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Improving Employee Performance through Engagement

Employee performance is the most important part of any business, yet according to the Benenden Health Survey only 7% of bosses engaged with the need for change and added specific support for COVID-19 to their existing wellbeing policy.

The consequences of ignoring the impact of COVID-19

In 2017 the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, ‘Thriving at Work’, suggested all employers should create mental health at work plan, encourage conversation about mental health, provide good working conditions and monitor employee mental health and wellbeing. These proposed measures were in answer to the growing mental health crisis and lowered employee performance. Then we had a pandemic; the ONS report that incidents of depression have nearly doubled since the pandemic started, and 74% of adults experiencing some form of depression reported the coronavirus pandemic was affecting their well-being. Then we had the great resignation and now we have quiet quitting.

Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is a term used to describe a lowering of employee performance. Employees who put no more effort into their jobs than absolutely necessary are referred to as quiet quitters. After conducting a survey using questions related to employee performance and engagement, Gallup suggests only 21% of employees are engaged at work and stress amongst the world’s workers is at an all time high. According to Deloitte, poor mental health and workforce disengagement cost £45 billion per year. The consequences of ignoring this new crisis are massive for businesses. 

The quiet quitting movement can be stopped in its tracks if leaders start to look at how they can re-engage their employee performance and engagement. Transformational leadership is just one way that has been shown to influence Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB); behaviour that is not part of employees’ formal obligation to work, the opposite of quiet quitting. Employees who have a high OCB towards their place of work and other employees will show increased performance, a more sociable, friendly attitude, and will be accepting of tasks without complaining (Purwanto, 2022), and the psychological mechanism which drives OCB, is engagement (Kataria et al., 2013). 

“Employee engagement is the extent to which people enjoy and believe in what they do, and feel valued by doing it.” (Ariani, 2013).

Feeling Valued!

81,396 hours (Gallup, 2022), that is the average amount of time spent at work in a lifetime, that’s a long time to spend somewhere if you don’t feel valued. Feeling valued is a fundamental human need, so if employee performance is to be improved, this is the key to reengaging the workforce.

Reengaging the workforce.

As discussed above, employee performance is influenced by whether members feel valued, feeling valued leads to higher levels of engagement which is positively correlated to OCB and OCB is the opposite of quiet quitting. Work engagement can have a positive effect on in-role and extra-role productivity, proactivity, and client satisfaction (Rothbard & Patil, 2013). Having an engaged workforce is key to improving levels of organisational and employee performance.

One way to improve employee performance and engagement is through Character Strengths practices. Character Strengths can be defined as the potential for excellence which can be cultivated (Biswas-Diener et al., 2011). Strengths practices help to enhance well-being, productivity and create a positive culture within organisations and have been shown to increase member engagement, leaving employees feeling valued, and fulfilled (Quinlan, 2011). Character Strengths are a common language that describes what is best in human beings (Niemiec, 2018). These strengths were discovered through the research which analysed the best thinking on the topic of character over the previous 2500+ years. This research led to 24 character strengths which sit within the 6 virtues of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

How are Strengths and Employee Performance related?

In their research ‘Productivity through Strengths’, Asplund and Blacksmith (2013) conclude that strengths-based employee development leads to a more engaged workforce. They go on to argue by devoting more time and effort to understanding individual strengths, organisations can expect their employees to be more productive. Stander et al. (2014) also discuss how providing support for the use of strengths can assist employees to competently manage their job resources and attain work goals. They also suggest that encouraging members to proactively use strengths could lead to higher engagement and therefore higher employee performance.

What Next?

If you would like to learn more about how to apply Character Strengths practices to your organisation and in doing so improve employee performance through engagement, click here to find out about our new mental health and culture initiative. 


Ariani, D. W. (2013). The relationship between employee engagement, organizational citizenship behavior, and counterproductive work behavior. International Journal of Business Administration, 4(2), 46.

Asplund J., Blacksmith N. (2013) Productivity through Strengths. In K. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship (pp. 353-365). Oxford University Press

Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T., & Minhas, G. (2011). A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 106–118. doi:10.1080/ 17439760.2010.545429

Gallup (2022) State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report; The Voice of the Worlds Employees

Kataria, A., Garg, P., & Rastogi, R. (2012). Employee engagement and organizational effectiveness: The role of organizational citizenship behavior. International Journal of Business Insights & Transformation, 6(1).

Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Hogrefe Publishing

Purwanto, A. (2022). The role of transformational leadership and organizational citizenship behavior on SMEs employee performance. Journal of Industrial Engineering & Management Research.

Quinlan, D., Swain, N., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2011). Character Strengths Interventions: Building on What We Know for Improved Outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(6), 1145–1163. 

Rothbard N. P., Patil S. V. (2013) Being There. In K. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship (pp. 56-68). Oxford University Press

Stander F. W., Mostert K., de Beer L. T (2014) Organisational and individual strengths use as predictors of engagement and productivity. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 24(5), pp.403–409,