High employee engagement leads to much higher productivity and has a host of other benefits, including reduced turnaround–not to mention a much more fun place to work. However, employee engagement in the US is low and stagnant–70% of workers are not engaged.

There’s no shortage of “tips” you can use to attempt to improve employee engagement, and I’ve seen many businesses cycle through different engagement tactics du jour to no avail. Making engagement a separate function of the business or trying out a smattering of separate ideas has been largely shown to be a waste of time.

What does work is setting up your team to make a real, measurable impact on the business. When people feel like they’re trapped in doing menial work, they disengage–this is particularly true for younger generations. But when they’re achieving tangible results, magic can happen. Here’s how to get started:

  • Give them opportunities to make tangible contributions.
  • Make the expectations clear and aggressive.
  • Focus on results.

Achieving Tangible Contributions

Workers of all generations value having a positive impact on their organization or the world at large. Such a desire for impact means that conventional task-based jobs could become highly demotivating.

The good news is that your employees want to help beyond the sphere of accomplishing tasks. To engage them, let them loose on improving the business itself. Help them find valuable, visible problems to solve, and outfit them with the skills to solve those problems by teaching them behaviors that will help them solve these problems. Demonstrate why these problems will have a large impact on the business.

Investing in these skills takes work, but the work pays for itself. As your employees learn better problem-solving behaviors, set them forth on easier problems in the business to build their competence and confidence. As they progress to harder problems, their engagement will continue to increase. As a bonus, employees become more engaged when they’re learning more. The process of solving valuable problems for the business will have the dual effect of increasing total value immediately while simultaneously improving engagement significantly.

Setting Clear Expectations

A majority of employees don’t understand their business’s strategy, what their customers want, or the expectations managers have of them. This is a problem. To be engaged with their work, employees need clarity about what’s expected of them and how their work impacts the business’s goals.

As you set your employees to solving problems, give them measurable targets to reach. Make clear how these targets translate to the business’s goals and strategy. Don’t leave them working in the dark or try to make them “comfortable” by not holding them accountable to getting results. You’ll find your workforce far more engaged when they have a clear goal they can meet to help the business.

Focusing on Results

Even more than workplace flexibility, most employees want their business to have a high freedom to innovate, and recognition and promotion for high performance. The message is clear: they want to make an impact and be recognized and rewarded for the results.

When evaluating your young employees, stop worrying about hours put in or tasks completed, and be more results-focused about their individual contributions. Reward individuals for their results, and engagement will increase.

Engagement is not an enigma, and achieving engagement doesn’t require pep talks, perks, or small changes in how you talk to your employees. To both engage your employees and get the greatest benefit out of their work, set them up to go solve some hard problems in the workplace, hold them accountable to clear targets, and celebrate their individual success.