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Does engagement at work really matter?

Does it really matter if your employees are engaged and enjoy their work?

According to a survey spanning four years and workplaces in over 100 countries, it matters a great deal.

A report by Gallup, Inc. provides new insight into the relationship between employee engagement and business performance, and offers suggestions as to how companies can promote engagement to improve the bottom line.

Here we look briefly at the findings and recommendations from the Gallup report and explore how Belbin Team Roles can be deployed to engage your team or workforce.

What is employee engagement and how engaged are we?

Gallup used a survey to measure employee engagement – the extent to which employees are emotionally invested in their work and focused on contributng to their organisaton every day.

Their findings were concerning: only 13% of employees worldwide were found to be engaged at work.


State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide (Gallup, Inc. 2013)

13% Engaged: Employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organisation forward.

63% Not Engaged: Employees are essentially “checked out”. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting in time – but not energy and passion – into their work.

24% Actively Disengaged: Employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co- workers accomplish.

The business case for employee engagement

Employee engagement has been shown to link directly with wellbeing and physical health, but it isn’t just about creating a positive working environment for employees. It also has a significant impact on the bottom line. The Gallup survey measured performance outcomes affected by employee engagement, which included:

Customer ratings




Earnings per share (EPS)




Safety incidents

“Leaders often say that their organization’s greatest asset is its people – but in reality, this is only true when those employees are fully engaged in their jobs. Engaged workers stand apart from their not engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles day after day.”

Gallup, Inc.

Play to your strengths

Everyone has strengths: talents, knowledge and skills which can be used to advantage at work. Gallup’s research shows that: "People who use their strengths are 6 times more likely to be engaged on the job."

However, many organisations ignore strengths and focus instead on competencies.

Competencies are designed to ensure that everyone achieves certain target standards in pre-defined areas. As a result, individuals expend time and energy (which could be focused on their talents) trying to fix areas of weakness, and strengths are reduced to mediocrity.

As a result of their findings, Gallup Inc. identified six steps that organisations could take to improve employee engagement levels. Let’s look at how we can apply Belbin Team Roles to each one in turn.

1) Help individuals discover their strengths

The Team Role Overview report page from a Belbin profile gives an “at a glance” view of an individual’s Team Role scores. In this case, the top three Team Roles are distinct from the other six, indicating that the individual has a propensity for (and might usefully spend time playing and developing) these three roles.

In some cases, people may be unaware of their strengths or may take them for granted, assuming that everyone else must also possess the skill or attribute which comes naturally to them. In this case, Observer feedback (from colleagues and others who have worked closely with someone for some time) can draw out contributions which that person may have missed and can produce a fuller report.

“People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That’s hard enough.”

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules: What The Worlds’ Greatest Managers Do Differently

2) Ensure that job roles and strengths are aligned

For engagement to work, people need to be positioned so that they can use their strengths each day – and this doesn’t just mean qualifications. Gallup discovered that, in the developed world, education does not necessarily trend upwards with engagement, meaning that matching CVs and job descriptions is not necessarily a recipe for success.

Rather than identifying a particular job title or department, this allows people to use Team Role language to demonstrate how they work best and what they can bring to a team or project. If an individual feels that he or she doesn’t have enough opportunity to exercise a particular working style, then perhaps the parameters of the job could be changed to engage the individual more fully?

The Belbin Feedback and Development report offers advice on the kind of working environment which might be suitable, so that you can ensure that you are giving team members the best atmosphere in which to engage with their work.

For example, A Resource Investigator-Shaper might enjoy a lively, fast-paced environment, whereas a Monitor Evaluator-Completer Finisher works best given time and space to make decisions and get things right.

3) Recognise and use others’ strengths to best advantage.

Once individuals understand their own contributions, it is important that they recognise one another’s strengths and understand how colleagues’ talents complement their own.

The Team/Group reports provide useful information to help people do just this. The Team Role Circle in these reports shows the initials for each team member in the segments of the circle which correspond to their top two Team Roles. The Team Contributions page makes a suggestion as to who should play each Team Role.

Once team members know how others can contribute, they are more likely to call on one another to play to their strengths, meaning that people do not waste time and effort trying to compensate for their weakest roles.

Individuals may be drawn to work with others who share their top Team Roles, finding the commonality of approach reassuring and easy to comprehend. Although working in complementary Team Role pairings might require more effort, it is a better strategy in the long run, because strengths are not duplicated (meaning that people are not vying to play the same role) and each person can compensate for the weaknesses of the other.

Complementary relationships can also be engaging, so long as the difference is valued and codified appropriately. The Belbin report text identifies where the pressure points in the relationship might be and how these might be mitigated.

According to Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their book, First Break All the Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”.

Gallup reiterate these findings, confirming that good management is key to engagement.

If the relationship between manager and employee is strained, the Working Relationship report can provide a starting- point for discussions.

4/ Help teams to understand and consider strengths when assigning team projects

As individuals and teams become more familiar with the language of Team Roles, it can be used to assign people to project teams, as well as diagnosing and remedying existing problems.

Each team and project is different, so the team must decide which behaviours are needed and who is best placed to fulfil the corresponding Team Role contribution. A Belbin Team Report identifies the roles which might be required for each stage.

As well as recognising talents and enabling individuals to play to their strengths, this approach also promotes engagement by removing individuals from a project stage in which their behavioural propensities might be unhelpful and cause others to disengage.

For example, a Monitor Evaluator present at the “Ideas” stage may frustrate Plants and dampen the enthusiasm of Resource Investigators by dismissing ideas too harshly. He or she is also likely to become uneasy at the prospect of so many ideas flying haphazardly around. A Resource Investigator misplaced in the “Follow through” phase may lose interest and fail to follow up adequately, leaving Implementer and Completer Finisher colleagues to pick up the pieces.

5 / Incorporate strengths into performance reviews and goals

According to Gallup, performance reviews have a significant effect on engagement.

Performance reviews which focused on employee strengths produced a 36% performance improvement, whereas reviews which focused on employee weaknesses resulted in a 27% decrease in performance.

“Trying to get employees to fix their weaknesses doesn’t work. Weaknesses can’t be developed much at all – but employees’ strengths can be developed infinitely.”

Gallup, Inc.

For some, their perception of their own contributions will be in alignment with the views of their colleagues. For others, there will be discrepancies between the two. We will consider how to use the reports in either case.

If individual and observer views are in agreement... strengths should be celebrated. The Maximizing your Potential report from a Belbin profile lists Strengths derived from different Team Role combinations, giving a rounded picture of the individual’s valued behavioural assets. The Possible Weaknesses section addresses behavioural traits which are the flipsides of the Team Role strengths that the individual exhibits. These are flagged so that, where appropriate, the individual can develop strategies to work with others in these areas, rather than as recommendations for development.

Additionally, the Team Role Feedback report focuses on the individual’s top two Team Roles (or the top role, if considerably higher than the second) and gives a person specific advice on how to cultivate a second or third Team Role to add another string to his or her bow. To translate this into real terms, the section of the Feedback and Development report from a profile indicates work to which the individual might or might not be suited.

If individual and observer views differ... it may be more prudent to spend time looking at information derived solely from individual’s self-perception, so that the individual is not put off by the Belbin process. In addition to the Understanding your Contribution section shown opposite, the report page entitled Your Team Role Preferences plots percentile scores for each Team Role, categorising them as Preferred, Manageable and Least Preferred Roles.

“If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that's another weakness.”

Jack Handy, American writer and comedian

6 / Foster a culture which promotes strengths

In order to ensure lasting employee engagement, it is important to build a culture of strengths, which capitalises on the talents of each team member. Team Roles can provide a language to describe different kinds of work and to find the appropriate person to perform it.

By using Belbin champions to make the Team Role lexicon integral to the working environment, you can ensure that all contributions are valued and represented where necessary. Not only will this enhance employee engagement, but it will also help to avoid the development of certain Team Role cultures, where one contribution is valued above others.

In conclusion...

Belbin Team Roles are all about promoting, and playing to our strengths.

Using Team Roles, we can identify positive contributions and provide strategies to minimise the impact of associated weaknesses.

We can better understand the strengths of those around us and manage relationships which might otherwise cause frustration.

The result? A workforce of individuals more engaged with their work.

Originally published in the Belbin “How To” Guide “Use Belbin For Engagement” available from our Belbin website as a Free Download / Resource

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