Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The Three Best Ways to Keep Your Employees Engaged

Image via Michael D Brown/

I think we can admit that not all jobs are equally interesting. We’re constantly told to find jobs that we’re excited to wake up for each day, yet the reality is that someone has to do the jobs many find mundane. But what you may not realize is that your level of engagement at work has more to do with your relationship with your manager and perceptions of your employer than the work itself. Those are the factors that motivate employees to go above and beyond.

Factors like job security and retirement benefit security are more basic concerns (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). So while security is important, it doesn’t inspire discretionary effort.

Staying engaged at work is important. It keeps us productive and motivates us to grow while also lowering the chances we hop the fence for greener pastures. So how can managers and executives keep their employees engaged no matter what the position?

(Feeling Engaged? Share your voice in GovExec's largest employee engagement study)

There are a lot of different opinions on what drives engagement at work, so we’ve scoured the web to bring you the three most important drivers of engagement:

1) Organizational Image

While things like salary and flexible scheduling are important to employee satisfaction, they don’t drive productivity. Rather, an organization’s image—including an employee’s perception of senior leadership and the organization’s brand alignment—can help increase productivity. Brand alignment and the actions of senior leadership help create a mission and identity. A strong sense of mission gives workers purpose while identity determines a worker’s pride in their organization.

An organization’s image is also internal. Employees form opinions of the organization every day, and it’s important that employees’ expectations for behavior are met. Edward E. Lawler III, Director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California has written, “The key from an organizational point of view is to understand what people see as the consequences of different kinds of behaviors and to create a good alignment between what the organization needs and what individuals expect to be rewarded for.”

2) Relationship With Direct Manager or Supervisor

Though it seems intuitive, we often try to underestimate the importance of relationships with our managers. We like to think that a bad boss is but a speed bump in our careers, when the truth is that a disliked manager will quickly provoke disengagement and a drop in productivity. Being on friendly terms with a manager is as important as any other aspect of the workplace, if not more so.

Managers should also not look to necessarily spoil employees to earn their adoration. The quality and meaningfulness of interactions is vastly more important than their frequency. As a manager, work to understand your employee’s needs and expectations, but also work to develop a friendly relationship.

3) Career Opportunities

Lastly, a bleak career future is a surefire productivity and engagement killer. Unfortunately, a recent study found that 41 percent of workers worldwide felt they would need to take a job elsewhere to advance their careers.

New hires often cite career advancement and the opportunity to develop new skills as the most important distinguishers on accepting a position, and these factors remain important even years into a career. Those who perceive no reward for hard work or feel they are not learning will quickly jump ship, so it’s important for managers to find ways to reward performance or find new learning opportunities, such as lateral career moves.

What do you think are the best ways to keep your employees engaged? Share your thoughts by taking Government Executive’s survey and tell us how engaged you are at work. Over 20,000 managers have responded, but we’re still looking to hear more voices. Help create the most complete picture of engagement in federal agencies ever assembled.

Click here to take GovExec’s five-minute survey on employee engagement.

Read more of Excellence in Government's series on employee engagement below: 

Image via Michael D Brown/

Clement Christensen is a research analyst at the Government Business Council. He holds an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Anthropology from the George Washington University.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.