483079265Employers who fail to engage their employees are costing their company billions of dollars. What’s more, research from Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace survey, shows that this is a widespread issue — just 13 percent of worldwide employees say they are engaged at work. In the U.S., where engagement is at 30 percent, Gallup estimates that active disengagement (18 percent of the workforce) costs the economy $450 billion to $550 billion per year. While businesses are busy engaging everyone else under the sun — customers, partners, millennial and more — most employees don’t have any outlets for engagement. Thankfully, every business leader has the power to change this.

What Does “Employee Engagement” Even Mean?

Engaged employees don’t simply work longer hours. What makes engaged employees different is that they are knowledgeable about their company’s mission, and they tell the world what they and the company are up to. Engaged employees are the ones who create value. The State of the Global Workplace survey found that organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012. Engagement is not some mythical ideal—it’s attainable and separates highly effective companies from their competition.

Why Your Employees Are Disengaged

The problem is that only 41 percent of U.S. employees know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands, according to the State of the Global Workplace survey. If they wanted to speak about their brand on social media, they wouldn’t know what to say. So while most companies already have declared values and mission statements, employees are not aware of them. Companies need ways for employees to learn these values and act on them before they can discuss them.

The Solution Top Brands Are Discovering

Every company has stories worth telling, and the most engaged companies create new ones all the time. Some of the world’s most engaging brands have what could be considered boring products. What makes them engaging is how they tell the world their story. The stories all touch back to the mission – the brand’s reason for existing, and its employees’ purpose in their daily work.

The online shoe seller Zappos is famous for engaging employees. As a Zappos employee described in U.S. News, one of his co-worker went from mailroom worker to senior trainer. She had a passion for improv comedy, and she was encouraged to channel that interest into corporate training. Now, she teaches classes on public speaking, improv and team building. The U.S. News article also mentions quarterly talent shows, free life coaching and the renowned independence of Zappos call center representatives, who are allowed to issue refunds, upgrade shipping and even send customers cookies and flowers without asking a manager for permission. How could amazing stories not emerge from a place like this?

You have to create an atmosphere where people can do amazing things. We know human beings get a biological and social reward from telling personal stories, and this sharing is the pinnacle of engagement. The acts of doing and sharing feed each other.