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Birkman International was recently honored as one of the best places to work by Houston’s Best and Brightest Organization. It was a great opportunity to learn about the strategies other companies are using to keep and retain their best talent. 

A quick search online can yield some pretty depressing results.  According to Gallup:

  • Only 31% of the U.S. Work Force is actually engaged
  • Over 50% of employees are not engaged
  • 18% are actively disengaged

A Gallup study of over 17 million workers over 30 years found that all workers can be put into one of the three categories above: Engaged, Not Engaged, and Actively Disengaged.

Engaged employees feel connected to and valued by the organizational where they work. They are committed and loyal to the company.

Disengaged workers are going through the motions but not committed to the job or the organization. Given the chance for a different or better opportunity, these employees would walk away. 

Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they are acting out of a desire to hurt the company or other employees at the company. In a word, actively disengaged employees are toxic.

The solution to disengaged employees is rarely an action pointed at one or two employees. This isn’t about identifying the toxic employees and throwing them out with yesterday’s newspaper.  Instead, it requires a commitment by the company to commit to engagement as an operational strategy.

What makes driving engagement so challenging is that every company is unique which means driving engagement is not a one-size-fits-all strategy.

If you want to know how to create a more engaged workforce in your company, your best bet is to ask your people. You may be surprised at how simple the solution may be. The simple exercise of asking your employees how to make the company a better place to work will increase employee engagement in and of itself.

Here are some ways we promote employee engagement at our company:


Birkman employees work a variety of shifts. There are the early birds who like to arrive at the office by 6 am and finish at 3. While other employees prefer to catch a few more hours of sleep and stay at the office later in the afternoon. As long as the work gets done, employees can choose the shift they prefer and works best for their family. As a family company, we understand the importance of having and spending time with family. We promote and encourage time with family and we work to accommodate our employees schedules so they can maximize their family time.


Employees rely on feedback to know how they are doing in their jobs and what they need to do to improve. Four times a year, managers meet with employees and discuss performance. This creates a continuous feedback loop and keeps employees from being surprised by a one-time end of year review.

Professional Development

Professional development is an important value to our organization. In their time spent with the company, it is important that employees walk away with an increased skill set and not just a paycheck. Each employee has money earmarked for them each year that they can use to increase their skill set. This allows employees to continue to develop their skill sets and allows the company to stay on top of the latest trends in each department.

Say "Thank-You"

Engaged employees are appreciated employees. Acknowledging employees builds trust and energizes relationships in the company.  This can be as simple as a sticky note with a “thank you” or acknowledgement in a meeting. At Birkman we celebrate employees accomplishments through our Can-Do award.  Employees who show exemplary performance and who go above and beyond can be nominated by any employee.  At our quarterly staff meeting this nominations are read aloud and then entered into a drawing for a monetary price. This is an excellent way to get all employees in the process of recognizing and rewarding employees. 

Doing Good

Volunteering not only strengthens relationships among employees but also creates a sense of meaning and value for the organization as a whole. We offer a matching program where employees can give to the cause or charity of their choice and their donations will be matched by Birkman. We also have two organizations that we partner with and promote as part of our community outreach. Our employees appreciate that the company is committed to more than the bottom line.   

Have Fun

Just because it is called work doesn’t mean it should be all, well, work. Productivity and fun are not mutually exclusive. Make the office a place employees want to be and commit resources to team building. Tack funny cartoons on the bulletin board, start meetings with a joke, take time out to find out more about your colleagues. You can have fun and still be a thriving, professional business.

Of course, our strategies are not all encompassing. Employee Engagement is something that must be continually monitored. Try an initiative for a few months. If it works, implement it as part of your engagement strategy. Even if it doesn’t, employees will appreciate your commitment to making the office a better place to work.

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