Employee Engagement—Getting It Right From the Start

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

There’s an old golf adage that says you don’t win a tournament on the first day but you can lose it. The first point implies a good opening round doesn’t guarantee a player’s success for the remaining ones; the second that a less-than-auspicious opening will prove difficult to overcome. My last blog entry dealt with a leader’s ability to personally connect as a key to employee engagement. It occurred to me, though—backtracking to the importance of the onboarding process would be an appropriate prequel of sorts.


Meaningful employee engagement begins the moment personnel are hired. The concept of onboarding has evolved in the workplace. Not so long ago, it consisted of a day or two of filling out paperwork, a tour of the premises, and co-worker introductions. Now, an extended adjustment of three-six months is the norm. Onboarding is more than an obligatory orientation. This is an important period to convey expectations and invite questions as workers familiarize themselves with, and absorb, the workplace culture.


During onboarding, a leader should make a new hire feel as confident and comfortable as possible. Try to make the adaptation easy. Ask if they have the tools necessary to succeed. If new personnel are the right fit, a positive start will leave a long-lasting impression—because retention is the long-term goal. Keeping valuable people satisfied is critical. I’ve said before that most employees don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. If employees are engaged, they are likely satisfied. And satisfied employees are loyal ones.


Employee engagement blossoms when both work and relationships are meaningful. And a personal touch is the special ingredient. Leaders win people over only when they take the effort to understand something about them and genuinely care. Show you’re interested in life beyond job performance. To do this, leaders must open up a little beyond a work persona. Some vulnerability, transparency is required. It has to come from a sincere place, though. It’s hard to pretend you care if you truly don’t.




William Shakespeare’s play title All’s Well That Ends Well evolved into another adage that, I find, holds wisdom—meaning a happy ending validates earlier difficulties. But, I also believe in fast starts. You may not claim victory for a hire during the onboarding phase, but in having an intentional strategy in place, a smooth, well-executed beginning paves the way for the next successful stage—when an employee transitions from “new” status to one of full acclimation and contribution.