Human Resources

Is Engagement Alive and Well at Your Company?

It’s an unfortunate truth that engagement is suffering at many businesses, and it isn’t always easy to enliven it. To help bring life back to engagement at your company, we present an article by Ruth Ross, author of Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career.

Today’s workplaces are drowning in a sea of disengagement. It’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than it is to find an employee who is highly engaged and passionate about his or her work. You may not even be aware of just how bad the situation is because disengagement is mostly a silent disease.

Your employees might be smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. Only those who are actively disengaged make sure to let their organization know how they feel through their words and actions.

The secret to treating the disengagement epidemic is not to think of employee engagement as a program—one where you can throw money at the problem, and it will go away. We just need to get back to basics by connecting on a one-on-one basis. The best medicine is holistic and preventive, not reactive and after the fact.

The basic construct of my ALIVE plan is that an exit interview shouldn’t be the first time that someone finds out that his or her employee is disengaged and unhappy in his or her role. Too many people today have quit but have stayed in their chairs right under your nose. There couldn’t be a more damaging concept for a company that wants to be successful and profitable.

The foundation for this plan is a “stay conversation.” This is a two-way dialogue between a manager and an employee designed to discover what motivates and engages the employee or, conversely, what is causing the disengagement—all of which impacts the decision to stay or go.

By conducting a stay conversation, companies can increase employee satisfaction and engagement by addressing issues that might surface prior to those concerns becoming serious and irreparable. The data gathered during a stay conversation should be used to increase or reinforce satisfaction or to reengage someone who needs a spark.


As good practice, managers should get in to the habit of having a stay conversation twice per year. This is not a performance management discussion. It’s not a project status meeting. It’s also not the time to slap a label on someone as being engaged or disengaged. Instead, it’s all about getting to know your employees better which, if done right, can pay huge dividends down the road.

The first of the five steps in the ALIVE plan is:

1. Ask

It all starts with the “ask” as your first step. It begins with a manager reaching out to his or her employee to invite the employee to meet informally. It can be done at a local coffee shop, conference room, or the manager’s office. The location doesn’t matter as long as it is free of the typical office distractions, such as phones or computers that can divert a manager’s attention away from the employee. Put the person at ease by letting him or her know in advance that this is a “touch base” meeting to see how he or she is doing and that it is not related to their performance.

Here are some sample questions to get the conversation started:

  • What’s the one thing you would change about your job, team, or the company if given the chance?
  • What talents, skills, or interests of yours do you feel are most underutilized in this role?
  • What about your job makes you excited to get up in the morning and come in to work?
  • What about your job makes you ill at the thought of coming in to work?
  • What obstacles are in the way of you being able to perform better?


In tomorrow’s Advisor, Ross describes the final four steps in the ALIVE plan: listen, identify, validate, and execute.