Employee Engagement? Yes! But How?

Never has the topic of employee engagement been more relevant or more challenging


Pre-COVID, Gallup had already put a dollar amount on employee disengagement — a whopping 34 per cent of a disengaged employee’s annual salary. The current health crisis has only made things worse. Emergenetics Asia Pacific found that since the start of remote work, “50 per cent of respondents feel disconnected from their team and company”.

Collective intelligence approaches are all about bringing people together to discuss issues, exchange ideas and ultimately generate solutions and actions. However, not all collective intelligence approaches are equally engaging.

To effectively implement an employee-engagement plan, it is important to understand what

‘employee engagement’ means.

One complete definition is that, it is

“A workplace approach resulting in:

1. the right conditions for all

2. members of an organisation giving their best each day

3. members being committed to their organisation’s goals and values

4. members being motivated to contribute to organisational success, resulting in

5. an enhanced sense of their own well-being…”.

While there are various approaches to achieving employee engagement, the collective intelligence approach endorsed by the World Institute of Action Learning (WIAL) is particularly effective. It suggests “a specific work process with a small group that reflects on the solution of real and complex problems and, in doing so, allows its members to develop their collaborative skills, team spirit and ability to work and learn together”.


The ‘spirit’ behind this methodology is clear: caring, goodwill, kindness, a safe space to learn and share – no judgment.

An Action Learning session creates the right conditions with:

· small, diverse groups (between 4 – 8 people) working for 90 minutes on a real, complex and relatively urgent challenge or problem. The work group should include members who have no prior knowledge of the situation or context.

· A trained coach to facilitate the learning.

· A session comprises four structured phases:

1. A two-minute presentation of the challenge

2. A clarification phase (necessary to determine that all participants agree on what the real problem is)

3. Definition of objectives and options

4. A conclusion phase, including a debrief of not only group learning but each participant’s development of leadership and communication skills.

There are two simple rules during the session:

i. Statements may only be made in response to a question (however, anyone can ask a question of anyone at any time)

ii. The coach has the authority to intervene whenever there is an opportunity for learning.

One final note on offering the right conditions concerns Action Learning’s emphasis on ‘the fundamental equality of people’. David Rock developed a model of “the person within the organisation” from a brain- based point of view, with status as an important component in an organisational hierarchy. Action Learning “neutralises the status, threat not only by encouraging the problem presenter to be an equal member of the group, but also by holding the action learning team responsible for drawing out the needed information through questioning”

“…very interesting to share our opinions on what’s happening in the company; we don’t have much time to be so transparent with each other…” Grace H.


When people feel like they are in a safe environment and believe that their voice will be heard and their questions considered, they will give their best effort. As David Eagleman says in his book, The Human Brain, “Human brains are fundamentally wired to interact, we’re a splendidly social species”.

“…a moment to share one’s ideas and to promote a team spirit…” Laure S.


Most companies declare team spirit and a sense of belonging as a corporate value, but how can one really measure that concept? Using an approach such as Action Learning is a concrete means to demonstrate this value through allowing employees to participate in the most urgent organisational issues.

“…This session unifies employees. Action Learning allows us to stay on a topic and think together

within a defined period of time…” Nathalie W. (HR Manager)


With the right ‘spirit’, the presence of a professional trained coach, a clear structure and simple rules, “team members quickly become part of the solution and ultimately are happy to be included in a movement towards clarity, possible solutions and action”.

“…enriching, motivating, with a desire to move forward…” Fanny L.

“…I feel more motivated and better taken into account within the company…” Guénola L.


We also know through social neuroscience that “large zones of the brain’s frontal areas have what amounts to a neural Wi-Fi, which makes a brain-to-brain bridge while we interact. When we feel rapport or come away from a conversation glowing from a good talk, this is the circuitry that makes us feel that glow”.

“…there’s strength in numbers…it’s very important to listen to others, we feel calm and peaceful at the end of the session…” Paul D.

“I feel more comfortable with the other team members. I would say you shouldn’t hesitate to speak up…” Antoine G. (Manager)

Experience has shown that collective intelligence techniques add value to organisations.

Action Learning results in increased employee engagement. The feedback received from participants speaks for itself.

To learn more about professional coaching and its organisational benefits, visit International Coaching Federation.

Professional coaching services can be found using ICF’s directory of credentialed coaches spread all over the world

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organisation leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 35,000 plus members located in more than 140 countries and territories work toward common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and maintaining the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching. Visit coachingfederation.org for more information.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai, ICF Pune and ICF Hyderabad.

Kristi Swenson Alcouffe, was born in the US and studied in the US and in France. She has a BS from the University of Connecticut School of Business and after her studies, Kristi worked as a financial analyst in the heart of the Boston Financial District. She has been living and working in France for the past 25 years as a professional development coach and an independent trainer/consultant. Kristi is very proud to be an ACC certified coach by the International Coaching Federation.

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