on behavioral assessments: is there a meeting of the minds and do the personalities compliment each other? In a direct conversation for example, you might discover that a recruit is a great match for your corporate culture but maybe lacks the experience HR would be looking for on paper.

There are also differing skill personalities, and deciding which recruit best matches your needs might depend on the direction your company is looking to head in. Inc. had a great article on identifying the four key types of people, arguing that “there are only four jobs in the world: thinker, builder, improver, [and] producer.” Which you decide to bring on would depend on “where the company is positioned in the classic corporate life cycle.” Pulling the abstract into a real life example, take for instance, a top ranking global think tank that pushes out brilliant ideas. The institute may want to bring on board someone less credentialed but who still understands the field and excels in social and new media – simply because recruiters recognize how much the institute might be lacking in those platforms.