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How joining a charity walk reminded me of 5 engagement lessons

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

I’d been on the go all week during my visit to Australia, doing videos and workshops for our new book on employee engagement.  I was looking forward to Sunday, and looking forward to spending a relaxing day in Manly Beach.

That was my plan until  . . . I saw over 1,000 people walking to raise money to find a cure for brain cancer.  How could I not join in and engage in the cause and the activity?  So although I didn’t even have sneakers on, only flip flops, I signed up for the 5k walk and quickly rushed to catch up with everyone.

It was an amazing experience for a very worthy cause (here’s a link to their website if you’d like to donate). It also reminded me of five important engagement lessons I’d like to share with you.

1. Everyone engages for different reasons  

Since I walked alone, I had the chance to chat with lots of people, hearing their reasons for being on the walk.  Each story was personal, was meaningful, and engaged them individually with the cause and with the walk.  This reminded me that as we engage with our workforce we need to keep these differences in mind, as no two people engage with our company in exactly the same way.

We can’t assume that one magic program is going to appeal to our entire workforce – we need to create a variety of programs to meet the engagement needs of each individual.

By doing this, we’ll create personal and meaningful connections, ones that motivate our employees to engage today and in the future.

2. Engagement has ups and downs

The terrain of the walk went from easy flats to challenging uphills.  This meant that at times I was happily engaged, and at others, was wondering why in the world I had decided to do this.

This reminded me how we have to keep in mind that our employees will have ups and downs with engagement, and, this isn’t bad.  If they have the foundation of engagement, then the downs won’t be bad and won’t last as long, so we should just support them as they ‘make it up the hill’.  Be prepared and be supportive as they make this transition, and get the foundation right from the start, and you’ll ultimately have an engaged workforce throughout the entire journey.

3. Stories get you to the finish line

During the walk, I heard the most lovely stories.  These motivated me to finish the walk even when I was tired and was getting blisters from my flip-flops. This reminded me that stories can and should be used as a way to engage with our workforce.

Our employees are the best storytellers, and we need to find ways to weave their wonderful stories into what we do when we recruit, when we induct, and over and over again as we communicate to our workforce.

4. Things ‘taste better’ when you’re engaged

This reminded me how good things ‘taste’ when you’re engaged.  Work is more interesting, more satisfying, the entire work experience is better.  If we can help our employees create this engagement, we are helping them have ‘the’ best work experience ever, which is good for them and good for the company.

5. Never give up

As I mentioned, I wasn’t prepared for the walk as I walked it in flip-flops.  Halfway through I walked by my hotel and for a split second I thought to myself that maybe I should just give up and go home.  At this exact moment someone walked by me with a t-shirt that said “never give up” and then two people back someone else had a t-shirt saying “true”.  It was almost like they were wearing these just for me.

This reminded me that we need to give our employees constant signposts throughout their engagement journey.

Give our employees reasons over and over again as to why they should engage, and continue to engage, with your organization.  Don’t expect them to keep the momentum going without your constant and thoughtful encouragement and reminders.

I hope these lessons resonate with you and help you as you engage with your workforce in 2018 and beyond.

Our new book, Build it: A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement will be published by Wiley on 23rd February 2018. It’s available to pre-order from Amazon or any major bookstore.

To subscribe to publishing updates, free pre-release content, exclusive video interviews and “secret deleted chapters” register at


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