With employee engagement levels reaching an all-time low at 13% worldwide reported in 2017 by Gallup, it’s no longer an option to ignore employee engagement strategies.  It’s officially the age of the millennial. That means that the traditional leadership methods are no longer as successful as it was.  What ensured results 10 years ago is now the strategy to decrease motivation and ultimately the profitability of the company.

The rules of the game are changing and either you can ignore it, or you can change your leadership strategy.  Those organizations that have changed their leadership paradigm towards teal continue to report above-average returns on investment as reported by Frederic Laloux in his groundbreaking book called Reinventing Organizations.

His book categorizes the different levels of organizational development by associating it with a colour and descriptive keyword. The lower organizational mature organizations are associated with impulsive-red, whereafter conformist-amber and achiever-orange.  Pluralistic-green organizations add to the prior paradigms and finally, evolutionary-teal is considered the most mature organization we know of.  The majority of companies today are classified as operating from an orange paradigm. Only a handful are considered operating from a teal paradigm.

The Teal way to employee engagement

Companies operating from a teal paradigm view the organization as a living organism rather than a machine, as companies operating from an orange paradigm do.  They value purpose over profit and soul over role, amongst other things as I’ve attempted to summarize in a post of a teal leadership model.

But how exactly do organizations operating from a teal paradigm resolve employee disengagement?

Below are 5 ideas to move your organization towards a teal paradigm of operation.

1. What’s-in-it-for-them?

Traditionally, companies operated from a viewpoint that employees are being provided with a stable monthly salary and that’s enough to keep them happy.  The employees chose to help the employer reach their goals, sacrificing their own to some degree.  The purpose was associated with money.

Organizations operating from a teal paradigm, contrary to this view, consider the personal vision of each employee throughout the relationship.  From as early as the recruitment process, the focus is on finding a win-win intersection between the company’s and the person’s vision.  Throughout the relationship, the individual’s needs are taken into consideration. Even after terminating a contract the relationship continues as Sounds True CEO Tami Simon and founder of Emerging Women Chantal Pierrat demonstrates in the opening lines of an interview between them. Chantal used to work for Tami before deciding to embark on a more personal vision of discovering extraordinary women and inspiring others to step into their power

Whenever you, as leader, asks someone to do something, consider what’s in it for the employee.  Why would they do it?  What’s in it for them?  Will it help them move closer to their personal vision? How?  How can it be of benefit to both parties?

2. Treat everyone differently

One of our worst fears as human beings is being seen as insignificant.  Everyone wants to feel that they are special and able to contribute to society in some form or another.  Everyone wants to feel that they matter.

It is the leader’s responsibility to know the individual and bring out the best in each team member.  The leader has the power to make employees feel more significant and valuable. Simply by treating each person as a human being, not a human resource, they validate the significance of the person.

Each time you interact with a team member, be aware of and take into consideration, their unique personality- and communication style.  Speak to them in the language they best understand, just like a loving parent would change how they speak to a small child compared to a teenager.

Know when important life events are impacting the person and their performance at work.  It’s unrealistic to expect someone going through a divorce to be fully productive.  When you treat each person as the human being they are, they are more likely to want to give more than what is expected from them.

3. Make it voluntary

When people feel forced to attend meetings where they feel they add or gain no benefit, they will be disengaged.  The time they sit in the meeting is wasted for both parties and there is a false sense of security created by believing that the message was heard and will be acted upon.

The physical body in the room does not guarantee the mental attention you require for action.

One of the most important changes to increase engagement is to make meetings and events voluntary.  In most cases, people will continue coming or miss one or two sessions before they realize the value.  When, however,  no-one comes, it provides opportunity to re-evaluate whether the meeting is needed at all.

When people are allowed to choose which meetings they attend they take ownership of their role in the team.  When people take ownership, they are automatically more responsible and trustworthy – something every leader wants from their teams.  As leader, make it acceptable for people to decline a meeting invite.

4. Make it interesting

Having a recurring, mandatory meeting shouldn’t mean that it can’t be engaging.  Change the format of the meeting.  Change the location. Add food.  Rotate facilitator roles. Involve the participants by asking them questions or giving them time and space to report back to the rest of the organization or team in an area of their expertise.

There are countless ways to make something more interesting simply by changing one thing.  Meetings are interesting when there is an element of the unexpected.  Be careful however to not introduce too much change as that will only cause confusion.

Next time you schedule a meeting, ask yourself how you can make it more interesting.

5. Include games or game mechanics

By far the most effective way of ensuring engagement is by involving everyone in the team.  Gamestorming as a facilitation technique was designed with this in mind.

In an e-book on how to get the most of games in the workplace, I explain the mechanics of games, how the brain works and why each technique applied in games work.  I also explain how to apply different techniques to different situations in order to get the most feedback with the least amount of resources.

There are countless websites and resources available with ideas for games, however, one of the best techniques to use is dot voting.  With dot voting each person has equal voting power in a meeting, reducing the possibility that one person’s opinion dominates.   Another great technique is silent writing, where each person is asked to write down their thoughts or ideas on a sticky note without any discussion in the room and simply post it on the wall.

These techniques are less games than what they are facilitation techniques, but they work simply because each person is given equal opportunity to participate. By visualising all the ideas or thoughts more quantitative decision-making is applied.  Words alone often don’t conceptualize the big picture and mostly don’t allow each person to contribute.  By involving everyone a more true picture of reality is obtained and more ownership is felt by the participants.


The successful organizations of the future are the ones that are able to engage and involve their workforce.  There are countless ways to do this, all based on the individuality of each person, freedom, and trust by the leaders of the organization.

Patience is, however, a very necessary trait to ensure a successful transition as trust is earned.


Image courtesy Climate Kic via www.unsplash.com

With more than 20 years experience in the software development industry, Kate specializes in helping teams get unstuck, communicate better and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and playful design as tools for process improvement and organizational change. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.