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The Power of Engagement

By Jim Mikula President/CEO

Recently, I attended a Harvard Business Review webinar titled “How to Boost Employee Engagement in 2024.” The presenter was Professor Dorie Clark of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Her presentation reaffirmed some things I had learned before and reminded me of the essential keys to retaining good employees. Ms. Clark stated four fundamental ways to boost engagement in simple terms: help your employees feel seen, help your employees feel heard, help your employees feel valued, and help your employees feel encouraged. 

At my first job out of college, the hotel’s General Manager met each month with my fellow rookie managers and me. The first lesson he taught us was the importance of eye contact and the impact of a simple “hello” whenever we passed a colleague. As my career progressed, this practice served me well in developing and energizing strong teams. Ask yourself: how do I/we make our employees feel seen? As a co-worker, ask yourself: how do I acknowledge my colleagues in passing?

During my time as a hotel General Manager, I held a monthly luncheon with line employees. Each department sent a different person each month. The purpose of the working lunch was to provide direct communication from the front line to me. We had two rules: whatever I said could be shared outside the meeting and whatever the employees said was confidential. After the meeting, I wrote a report of actions that would be taken based upon suggestions and some problem solving that typically occurred. My listening to the employees, follow-up and action were clear messages to our staff that they were heard. Ask yourself: what are the practices in our organization to make sure the staff knows they are heard? 

Another lesson I learned from a mentor was the importance of recognition and appreciation. These are two distinct aspects of the way that people feel valued. Recognition is for what someone has done, and appreciation is for the person. My mentor put it this way: we need to recognize the human doing and appreciate the human being. With so many businesses in our town that cater to visitors, showing more appreciation to our employees will result in improved service experiences for our customers. As an owner or manager, ask yourself: do I/we have a balance of recognition and appreciation for our team members? Recognition and appreciation are not just top-down, either. When co-workers recognize and appreciate each other, it can be uplifting for both parties.

Looking back across my career, I cherish the leaders I worked for who always encouraged me. Those memories drive me to be an “encourager” with the teams I lead and on the different boards that I serve. Encouraging others can create elevating experiences and shared experiences that drive loyalty. Is your company culture a culture of encouragement? No matter what part you play in an organization, you can help to build that culture. Good news and encouragement can be contagious. 

Effective use of these four fundamentals develops a sense of belonging that can generate a powerful team. Members of such teams are less likely to quit, they are more productive than the norm, and they create a fun workplace.

I would like to see some of your answers to the four questions posed in this column. We can share the answers via our weekly newsletter and we can learn from each other! Please send your answers and ideas to me at

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