Low levels of employee engagement have essentially remained constant for over a decade. The Gallup 2013 "State of the American Workplace" confirms that 70 percent of employees in the U.S. are still "not engaged" or are "actively disengaged."

What does it mean to be engaged? Gallup defines "engaged" employees as those "involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work," and who "contribute to their organization in a positive manner." Researchers from Clemson University define engagement as "feeling responsible for and committed to superior job performance, so that job performance ‘matters' to the individual."

No matter how you define it, you need it! Engaged people are invested in their performance and do great work.

How will you achieve organizational goals, remain competitive, or grow your business if just 30% of those you lead are engaged? That's a problem for any business, organization, or manager. Engagement is tied not only to profitability and productivity, but to innovation, customer satisfaction, and even lower health care costs.

Low employee engagement is not new news. But its connection with trust might surprise you. Leaders operating with trust enjoy higher engagement levels. If you want to increase employee engagement here are five things you need to know about the engagement-trust connection:


1. Lack of engagement is a symptom

. The problem in most workplaces is distrust, not disengagement. Trust doesn't cause engagement; it's a requirement for it. Essentially, trust enables engagement. If you want engagement, you need trust.

2. Leaders who get the best results aren't focused on engagement. Instead, best-result leaders focus on creating a trust-pocket where people can be self-engaged; where people want to contribute, innovate, and passionately bring their best to their work. That requires a work culture with trust at its core.

3. Believing you're trusted (or not) affects engagement. While there are many ingredients and conditions for engagement, one is essential - authentic trust. People who don't feel trusted demonstrate less engagement. As an employee, if you believe you're trusted or believe you're not, it affects how engaged you are.

4. Engaging others starts with engaging self. If you're someone's boss, your engagement impacts your staff and those you work with. It's impossible to engage the unengaged, or keep the engaged engaging, without being engaged yourself.

5. Unlocking engagement starts with giving trust. It sounds like the chicken and the egg: trusted relationships fuel engagement; engagement fuels trust. But, it starts with trust. If you work in a culture where there's trust, you'll find engagement.

Want more engagement? Stop focusing on the symptom and address the problem. Workplace trust is at an historic low. If you want more engagement, you need to build more trust. Start with trust.

More about trust at work:

You'll find more trust building approaches in Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2013).

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