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The Missing Piece to the Employee Engagement Problem

February 03, 2023

  • Kolbe A™ Index
  • Podcast
  • Teams

Don’t Overlook the Single Greatest Predictor of Job Success 

A recent survey shows that over two-thirds of American workers feel disengaged from their jobs. Among all the solutions to address this problem, too many companies overlook the significance of focusing on employees’ natural strengths. 

New Survey Reveals a Concerning Drop in Active Engagement

Gallup’s latest employee engagement survey is out, and engagement is down — again. 

  • Only 32% of those surveyed described themselves as “actively engaged” 
  • 18% admitted to being “actively disengaged” 
  • The other 50% are “just doing the bare minimum to get by


This marks three years straight that employee engagement has dropped, despite rising in the decade prior to the pandemic. 

Line graph of employee engagement and disengagement since 2018 from Gallup's Q12 Employee Engagement Survey

“Of course, having engaged employees is important for a company to be successful, but it’s equally important for employees’ well-being,” says David Kolbe, CEO of Kolbe Corp. 

“When people are not engaged, their job satisfaction goes down,” he explains. “They don’t feel good about what they’re doing. Their long-term career development is suffering also, because they aren’t doing what they need to do.” 

Why Employees Say They’re Disengaged

According to Gallup’s poll, people say these are some of the factors causing them to be disengaged: 

  1. opportunities to do what employees do best  
  2. clarity of expectations  
  3. opportunities to learn and grow 
  4. connection to the mission or purpose of the company  
  5. feeling cared about at work


That first one is key. The workforce is filled with bright, capable professionals who are fed up with roles that ask them to do things that go against their natural strengths. Even your “rockstar” employees will check out if they have to work against their grain day after day. 

A lack of clear expectations is also a reason why employees begin to check out. If you don’t have regular check-ins, and don’t know what the end goal of a project is, why would you feel compelled to give your best work?  

Proposed Solutions for “Quiet Quitting” 

With so many employees being actively disengaged, managers are looking for solutions to turn things around. Here are some of the suggestions from Gallup’s survey:  

  • managers holding one-on-one meetings with direct reports 
  • reviewing hybrid and remote working policies 
  • work social functions, contests, and culture clubs
  • an increase in engagement surveys and employee input


These solutions sound fine, but the truth is a lot of managers have been trying these things for a long time and they’re not working very well. 

So, what’s the best strategy that can actually engage employees long-term?

Strengths-Based Action Makes an Immediate Difference in Engagement

Here’s the thing: people stay in jobs they love, and the key to making that happen in your organization is to: put the right people in the right roles and let them shine as themselves.  

Everyone has instinctive strengths — a natural way of taking action when they’re striving and given the freedom to be themselves. 

So, if managers give employees the freedom to do what comes naturally, they are much less likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed out by their role.  Also, when team members know each other’s strengths, they collaborate more effectively, and there’s less tension around the office. This results in higher engagement all around. And it makes work more fun. 

Becoming a Strengths-Based Company with a Culture of Engagement

A focus on instinctive strengths won’t solve everything, though. Employees still have to feel a sense of purpose in their role, and, ideally, believe in the organization’s mission. However, the best managers take it a step further by giving their employees the freedom to use their instinctive strengths and instilling that sentiment into the team culture. 

“It’s this missing link that makes a significant difference in turnover and engagement,” explains Amy Bruske, President of Kolbe Corp. “Leaders are trying to make things more fun, and I do think that’s important for culture. But when I’m in my individual role, if I’m working against my strengths, there’s no amount of office games and free food that’s going to make a difference.” 

In the end, better engagement comes from putting the right people in the right positions to let their natural strengths shine. When you’re able to give everyone the freedom to be themselves, you’ll be amazed at how often that freedom leads them back to you. 

Fortunately, The Kolbe System™ is designed to help quickly boost engagement in any organization:  

  • First, you identify the strengths of everybody on the team 
  • Then, you optimize your teams by strategically combining all those strengths 
  • Next, you go employee-by-employee and make sure everybody’s strengths align with their job duties 
  • Finally, when you’re expanding a team, you make sure you incorporate a candidate’s instinctive strengths into your selection criteria 


Ready to take the first step towards active engagement from your team? Discover your own instinctive strengths by taking the Kolbe A™ Index today. 

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