A surprising 70% of employees report that they are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their workplace, according to the latest research from Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders”. Lack of employee engagement detrimentally impacts workplace performance and costs employers an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually, reports Gallup. Disengaged employees are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.

As General Manager for Information Technology recruitment, I can attest that the old adage “employees join great companies but quit bad bosses” continues to ring true. Talented employees are extremely scarce in competitive industries; if your company fails to value these individuals and creates a culture of frustration, rather than engagement, then you’re likely to lose this employee.

If workplace performance is struggling, a shift in employee engagement can help boost growth through innovative ideas, increased customer acquisition and entrepreneurial energy. Consider these key leadership attributes and traits that drive employee engagement:

Engage through open communication
Foster a culture of open communication. Over time, the inability to express minor frustrations can lead to employee resentment and disengagement. Nip these problems in the bud with an open door policy. Employees feel valued when you listen and respect their opinions, even if you ultimately make different decisions.

Provide targeted feedback
Don’t wait until the end of the year for a performance review; provide specific feedback for each project. Employees are more engaged when they feel their performance matters for each project and they are given specific ways to improve their work. Talented employees deserve and need to be recognized; if you don’t have a culture where you engaged employees and allow them to participate in the process, your employees are likely to feel like they are being “used” rather than valuable team members.

Reinforce and reward the right soft skills
Although we traditionally place significant emphasis on educational attainment and professional skills, soft skills – such as collaborative problem solving, flexibility/adaptability, and the ability to learn from criticism – are just as important for employee engagement. Reinforce the importance of these soft skills through promotion. Select managers with the right talents for empowering, supporting and engaging their staff.

Increase opportunities for telecommuting
Employees who work remotely are more engaged and ultimately log more hours at work each week, according to Gallup. In fact, Gallup found that allowing employees to work remotely has a bigger impact on engagement than other workplace perks like increased vacation time or flextime.

Ultimately, winning customers and larger marketplace share starts by winning the hearts and minds of employees through better employee engagement.

If you are a supervisor, how do you keep your employees engaged? I welcome your thoughts on key leadership attributes for employee engagement below.