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Employee Engagement: A Look Inside Our Strategies

Employee engagement is an increasingly hot topic, with good reason. Gallup announced in 2018 that U.S. employee engagement – measured by those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and organization – was only 34%. From another angle, 13% of employees are actively disengaged, indicating that they have miserable work experiences, and the remaining 53% fall into the not engaged category.1 They are simply “meh” about their jobs.

In our work at EPS, we encounter organizations at both ends of the engagement spectrum, from those that make engagement a central focus of the business strategy to those that struggle with employee engagement. Statistics show highly engaged organizations are, on average, 21% more profitable than those with disengaged employees. If that wasn’t compelling enough, each year it is estimated that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies an estimated $550 billion in lost productivity and increased costs including physical and mental health expenses.2

The cornerstone of our mission at EPS is building organizations that are based on respect. We know that respect as an operational imperative is essential to engaged cultures. Our training courses often not only encompass the fundamentals of harassment and discrimination, but also emphasize feedback, empowerment, the imperative to speak up, and empathy – all of which are building blocks in creating a highly engaged organization. When we deliver investigations of internal complaints, we often see the negative by-products of organizational cultures that have a preponderance of disengaged employees. In our business, we are steeped in the effects of engagement in our clients’ organizations.

We also recognize that as an informed, dynamic group of employment attorneys who chose to pivot to the business of promoting respect, we too must take the concept of engagement seriously within our own organization. We are a nationwide firm and work remotely. Our work can be both high pressure and high stakes, and we go through periods of intense, very issue-focused work that can be followed by periods of more creative, more strategic pursuits. At times, our team connects primarily through technology – with email, IM, and Skype calls. Modern technology has produced wonderful tools and we take full advantage of them internally and in providing services to our clients, but ultimately, it’s no substitute for face-to-face, meaningful connections and the feeling of engagement that often follows.

At EPS, we understand that we must work especially hard on the engagement front – for ourselves as well as our clients. Being present, listening for the unspoken, creating space for collaboration and disagreement, being responsive to each other, and staying open to perspectives and experiences that are different than our own, are all organizational imperatives. In addition, when we have the luxury of being together – whether it’s delivering services to a client as a team, at a quarterly corporate staff off-site meeting, at a working lunch within a regional team or our annual company-wide meeting, we want to make the most of our time and use every opportunity to foster engagement.

We recently met for our annual EPS company-wide meeting with a focus on strengthening our team’s engagement with our work, our clients, and each other. We used the following strategies during our time together:

  • Communicate the impact of our work. We opened our meeting with a look back at our business accomplishments in the prior year. In any business, there are moments when individuals can feel alone and wonder exactly how (or if) they fit into the big picture. Clearly communicating organizational achievements, goals, and objectives directly to the team, gives meaning and context to their work in a larger sense.
  • Create space for growth and learning. Our team has delivered thousands of employee complaint investigations, facilitated tens of thousands of training courses, and provided expert opinion on hundreds of cases. Is there still a lot to learn? Yes! The law is ever changing and providing legal updates each year is critical in our need to stay connected to the greater employment law universe. In addition, we dove deeply into and teased out the details of the interesting and complex complaint investigations that we’ve worked through in the prior year. This year, we rolled out new, highly interactive training on the issues of diversity and inclusion. The team that piloted the class for a public workshop brought not only the content itself to the larger group but their experiences and impressions after delivering this fascinating course. There was so much to dig into.
  • Appreciate differences in style and experience and understand that within our team, we still have autonomy. It takes a village to pull together the resources to accomplish most things in a large organization. EPS is no different in that regard, nor in the reality that we have a very diverse organization – different backgrounds, experiences, and styles. We provided each member of our team the opportunity to make a presentation about their role, a course they would deliver to a client, or a presentation that highlighted their interests and expertise. Inevitably, the entire team learned and appreciated that the diversity of our perspectives, backgrounds, and strengths make our experiences richer and business stronger.
  • See the purpose of our work and the impact it has on our clients. Each year, we extend invitations to our clients to join a portion of our annual meeting. We do this partly to share legal updates and the opportunity for continuing education with them, but also to hear their stories, listen to their perspectives, and understand their challenges. This year we had several clients who discussed their history with EPS – some who’ve worked with us for more than 20 years. They were frank about the challenges they face in the era of #MeToo, the business imperative and challenges of creating diverse leadership teams, and the inevitable changes that will come to their organizations as millennials and Generations X and Z become larger forces in organizations and communities.
  • Create opportunities for connection. We know that sitting in a conference room with people you admire and learn from can be an inspiring and stimulating experience. We also know that mixing things up in ways that allow people to see each other outside of the confines of a conference room is also important. We are mindful that not everyone connects in the same way, so we allow for several venues – a welcome reception and a group dinner are obvious opportunities to connect, and we did both. Lunch breaks with smaller groups, free time to grab a run or swim with a colleague, teaming up for an Uber ride to and from the airport, all allow for conversation in quieter moments in smaller groups. Allowing time for personal connections outside of the formal meeting environment where work is not at the center of the action can create a sense of belonging, which is another key way to stimulate engagement.
It's tough to overstate the importance of employee engagement. Whether you are compelled by the business case or notion that engagement simply makes employees happier, the benefits of engagement are clear. The steps to move your organization toward a higher level of engagement are within reach and engaging in those efforts can pay large dividends in more satisfied, more connected, and more productive employees and in increased profits. Both are worthy goals.

1Jim Harter, Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S., Aug. 26, 2018,,
2Naz Beheshti, 10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement and Wellness, Jan. 16, 2019,,