Employee Feedback Company Culture
5 min read

5 inspiring books to help you improve employee engagement

Josh Berman

Josh Berman

Senior Customer Success Coach, Culture Amp

In our previous article, Insights from Culture Amp’s 2018 Benchmarks, we shared the top five questions that were drivers of employee engagement across all of our customers. If you’re a People Geek like us, you’re probably hungry to learn more about what you can do to move the needle forward in these key areas.

First, you can check out the in-platform inspiration engine for real-world examples that companies have seen success with. We share a few of these inspirations in, Three research-backed ways to improve employee engagement.

If you’re looking for a deeper dive, there are great books by esteemed researchers that provide additional inspiration for action. Here are five inspiring books to help you improve employee engagement, based on the top five questions that drive employee engagement.

Question 1: [Company] is a great company for me to make a contribution to my development

Inspiring Reading: An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Many organizations view people development and business growth as forces pulling in opposite directions. This book profiles three “Deliberately Developmental Organizations” (Next Jump, Decurion, and Bridgewater) where development of their people isn’t separate from business growth, it’s a fundamental driver of business growth. The authors provide research-backed frameworks and tactical ideas for how you can transform your own organization into one where development is in your organizational DNA.

Pro-tip: This book is designed to be read in sections, so you can start with what’s most important to you (even if that’s not on page one) and then go back and read the rest if you’d like.

Question 2: I have confidence in the leaders at [Company]

Inspiring Reading: Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

If you’re familiar with Brené Brown, you’re might be wondering what a book about vulnerability has to do with this question. Before taking action, you’ll want to explore why there is a lack of confidence in the leaders at your company. One possible root cause is the way that information is communicated. The other is that people genuinely don’t have confidence in the vision for your company. Whatever the reason, as a member of HR this will likely be a sensitive conversation to have with your leadership. It’s also likely a topic that employees may not feel fully comfortable discussing openly. By focusing on vulnerability as a strength, Daring Greatly provides a foundation for those tough conversations.

Pro-tip: Watch Brené’s Ted talk on vulnerability - it’s 20 minutes and high impact for changing the conversation.

Question 3: Day-to-day decisions here demonstrate that quality and improvement are top priorities.

Inspiring Reading: Measure What Matters, by John Doer

If you were to ask most organizational leaders what’s important to them, quality and improvement would probably be high on the list. So why don’t your employees feel the same way? One potential reason is a lack of alignment in organizational priorities. Based on his extensive experience consulting with Google and other top-tier organizations, venture capitalist John Doer (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) shares a roadmap for how to build OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) to create that alignment from top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top.

Pro-tip: If you don’t have time to read the whole book, Doer provides a concise 8-page summary at the end.

Question 4: The leaders at [Company] demonstrate that people are important to the company’s success.

Inspiring Reading: Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People & Organizations, by Jane Dutton & Monica Worline

Sometimes leaders get so caught up in ambitious goals and condensed timing that they forget that people are, well, people. Dr. Dutton and Dr. Worline take over two decades of research to demonstrate the value of compassion to the individual and to the organization. They provide clear recommendations for how (regardless of who we are) we can foster an authentically compassionate workplace both as individuals and through organizational design.

Pro-tip: If you feel like your opportunity in this area is more closely tied to recognition or appreciation, try Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Paul White & Gary Chapman.

Question 5: The leaders at [Company] have communicated a vision that motivates me.

Inspiring Reading: Start with Why, by Simon Sinek

In his “Golden Circle” framework, Sinek shares that when great leaders communicate inspiring and influential visions, they don’t start with the “what” or the “how,” they start with the WHY. They articulate the underlying shared belief or values that drives their message, and in doing so are able to motivate the rest of us along the way. Even if you’re familiar with Sinek’s work, this is a skill that’s easier said than done. The book provides a clean and simple framework that you can share with the rest of your team.

Pro-tip: Don’t have time to read? Check out Sinek’s 18 minute TED talk.


Josh Berman | Culture AmpJosh Berman is a Senior Customer Success Coach at Culture Amp. He helps organizations improve their culture through employee feedback and is driven by a passion for bringing psychology-based concepts to organizations and people to create positive change. He has a BA in psychology from the University of Michigan.