10 Employee Engagement Books to Help You Motivate Your Employees
Keeping your employees engaged and performing at their highest level can be a challenge where many employers fall short. You want to be able to keep a level of high performance without being pushy or overbearing. How do you balance the two?
Fortunately, there are many books on the market written by seasoned professionals who are here to help.
Below is our list of ten of the most highly rated employee engagement books available. Each book has been given a score out of ten, based on how successful their ratings are from both Amazon and Goodreads.
Additionally, every book on the main list is from within the past decade, meaning we have the most up-to-date research for you. We have, however, included some honorable mentions at the end which just miss out on the ten-year quota, but are still considered to be immensely influential.
The Change Champion’s Field Guide: Strategies and Tools for Leading Change in Your Organization 2nd Edition by Louis Carter (2013)
Score: 9.5 (5/5 Amazon, 4.5/5 Goodreads)
Louis Carter has been writing on the subject of business management for two decades now, and has curated a highly successful repertoire of books and articles. His name will appear a few times on this list, purely because of how highly rated his books are in the industry. If you’re looking for a place to start, anything by Louis Carter will lead you in the right direction.
The Change Champion’s Field Guide is written by a selection of “change leaders” (those who proactively advocate for, strategize, and implement effective change in an organization). They explain how you too can become a change leader and make a positive difference in your workplace. Within the very first chapter, you are introduced to employee engagement and offered a framework on how to improve it within your company.
In Great Company: How to Spark Peak Performance by Creating an Emotionally Connected Workplace by Louis Carter (2019)
Score: 9.4 (4.7/5 Amazon, 4.7/5 Goodreads
Another by Louis Carter, but this book focuses more on employees themselves and the company culture that they operate in. It was this book that sparked the creation of Most Loved Workplace.
If you wish to increase your employees’ job satisfaction and build a more constructive, supportive environment for them, take the time to look over this book and make some notes.
Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement by Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey (2018)
Score: 9 (4.6/5 Amazon, 4.4/5 Goodreads)
Build It is a goldmine of knowledge for anyone involved in human resources. Its main selling point is the use of the Engagement Bridge model, and the ten points that go into improving employee engagement. The three key elements of this are pay and benefits, workspace, and wellbeing, upon which everything else is built.
Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr (2017)
Score: 8.8 (4.5/5 Amazon, 4.3/5 Goodreads)
Advocated by Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, Measure What Matters is a New York Times bestseller. Written by John Doerr, a highly successful venture capitalist, this book balances the routes you as an employer can take to boost your business by appreciating and looking after your employees, and “[rebelling] against the status-quo”.
The first half involved anecdotes from global companies Doerr has been involved with, such as Google or Intel, and discusses the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). It then goes on to talk about OKRs in tandem with CFRs (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition) to maintain high employee engagement and satisfaction.
Score: 8.68 (4.6/5 Amazon, incomplete data from Goodreads, but scored 4.08 on her first issue)
Emma Bridger’s ongoing book series, Employee Engagement: A Practical Introduction, currently has three editions, the most recent of which is #24, published in 2022. This issue has only been out since March so there are not many reviews on it, but early engagement describes it as a roaring success, set to follow in the footsteps of the original and second editions.
Bridger offers a plethora of case studies, evaluating the ways in which different businesses operate their employee engagement strategies and prevent burnout. It also offers various activities and templates for you to try within your company to get you started on developing your own systems.
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey, et al (2016)
Score: 8.6 (4.6/5 Amazon, 4/5 Goodreads)
An Everyone Culture spends a lot of time looking at individuals, self worth, and ideas of perfectionism. It recognizes that we spend a lot of time trying to act how we think people want us to act, and, as a result, never realize our full potential – we are held back by internal barriers.
Kegan, Lahey et al. remark that we need to tackle those internal pressures by creating a workplace environment that respects and encourages employees for who they are, and the talents they are already bringing to the table. It takes a very humanistic approach to business, advocating for personal growth, as well as company growth.
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier (2016)
Score: 8.5 (4.5/5 Amazon, 4/5 Goodreads)
Stanier’s book explains management in the sense of “work smarter, not harder”. The way to maintain engaged employees is by making an effort to be engaged with them first.
Admittedly, there is quite a lot of name-dropping in here. But, it’s a relatively quick read that breaks down management into seven questions that you can work through:
In doing so, you can build your own coaching style, and make a positive change in the way you manage and engage your employees.
The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate by Jacob Morgan (2017)
Score: 8.4 (4.6/5 Amazon, 3.8/5 Goodreads)
The Employee Experience Advantage looks into the superficial ways that many companies only use employee engagement as a “short-term adrenaline shot” used to fulfill scores or quotas. Morgan suggests that the employee experience has to be long-lasting and definitive in its impact. From his research into hundreds of articles, interviews, and organizations, he identifies three key areas where the most impact can occur:
Score: 8.3 (4.3/5 Amazon, 4/5 Goodreads)
The “For Dummies” series has been a go-to for information on an incredibly varied selection of topics, and Kelleher’s addition is no different.
This book covers tactics for the beginning of the hiring process, and all the way throughout an employee’s career to keep them consistently engaged and supported.
It’s a great place to start before getting to grips with more complex insights into employee welfare. Here, you are provided with everything you need to know to lay the foundations of a healthy employee and workplace culture.
Score: 8.2 (4.5/5 Amazon, 3.7/5 Goodreads)
Bestselling author Kevin Kruse provides straightforward, informative advice on how to increase your levels of engagement at work. Each of his eleven chapters poses a question for you as an employer to answer by the end, intermingled with statistics and quotes from industry experts.
Some have praised the book for Kruse’s fair approach on the matter, as he explains that no one person can take the blame for a lack of employee engagement. One main takeaway is that it’s a shared burden that both the employer and employee have to work towards together. By the end of the book, you will have a road map to use to propel yourself and your employees forward in the industry.
Score: 8.1 (4.1/5 Amazon, 4/5 Goodreads)
Grant and Notter’s book highlights several often overlooked factors, including the generational gap in the workforce, the apparent uselessness of employee surveys, and how to properly let your employees move on when the time is right.
This book looks more towards the future of work, and how we can better the working world as a whole, moving forward. But it still contains many “action-oriented” initiatives that you can take right now to empower your employees.
Score: 7.6: (4.3/5 Amazon, 3.3/5 Goodreads)
Dr. Bob Nelson has been on the scene for a long time, having published over 30 books that have sold 5 million copies. He is generally considered to be the world’s leading expert when it comes to employee betterment and engagement.
1,001 Ways to Engage Employees gets right to the point, emphasizing the importance of recognition in the workforce first and foremost:
“Recognition […] is the number-one driver of employee engagement, significantly representing 56 percent of the employees’ perception of engagement where they work.”
– Bob Nelson, 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees, pg 29
For any manager or HR professional looking to bolster engagement, Nelson’s books are always a good place to turn to.
Of course, there are still many important books that have not made the current list, so here are some honorable mentions.
Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano (2010)
No list would be entirely complete without reference to Marciano’s iconic work. His 7 key drivers of employee engagement (his RESPECT model) are still used continuously by small and large organizations alike.
The Truth About Employee Engagement: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery by Patrick Lencioni (2007)
Likewise, Lencioni is an industry-expert when it comes to tackling the three key principles behind employee disengagement:
By addressing and solving these issues, employers are guaranteed to see an increase in both engagement and satisfaction.
It’s important to remember that the development of employee engagement requires strong leadership. Set an example, and better yourself as an employer so your employees can build their trust in you and be more engaged as a result.
If you’re looking for a little more light reading, here is a list of 33 leadership books that you can use to better yourself, so you can then focus on bettering your employees.
Louis Carter is the founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, Most Loved Workplace, and Results-Based Culture. Author of In Great Company, Change Champions Field Guide, and Best Practices in Talent Management, as well as a series of Leadership Development books. He is a trusted strategic advisor and coach to CEOs, CHROs, and leaders of mid-sized to F500 companies – enabling change and steering employer brand development together with highly effective teams, leaders, and organizations as a whole.