The Four-Step Model for Increasing Employee Engagement

blog Nov 08, 2023
employees at a conference table

It’s not uncommon in difficult times for companies to try and reduce operating costs by cutting their payroll. We saw the astonishing workforce reduction numbers in the thousands reported by large corporations as the economy was placed on hold in 2020. In a desperate attempt to respond to the uncertainty, they “threw out the baby with the bath water.” Workers experienced the shock of furloughs and layoffs, and entrepreneurs the pain of closing their businesses. But behind the numbers, there are people with a story, a family, a motive for wanting to do what they do.  

The same leaders that indiscriminately made quantitative cuts simply based on numbers, gambled that they would be able to easily add those numbers back once the economy rebounded. But the illusion of power and control can shift very quickly, and as modern history has taught us, the pendulum swings both ways during economic cycles. 

Fast forward to the last few months and the alarms are sounding about the “Great Resignation”, the “Big Reboot”, or the “September Shuffle” (as my friend @ToddChurches calls it). Employers are open for business, but desperately understaffed as workers are reluctant to return to the “old normal” and the “next normal” is still evolving. They remember the pain of being released or overworked in the name of corporate self-preservation. They have had time to think about that experience and what they want, and realize they have choices. The #warfortalent is once again in full swing!  

But it doesn’t have to be a constant (and losing) battle for most organizations. I have been working with a number of clients over the last few years to help identify their best and most promising performers, the ones struggling that need help, and the majority that quietly go about producing for the organization. In a process commonly known as “Talent Segmentation” we map out the placement of team members based on three important factors: their performance, potential, and individual career aspirations. Each placement has different needs and allows for a tailored action plan to help them develop and grow. So, regardless of whether the times were good or not, we continued to identify and develop the organization’s talent and adapting their skills and career path to the changing reality. 

At a high level, here is a four-step model for preparing your workforce and organization to be at their best: 

  1. Assess - Evaluate your existing pool of employees and determine their performance, potential, and professional aspirations 
  1. Benchmark - Determine the mission critical positions in the organization and assess risk in those positions (resignations, retirements, terminations, etc.) 
  1. Calibrate - Work with leaders in the organization to identify, evaluate, and segment your talent in a consistent manner 
  1. Develop - Ensure that all target employees have a plan for their development that matches their segmentation placement 

Managing their talent should not be a reactionary exercise for organizations. Thinking strategically about their workforce is critical, because their business strategy is a paper exercise if they don’t have the people to execute the plan. If they understood that not all talent is created equal, they would recognize who they can’t afford to lose from their team! Letting go of under-performing, unhappy, and recalcitrant workers is a good decision in order to maintain a high level of performance and satisfaction for the rest of the workforce. In difficult times it’s a no-brainer! If you want to trim the fat, that’s where you start, being careful not to trim so far you cut into your organizational muscle. 


When I recently asked a (virtual) room of #businessowners and #senior leaders if they had a strategy in place for their business, almost all answered, yes! But when I asked if they were confident their team was ready to bring their strategy to life, many of them hesitated. This is not the first time I’ve found this confidence gap, and my observation is always the same: Without the people to execute your business strategy, all you have completed is a paper exercise! 

Over the years, I have worked with clients to help them build a pipeline of leadership talent ready to execute their plan. Through a comprehensive #talentmanagementapproach we evaluate the existing staff and create a plan for developing team members based on their specific goals, but also the current and future needs of the organization. Here is a four-step process for building that talent pipeline: 

  1. Assess: Take the time to consider team members’ performance, potential, and individual career aspirations. To do this effectively requires an objective way to evaluate how each is doing against agreed upon expectations and standards, while also projecting how their current skillset and behaviors will help or hinder them at the next level. But perhaps the most important part is an honest conversation with the employee about career aspirations and whether he or she is interested in moving into another position. 
  1. Benchmark: This involves identifying the mission-critical roles within the organization, essentially asking what positions will create a major disruption if they are not staffed correctly? But to truly assess the risk, we should consider not only the impact, but the likelihood of a vacancy. Is there someone retiring or considering a move? Could there be turnover in this position – voluntary or not? The answers to these questions allow us to prioritize the needs based on the level of risk to the organization and whether we have the talent in place to fill the void. Then we can create a plan to address the gaps. 
  1. Calibrate: As the name implies, this involves evaluating personnel in a consistent and un-biased way. Here leaders share the results of their assessment process and compare the performance and potential of individuals in an open and honest way. Working through any inconsistencies, the leadership team can reach consensus on which team members are the best and most promising performers, which are struggling and need help, and acknowledge the majority that quietly go about producing for the organization. 
  1. Develop: No matter where a team member is placed, we ensure that each one has an individual development plan that matches his or her needs and professional aspirations. By providing the tools and resources for managers to partner with employees to create these plans, we increase the level of engagement and commitment to a shared objective: the success of the individual AND the team. 

The #warfortalent is once again in full swing! How do you plan to win each battle? How will you retain your top talent and attract other high performers to your team? The answer is a talent management approach that supports your business strategy and will produce the leaders you need to take your plan from vision to reality. Let’s make it happen!