How to optimize employee engagement in International organizations

Organizations that invest in staff engagement strategies realize stronger results because they create environments where employees thrive and can be their best. Absenteeism rates are lower, productivity rates are higher and performance levels are better.  It only makes sense to provide staff with a clear expectation of their role, tools and resources to accomplish goals and development opportunities to continuously grow and develop. 

"The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”--Tom Peters 

The Gallup Organization has done extensive research into this important subject with their Q12 survey and accompanying guidance and tools to help organizations harness this critical element of organizational effectiveness.

For those us working in the development sector, the better we are at cultivating a supportive and nurturing environment for staff, the better results we will achieve for the world. According to Daniel Pink, if we consider the elements of what motivates staff in the knowledge economy (Purpose, Autonomy, Self mastery), the development sector has all the ingredients to create the ideal working environment to produce impactful results for the world. Yet, anecdotal evidence and employee surveys tell a different story…

Typically, staff are most engaged when they first join an organization because they have made a conscious decision to leave their current place of employment to join a new one.This is a critical point for organizations to cultivate and nurture this commitment and engagement of new staff. Research shows that after 2 years, staff engagement dwindles requiring organizations, hiring managers, in particular to develop in re-engagement strategies to retain staff and keep them engaged.

So what is the element to optimizing employee engagement? Line Managers! Staff do not leave organizations, they leave line managers. So, what are the qualities of an excellent line manager?

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Flexible Leadership Style

  • Development Mindset – how do you help your staff grow and develop?

  • Ability to communicate in an open and honest manner


Google also made a handy list of what makes a great manager. Harvard Business Review highlights the secrets of superbosses and INC magazine highlighted insights about why people resign .

What are some of the ways that we can begin introducing some of these elements of line manager excellence into our work place, on a limited budget? I would start by creating a culture of feedback so staff begin to feel comfortable providing feedback on an ongoing basis. The more people feel comfortable sharing, the easier many other elements of engagement evolve.

I'd love to hear your feedback and ideas for making our work environments more engaging for staff to reach their full potential.

Tools: upward feedback, elements of giving and receiving feedback, taking the stress out of stressful conversations


About the Author:

Holly White is HR Specialist on Career Development and Performance management at UNFPA: Beginning in  April 2017, Holly joins UNFPA HQ as an HR Specialist on Career Development and Performance Management following a 2-year assignment as the HR Strategic Partner of the West & Central Africa Region in Dakar, Senegal. Prior to UNFPA, Holly worked with UNICEF (NYHQ), providing HR advisory services on staffing, training and development to the Programme Division (health, nutrition, water/sanitation and hygiene [WASH], and HIV/AIDS sectors). And before joining UNICEF, Holly supported the Partnerships, Africa and Arab States Bureax as an HR and Operations consultant with UNDP. In the private sector, she has worked for Altria Group, Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and M&M/Mars in various HR roles and as an HR Director for Ogilvy & Mather and Ann Taylor. (ALTERNATIVE: In the private sector, she has taken on various HR roles in the consumer packaged goods, advertising and retail industries.) From 2010-2014, Holly was an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where she facilitated workshops on career development and interviewing skills for graduate students in the program. Holly earned a BS degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Xavier University