All I need to know about employee engagement I learned from practicing yoga - Novacrea Research
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All I need to know about employee engagement I learned from practicing yoga

Flexibility and yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for more than 10 years. I always enjoy my class and feel refreshed after the class. Today, as my yoga instructor led us through various poses, I saw the connection between practicing yoga and creating a work environment that engages employees. Here are the insights I gathered:


Model the desired behaviors. In addition to telling us what poses to do, my yoga instructor demonstrated the pose herself. She showed us the correct alignment of arms and shoulder, and used visual cues to help us “get it.” Similarly, leaders in an organization need to model the desired behaviors for employees and articulate clearly what is expected of employees, how their performance will be measured, and what it means to contribute to the success of the company.

Provide resources. In class, students have the necessary props, blankets, mats, and straps to do their poses and deepen their practice. At work, it is equally important to provide the necessary tools and resources to support employees to do their jobs well.

The most common complaints about resources we have seen from our employee surveys are related to outdated systems, a lack of supplies, and not hiring people with the right skills (and attitude) for the jobs. I encourage you to review these three areas regularly to ensure that your employees have the right tools and resources to do their best work.

Emphasize continual improvement. In a yoga class, students can continually make micro adjustments to their poses and deepen their practice. Likewise, to remain competitive, an organization needs to continually improve its processes, products, and services. Leaders who support and encourage their employees to learn new skills, attend seminars, use social media to connect and learn with each other will see employee engagement improve. You will also see improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction.

Mistakes are encouraged and used for learning. Students in my yoga class are at different levels, sometimes they fall or wobble in their pose. Sometimes they flip upside down and do a few seconds of handstand. My instructor emphasized that we practice at our own level. It’s okay to fall, have a laugh and try again. Like kids, we fell, we laughed, and we tried again until we could hold a pose for a few seconds or a minute.

Imagine how much more creative energy you could release from your workforce if you fostered an environment where mistakes were used for learning? This does not mean employees are not held accountable for their performance, it means you use mistakes as a just-in-time coaching moment, debrief with your employees, and learn from the experience.

Make it meaningful. Most students come to class to improve their health and flexibility. Some students want to find respite in quiet meditation and calm their minds. They find doing yoga meaningful however they define meaning in their practice.

Research has shown that employees are more engaged when they feel that their jobs are meaningful. You can help employees see the meaning of their jobs by showing the connection between their contributions and your company’s vision and goals. You can make the jobs more meaningful for employees when you match the job tasks with their intrinsic values. For example, employees in the healthcare industry find their jobs meaningful because they help save lives. Janitors or housekeepers at Joie de Vivre don’t see their jobs as just cleaning the toilets or setting the beds, but as providing joy to their hotel guests.

Show respect. Before we start the class, our instructor acknowledged students’ coming to class on a busy day and take time to practice. At the end of our practice, students rolled up their mats, picked up their props and put them back in the proper place. These are small guestures. But these guestures show the instructor’s respect for the students’ commitment to practicing yoga; and the students’ respect for the instructor and space by cleaning up after practice.

At work, leaders and employees can show respect by truly listening to each other. Say “good morning” or “how are you?” when you walk by an employee. Acknowledge employees’ contributions. Praise their good work in addition to giving constructive feedback. We have seen numerous employee comments that tell stories of rude behaviors of their supervisors that deteriorate employee morale. You don’t have to be part of that story.


Engaging employees is a continual process. Just like practicing yoga, you can always get better, go deeper. Likewise, leaders, managers, and employees can always go a step farther to foster a work environment that is respectful. Leaders and employees can have regular discussions and craft jobs that are meaningful for both employees and the organization. Last but not least, pay competitively, and provide the necessary resources to help employees do their best work.

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