Research colleagues Bill Gentry and Stephen Young understand the challenges facing frontline leaders and their direct reports — though they love their jobs and enjoy working together, sometimes in his role as the team’s leader, Bill falls short, causing Stephen and others on his team to feel disengaged. Here are the 4 areas where leaders like Bill can be more strategic and impactful in increasing engagement levels of his team members like Stephen.

Whether it’s our jobs, our organizations, our coworkers, or our bosses, if just one of these 4 areas of employee engagement is at a sub-optimal level, it can affect whether we want to stay or leave our organizations. And it’s not uncommon to occasionally feel disengaged – we know from Gallup that a majority of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. For millennials in particular, the numbers are troubling; 71% of millennials are either not engaged or are actively disengaged.

What’s the major reason why engagement is so low? New leaders on the frontlines are not equipped to lead. As a new frontline leader, Bill sometimes feels that way. New leaders on the frontlines lead the biggest population of workers in organizations, yet many workers feel unhappy, uninspired, and lack empowerment. Approximately 60% of employees report a loss of engagement, productivity, and turnover with poor frontline leadership, and 25% of organizations experience profit loss due to ineffective frontline leaders, according to another study. 1

infographic-of-4-levels-of-employee-engagementSo what can new leaders on the frontlines do to help employees become more engaged at work? If we can train new leaders on the importance of having an engaged workforce, there is a lot of room to “move the needle” on employee engagement and productivity. To that end, we have promoted the 4-factor approach, or what we call E4, which gives frontline leaders (and honestly, any leader at any level of the organization) a simple and intuitive framework to use when working to raise low engagement levels.

Focusing on these 4 key areas, makes the “engagement challenge” easier to pinpoint and enables you to take action on what matters most:

  1. Job engagement — active involvement and dedication to the job itself
  2. Organizational engagement — devotion and passion that is directed toward one’s organization
  3. Team engagement — a state of being motivated and excited by one’s coworkers
  4. Leader engagement — being energized and connected to one’s boss


The great thing about this? Leaders have the power to raise the engagement of the people they lead and serve in a more targeted way. Bill’s book, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders, outlines how leaders can:

  • Increase job engagement by bringing in internal or external stakeholders who have directly benefited from the work their employees have done and not micromanage.
  • Increase organizational engagement by advocating training and development opportunities for their direct reports.
  • Increase team engagement by providing direction, alignment, and commitment.
  • Increase leader engagement by constantly providing coaching, development, and feedback.

By having a more precise understanding of employee engagement across the 4 key areas, leader and organizational interventions can be targeted more quickly and efficiently to increase low scoring engagement areas that are most important.

For example, if there are employees who have high engagement with their jobs, organization, and teams, but less so with their leaders, interventions used to raise engagement in general will not be as impactful as they should be. Instead, interventions should be directed specifically toward increasing leader engagement as they should have the greater return on investment. Such an intervention could include teaching leaders how to coach, develop, and provide feedback to others.

Leaders can become one of the organization’s greatest assets if they are taught to understand and manage employee engagement the right way. It is time to take a new, directed approach to measuring and managing employee engagement, especially with new and frontline leaders who struggle the most to solve the engagement conundrum.


1Wellins, R. S., Selkovits, A., & McGrath, D. (2013). Be better than average: A study on the state of frontline leadership. Development Dimensions International.

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