By: Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE

Consider these glum facts: Only one in eight workers worldwide are engaged at work, but according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace, engagement varies considerably according to the region and country in which these workers live and their economic and social conditions.

So let’s just look at the U.S and Canada. Gallup reports that only 29% of workers are engaged, leaving 54% not engaged and 18% actively disengaged.

To be engaged is to be plugged in, positive, purposeful, and high performing. These are all characteristics of a resilient, sustainable organizational culture and a leadership that understands the difference between working “for” and working “with”.

Consider the first characteristic: plugged in. Engaged people feel connected to the work they do and whom they do it for. They become connected to each other through authentic communication, face-to-face or at least ear-to-ear conversation and an opportunity to know each other beyond a resume. People feel heard, understood, and valued.

Easy to say and harder to do in our global 24/7 world. But it is possible.

First: By design and not by default, mark out time to TALK (not email or text) the people on your team. Be aware that many might be suspicious because so few people do this.

Second: Ask how you can best support each other?

Third: If possible, create a time and space for physical interaction. One of the best leaders I know commits time and considerable money to bring his senor team together for breaking bread, laughing, and joining in targeted discussions that I facilitate. Highly engaged? You bet! Productive? Yes indeed. Collaborative? Amazingly so, despite widely dispersed geographies.

Fourth: Look at work/life integration issues. No one leaves their “other life” at home when they drive in the parking lot. And one size of a “policy” does not fit all. People might be grappling with different family issues and to the degree you can evidence concern, understanding, and reasonable accommodation goes a long way in creating that human connection and their resiliency.

Fifth: Generate laughter. Laughter is the shortest distance between people. Resilient, sustainable organizations know that when people smile on the job, laugh, have fun—they are more productive and more creative. Push the pickle-pusses in the closet. And if you are one… think again.

Sixth: Know what individuals need to be happy in their work. Before you sneer, consider this: In Danish, there is the word arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” This word also exists in the other Nordic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) but is not in common use in any other language on the planet. In the U.S., we often dismiss work as the penalty we got for not marrying rich. In Japan, the word karoshi means “death by overwork.”

Yet, the Danes insist that people should be happy at work. According to reports published in FAST COMPANY magazine, there are any number of studies that happy workers are more productive and innovative and that consequently, happy companies have happier customers and make more money. This may help explain why Danish workers are among the most productive in the OECD and why Denmark has weathered the financial crisis relatively well, with a current unemployment rate of only 5.4%.

By the way, these six steps are not just for people with a leadership title. Everyone owns a piece of this. What can YOU do to become more engaged? What contribution to your team can you make? What do you need? Remember, mindreading is a parlor game.

© 2014, The Resiliency Group. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Eileen McDargh is a Hall of Fame motivational speaker, management consultant, resiliency expert and top thought-leader in leadership. She wrote a book about the communication skills referenced in this article titled “Talk Ain’t Cheap… It’s Priceless!: Connecting In A Disconnected World” available at Visit The Resiliency Group website at to get her free quarterly e-zine, read her blog and articles.