70% Of Your Team Doesn’t Put Energy Or Passion Into Their Work. Use These 7 Strategies As A Fix.

The year is 2020. Full of political debate, a global pandemic, economic crisis, record breaking unemployment and amongst the folks still employed, Gallup reported a historic 20-year drop in employee engagement metrics.

54% of employees reported through Gallup’s employee surveys that they are not engaged. These employees are not actively disengaged, but instead they are in the middle or neutral and may be some of your better performing team members. “they are psychologically unattached to their work and company. These employees put time, but not energy or passion, into their work. Not engaged employees typically show up to work and contribute the minimum effort required. They’re also on the lookout for better employment opportunities and will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.”

31% of your team are engaged in their work. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.

In today’s post I will share seven strategies to connect with the members of your team that are not engaged and help them to be enthusiastic and committed to their work. You will also learn how to maintain your top team member’s engagement levels. 

How personalized cards mailed to employee’s homes can bring a smile to their faces. Why you should be in the position to notice when something is being done well and be ready and waiting with a high five or a thumbs up. And how to partner with your vendors to reach the true heart of your team… Their stomachs. 

We won’t cover the 15% of your employees that are actively disengaged. You need to handle them separately and this will be the subject of a different post all together. However, if you follow Jack Welch the former CEO of GE’s strategy you are just letting these folks go each year and making room for new engaged team members. You’d be surprised how much happier the other 85% will be when you just get rid of the dead weight.

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”

Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President at Apple
Yes, I got an air hockey table for the break room… And yes, we broke the plasma TV on the wall with the puck.

Personalized thank you cards mailed to employee’s home

Besides Christmas when was the last time you actually received a personal card in the mail? My guess is it does not happen very often. When I get a card in the mail it is quite exciting. I don’t always jump into song like Steve from Blue’s Clues, but it does make me very happy.

Your leadership team can select one employee from each department per month and send a personalized card hand-signed thanking them for their unique contributions in the prior month. Make sure that you write out what exactly you are thanking them for. 

My wife sends personal thank you cards to her team on their employee anniversary dates. This is a great way to set up your annual performance reviews in a positive light.

Sending cards to your employees will go a lot further than you can imagine. It is a small gesture that your team can execute at the end of a leadership meeting in five minutes. The employee will be grateful you spent the time and will share it with their family. 

Catch employees doing their jobs well

How often do you catch your employees in the moment doing their job well? It is easy to notice when a task isn’t being done the way you’d like. But you get a lot further by catching your employees in the moment when actually executing the behaviors you expect. Give them a smile, a high five, or a thumbs up and let them know that you see them and appreciate their efforts.

Did you hear them ask for the sale exactly as they were trained?

Instead of leaning on the counter between customers do they have a rag and are they wiping down baseboards and organizing shelves?

You must set yourself up to notice the good and in order to do that you must be present. Do your employees get uncomfortable when you are around and you can’t get a good gauge on how they are performing? You should take that as a signal that you need to spend more time around them! You may be spending too much time hidden away in your office or you have not worked to build a trusting relationship. You are probably viewed more as a boss than a leader. And you must fix this before you can improve your employee experience.

Who are the champions on your team?

What do you do when an employee crushes their goals and sending them a thank you card or giving them a high five doesn’t seem like quite enough?

You could try and set up a record board. Everyone remembers that their high school has records hanging in the gym and many folks goto their reunions and see if the records are still hanging. You can create a similar environment for your team and create a culture of pride that honors success and a job well done.

When making your record board make sure you cover all the departments in your company. Don’t leave behind the often neglected departments of customer service, IT, and warehousing/shipping.

Some record ideas:

  • Customer compliments in one month
  • Sales generated by a single employee
  • Customer service tickets closed
  • Number of orders picked and packed

When an employee beats a record retire the old record and hang up the new one! Your team members that are competitive (and many of them are) will be driven to be on the board. Make it a big deal when a record comes down and a new one goes up. Either hang them up in front of an all team meeting or grab a handful of employees and have them there as witness to the new records going up at the end of a month. 

My tacky, but effective employee record board!

Happy birthday!

Oftentimes we celebrate company milestones and major national holidays, but are you taking the time to celebrate your team member’s birthdays? 

Talk to your HR manager and have them print out a chart of all your employee’s birthdays. And just like with your annual reviews, do not be late to the party! 

Something you can easily put together is to buy a big package of brown paper lunch bags and have one of your creative teammates help you decorate them. Write the employee’s name on one side of the bag and their birth date on the opposite side. Put on your creative hat and draw fun symbols and pictures in different color markers and then goto the dollar store. Spend $20.00 on snacks, candy, little knick knacks, and other fun trinkets. Next, take your decorated bags and fill them up! 

Now it is time to present the birthday bag.

Make a huge deal out of passing out the bag by grabbing a few other team members and find the employee. Think of how embarrassed, but excited folks get when the servers at your local restaurant surprise a birthday boy or girl by bringing out a birthday cake while singing slightly off key. You can provide this same type of enjoyment for your team. Its okay if you catch them a couple days before their birthday. Because as a manager that prioritizes employee experience you probably gave them their actual birthday off, right?

You have great vendors, can they help you out?

Most businesses have a list of vendors that are itching to get involved and help to improve the experience for your employees. The problem is they don’t know how! They have budgets for external marketing and you have been trying to lower your expenses. This sounds like the perfect match to me! 

Ask them to provide pizza or subs during a more stressful than usual period at the office. Nothing helps to improve your employee’s experience more than surprise free food!

You can setup exclusive discounts for your employees with your vendors. When I worked at Best Buy we had the best partner discounts you could imagine. Over the years I received special discounts on tons of items I needed to buy anyway. Such as iPhones and phone plans from Verizon, computer glasses from Gunner, a fitness watch from Garmin, headphones from Bose, camera gear from Canon, a washer and dryer from Electrolux, and much much more.

These special partner deals all went far above and beyond the Best Buy employee discount. This not only made me and my co-workers happy, but it also turned us into evangelists for the brands. Customers always ask what phone, laptop, TV, and camera we use and are much more likely to buy the same brand.

You sell what you are comfortable with. When performing a demo you are going to grab the Canon you have at home before the Nikon right next to it. 

It is a smart partnership for Best Buy and the vendor for us to be more knowledgeable with the products we sell. How can you create a similar partnerships with the vendors you work with? Be creative, even if you sell office supplies I am positive you can collaborate and create a good partnership that helps reward your team.

Be flexible with employee’s schedules

Things come up. Your employees give you all but two or three weeks of the year. Don’t you think that you should be a bit flexible with their schedules? If they have to duck out of work a few hours early because their kid is sick don’t also make them feel guilty about it. 

If they have been working double time to get a project done within a tight deadline surprise them on Thursday by giving them Friday off and tell them to enjoy their unexpected 3-day weekend. They deserve it! If they call you and have to head out of town for a couple days because of a family emergency, don’t give them the fifth degree. Be supportive and let them know you are here for them. Don’t force them to find coverage for their shift on top of handling the unexpected stress in their life. Just take care of it for them. Your employees are way more likely to cover a shift if you call them anyway. 

Help them to take their vacations! I suggest having your HR partner print out your employee’s PTO balances. Many of your employees don’t use all their PTO time and it ends up going to waste. You need encourage them to take time off. You will get a much better employee that is much more focused and happy to be at work if they are prioritizing their personal time. Having employee’s PTO time not be used doesn’t do anyone any favors. 

I remember when I worked at a company where no one seemed to take any vacation time. I was sorely disappointed because I always make sure to take mine. I didn’t want to seem like an under achiever that was always going out of town, so I grabbed each of the other leaders in the building and sat them down to calendar out their vacation time. If everyone else started taking their time, then I wouldn’t look like a slacker. I even helped a couple managers plan their first vacations in years!

You must lead by example. Are you the manager that skips lunches, comes in early, stays super late, and never takes vacation? Well your is going to follow your lead. And eventually they will be miserable. You need to look in the mirror and ask what you are trying to prove. You must lead by examples in all areas including taking time away from work. 

You should work hard and play even harder. Many of you have the the Gallup Strength Finder themes of Achiever and Competitor and are Type 7 Enthusiasts, Type 8 Challengers, and type 3 Achievers on the Enneagram. These traits are what got us to the top of the food chain, right? You would be wise to not expect everyone on your team to be just like you. That would be one awful team to work on. And you need to be aware of your tendency to over-work and not expect it from every single person on your team.

My Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 top 5 themes: Achiever, Strategic, Responsibility, Adaptability, and Competition 

My Enneagram: Highest score tie: Between Type 7 (The Enthusiast) and Type 8 (The Challenger); Second highest score tie between: Type 1 (The Reformer) and Type 3 (The Achiever).

Everyone loves free food

I already mentioned how much your team loves food. But many times we miss the mark and invite our team members to be participants in a pot luck. I think this can be occasionally, but isn’t your goal to show appreciation to your team? They are already working hard and asking them to cook for a pot luck may cause them extra stress.

The solution is to ask your leadership team to prepare the pot luck for the team. Trust me. Your employees will be grinning ear to ear as they eat a meal cooked by their managers. My speciality and crowd favorite was always to my family’s secret tater tot casserole recipe. 

In addition to asking your vendors to chip in with free food once in a while I suggest using some of your employee experience budget (you have one, right?) to provide the occasional hot meals for your team. Don’t always expect your managers and team members to do the cooking. And don’t forget to have food delivered for all the shifts. 

Do you have folks that come in early to clean your building? Make sure you have some food for them. And if you have anyone that works at night such as security or customer service, don’t leave them out either. 

Remember there are departments in your building that often get neglected.They aren’t hanging out in the break room or around the water cooler because they are too busy. Make them a plate of pizza or subs during a catered meal and take it to them. Ask them how they are doing, thank them for all their hard work, and tell them they need to take a few minutes to eat. This goes a long way. These folks are in thankless jobs, but you depend on them.

Some additional ideas that are quite easy to put together:

  • Chili cook off
  • Ask your spouse to come in and cook ham and cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the team (My wife did this and my team absolutely loved it!)
  • Christmas cookie bakeoff. Everyone brings in cookies and then leaves with a bag of a few cookies from each batch.
  • Hot dog and hamburger cook out with you as as the grill master
  • Taco bar

You may have heard the saying that the stomach is the way to a man’s heart. I think that this is true. But it is also true that the stomach is the way to your employee’s heart.

Love hosting BBQs for the team.


So there you have it! Seven strategies to take your team to another level of engagement. I hope that your wheels are now spinning and you are itching to get started. Don’t delay! Do not over complicate things. You don’t need to have a big action plan, a to-do list, and a leadership meeting to start making a difference in your employee’s lives. If you are a dream manager then your team already trusts you and is waiting for you to improve their workplace. They will believe in the authenticity of your actions and be excited to jump onboard with you. But you must take the first step.

Choose one tactic from this post and make it happen starting tomorrow. Revisit this list often because your culture needs to constantly evolve. I left out another dozen tactics that I will share in a future post. So don’t worry, if you go through all of these there are plenty more where that came from! 

It is time for you to create a culture that will keep your team engaged for years to come.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Steve Jobs 

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