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The Employee Engagement Bridge™


The old methods of dealing with people in companies have failed. A “rebellious” approach from practice is now to be the instruction manual for creating a corporate culture that produces highly engaged employees.

But what does all this have to do with “rebellion”? According to entrepreneur Glenn Elliott and HR director Debra Corey: A lot! To show how it can be done differently, they wrote the #1 Amazon buyer in the HR ‘Build it! The Rebel Playbook for Worldclass Employee Engagement1. Only by breaking with entrenched roles and practices in companies and breaking new ground can working conditions be created that truly inspire and involve people. From more than 10 years of consulting experience with more than 1,000 customers, they have developed a model that they call ‘Engagement Bridge™’ and present in their book.

In times of disruptive and innovative companies, the ‘status quo’ of personnel management does not help us any further

As has become apparent in recent years, without adaptable and agile structures and enthusiastic employees, even traditional industries are increasingly being ousted by innovative and disruptive companies. For this reason, many companies are trying to make themselves more attractive to skilled workers with offers such as yoga and healthy smoothies, playful office equipment and benefits in the “War for Talent”. That’s quite nice, but according to the authors Elliott and Corey it’s by far not enough to keep employee engagement high in the long run. The fact that inspired and motivated employees are also more productive and go the extra mile to make their company successful is not really a new insight.2

They [these companies] generate twice the stock market returns and have half the employee turnover. They innovate more, deliver better customer service and are more productive. They outperform their peers and disrupt markets.”

Elliott & Corey unter

After all, we all know the maxim: “Treat your employees well”. But we often don’t know how this can be put into practice and how it can be kept in mind in the stressful everyday work environment. That’s why the authors give a blueprint of how a highly committed corporate culture can be promoted with the Engagement Bridge™. But what exactly are “engaged” employees? The authors define it as follows:

  1. They understand and believe in the direction in which the company is moving
  2. They understand how their role influences the organization and contributes to the achievement of the business objectives
  3. They sincerely want the company to succeed

Engaged employees make better decisions because they have a better understanding of their background, are more productive and more creative in their approach to solutions. Sounds like something no manager would be averse to. However, according to Elliott and Corey, engagement is not the same as satisfaction and requires a lot of work, focus and dedication to be implemented.

The ten building blocks of commitment Bridge™

Das Modell der Employee Engagement Bridge nach Glenn Elliott und Debra Corey
The Employee Engagement Bridge

The above-mentioned components ‘well-being’, ‘workspace’ and ‘pay & benefits’ are without question important elements in the model presented, but they are not sufficient on their own to close the gap between employees and the company. Instead, they underpin the seven other parts that only in combination form a viable bridge.

(Note: The individual blocks can be folded out as required)

Open & Honest Communication
The most important building block Elliott and Corey have identified in high performance organizations is open and honest communication between all levels of an organization. If leaders want employees to come to the same conclusions and act in the same direction as they do, they must consistently provide the same information to their employees. At the same time, managers cannot promote a committed work environment if employees do not dare to speak their minds openly and honestly. The ‘Iceberg of ignorance'3 model states that managers are only aware of about 4% of the problems employees face in their daily work. How can management help to avoid negative touchpoints if they know nothing about them? Without a constructive feedback culture and transparency that creates trust, this is simply not possible.
Purpose, Mission & Values
A further aspect – if properly lived – that creates trust is consistently lived goals and values. In order to be supported by the employees, they must first be known to them – something that experience has shown to be a failure in many organizations. In order not to achieve the opposite and disillusion employees, goals must be authentic and words and deeds must match. After all, who hasn’t experienced that one thing is said, but something completely different is done? The feeling of this experience that remains behind is a bitter disappointment and often a certain form of perceived betrayal. The next two building blocks of the Engagement Bridge, which were conceived together, follow on from this.
Even with leaders, words and deeds must harmonize with each other to be authentic and to create trust. Trust is the keyword here: Leaders have the role of creating trust, supporting their employees and conveying a vision by living the company values and open communication. According to Elliott and Corey, the role of leaders is therefore primarily a role model.
They name 10 qualities that show great leaders:

  • They have internalized the company values and live them
  • They communicate openly and early on
  • They inspire others to rise above themselves
  • They admit their mistakes
  • They recognize small successes, big successes and hard work
  • They trust employees
  • They make the right decision, not the popular one
  • They create added value for their teams and help them to succeed
  • They have the courage to “expose” themselves and show
  • They take care of the employees
“Leadership is what you say your organization will do, but management is what it actually does.”4

According to the authors, management has the task of aligning their actions with the company’s goals and the words of the management. Although it may sound like a sure thing, they emphatically appeal to not regard employees as opponents, but to meet them as people with their own goals and life paths – even outside the company.

Job Design
As one of the most common sources of disappointment in the workplace, Elliott and Corey identify poorly designed jobs. If one’s own role is overstretched by excessive or even unrealistic demands, or underchallenging due to a lack of influence or repetitive tasks, the job may be effective from a management perspective, but it does not bring the person performing it any personal fulfilment. What motivates, on the other hand, are job profiles that include an appropriate level between requirements and autonomy, but also include units for ‘learning’ and regular ‘recognition’ from the very beginning.
Establishing a visible ‘learning culture’ in the company has many advantages. It gives the people in the company the incentive and the space to develop themselves and to grow beyond themselves. Learning must not only be understood as an investment for the company, but also as a personal investment. A “learning program” from the top down misjudges personal ambitions and potential and usually comes to nothing. If, on the other hand, employees can pursue their own interests, they take responsibility for their individual learning process, which benefits them and the company.
Many companies spend immense sums of money on company anniversaries for their employees. A waste, in the authors’ opinion. To be effective, recognition must be timely, concrete, relevant and continuous. 72% of employees stated that even a simple “thank you” would motivate them and increase their work morale.5 It is important to remember that it is the thought that counts – the feeling of being noticed, seen and appreciated. Experience shows that recognition in the form of money and/or prizes is secondary.

Employee engagement is an ongoing process that must be shouldered by the employees themselves.

A golden rule that runs through all chapters of the book is so simple and yet so often neglected: “Talk to your employees!” (and of course: “Listen to them too!”). Every company is different and the needs of the people in these companies can also be very different. It is therefore only logical to involve everyone in the company, to give them responsibility and freedom of decision, and thus make them a co-shaping part of the corporate culture. Another important and so often neglected rule is: Get started! If you see something you can change directly, start there and continue from there. Employee engagement is a process, not a goal. The path is not easy, but it is worthwhile – for employees and companies alike.

“Practice without theory is blind, theory without practice is useless.”

– Immanuel Kant

‘Build it!’ is an inspiring and motivating book for everyone who works with people. It follows a clear framework without claiming to offer a “One-Size-fits-All” solution. Rather, each chapter provides logically argued guidelines, an overview of the most important behavior patterns of rebels6, the most important results they strive for7 and concrete ideas for getting started8. If you like a short, informative read on the train, you can also cross-read the chapters as required.9 In addition, the remarkable case studies of successful CEOs and managers in each chapter illustrate how things can be freed from pure idealism in reality. The list of customers is quite impressive: In addition to smaller companies, big names such as Adobe10, Spotify11, Xero12 and Netflix13 are also featured, providing exciting insights into parts of their corporate culture. The book is therefore a practical and inspiring read and leaves behind a fruitful “let’s do it!” mentality. And let’s be honest: Often, that’s exactly what it takes!

The graphics and concepts presented are taken from the book “Build it! The Rebel Playbook for Worldclass Employee Engagement” (Wiley, 2018) by Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey.

  1. Wiley, 2018
  2. As early as 2013, Harvard Business Review published a study on the importance of employee engagement as a competitive advantage. See [09.04.2020]
  3. see page 24
  4. Glenn Elliott & Debra Corey 2017: 86
  6. the ‘Key Rebel Behaviours’
  7. the key outcomes
  8. ‘Making a Start’
  9. Based on this, you can also individually fold and unfold the individual building blocks here in the blog. Try it out!
  10. Forbes: The World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018 #13
  11. Forbes: Most Innovative Growth Companies 2017 #10
  12. Forbes: World’s Most Innovative Growth Company 2014 & 2015
  13. Forbes: The World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018 #7

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