Manager Focus: Keeping Employees Engaged and Productive - Southwest EAP

Manager Focus: Keeping Employees Engaged and Productive

According to Gallup’s new State of the American Workplace report, 33% of U.S. workers versus 70% of employees at the world’s top companies are actively engaged in their work. That’s a very staggering difference.

Each year, billions of dollars in productivity is lost because of disengaged workers, and employers incur enormous costs to replace talented people who become dissatisfied and leave. Employee engagement and employee satisfaction are important metrics for HR professionals, yet many struggle to answer some key questions:

  • What is the difference between engagement and satisfaction?
  • Is it better to have engaged employees or satisfied employees?
  • How can HR drive better performance across the organization by managing engagement and satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction measures tangible things such as how much workers like their perks and benefits. Employee engagement, on the other hand, is a little more fluid and is defined by how much your employees are connected to and invested in your company and its success. Both satisfaction and engagement are important, and they often blend into one another and should both be taken into account when assessing your workforce.

A common problem among many organizations, however, is that they put too much emphasis on measuring engagement, rather than on improving engagement. In other words, they fall into the survey trap and continually check the temperature of their teams, but never really do anything about it. This is often a worse situation than not measuring at all because the employees see what’s (not) happening.

So, what’s an employer to do? How do you encourage your employees to get and stay engaged? Depending on the type of company, you can take a few steps.


According to Gallup’s survey, more than half of employees (53%) say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance is “very important” to them when considering whether to take a new job. Similar numbers of employees (51%) say they would change jobs for one that offered them flextime, and 37% would do the same for a job that offered them the ability to work where they want at least part of the time.


It’s often said that people don’t leave companies when changing jobs, they leave managers. This statement is true in many cases. Successful companies with great retention numbers have managers that inspire their employees’ performance. They establish clear goals that are aligned with the organization’s, and they’re collaborative and accountable, and expect the same of their teams. Communication, and ensuring your employees understand what is expected of them at work, is key to engagement.


Only 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that when they are at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. Make sure the right person is matched with the right job. Of course, every employee will have certain tasks and responsibilities that aren’t necessarily what they do best, but a good manager will ensure that the person’s overall role and career opportunities make the most of their talents and strengths and help them excel (and stay engaged).

It bears repeating that only 33% of U.S. workers are engaged. Raising that number creates a stronger workforce that, in turn, creates stronger companies.

Southwest EAP has provided employee assistance programs and risk management solutions to companies since 1978. Our commitment to excellence is founded on the belief that active partnership with our client companies and delivering face-to-face services produces the best results. Visit us online at