What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement has been at the forefront of HR leaders’ minds for quite some time. It impacts every vital aspect of your organization, such as revenue, customer experience, employee retention, and profitability.
Gallup found that only 20% of employees worldwide and 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. A recent study found that 92% of business executives believe that engaged employees perform better, increasing the success of their teams and the overall outcomes of their organizations. These stats show a wide gap between business leaders and employees in understanding the definition of employee engagement.
But what exactly is employee engagement? This can be challenging to define, but you know an engaged employee when you see one. They participate in meetings, show up on time, and are enthusiastic about their job. Just the same, disengaged employees have their tells. They come into work grumpy and late, consistently miss deadlines, and carry an air of gloom that permeates the work environment.
Below we will explore exactly what the definition of employee engagement is and what it is not. Beyond the description, we will look at what drives employee engagement, how to measure it and explore the latest tools to create a plan of action to implement the best practices.
Employee engagement is the strength of employees’ mental and emotional connection toward their work, their teams, and their organization. It’s how they experience their work—and your organization. It is a measure of the connection employees feel to their organizations, marked by their motivation to sustain their work effort, and a strong employee experience (EX) correlates to higher engagement.
Levels of employee engagement
Employee engagement measures how employees feel about their organization based on their perceptions of their workplace. We found four levels of engagement:
1. Highly engaged employees
Employees that are highly engaged hold very positive opinions of their workplace. These are your brand advocates that speak highly of your organization and will put in the extra effort to help their team succeed. They love their jobs, feel connected to their teams, and have an optimistic outlook for your organization. They encourage and inspire their colleagues to do their best.
2. Moderately engaged employees
Moderately engaged employees see their organization as acceptable. They are satisfied with their organization but see opportunities for improvement. These employees are less likely to take on extra responsibilities. Something about the organization or their job keeps them from fully engaging with their team.
3. Barely engaged employees
These employees feel indifferent about their workplace. They need more motivation for their position and only do as much as they have to, sometimes less. Slightly engaged employees are most likely looking for other jobs and are a high retention risk.
4. Disengaged employees
And disengaged employees, unsurprisingly, have a negative opinion of their place of work. They need to be more connected to the organization’s goals and mission. They need more commitment to their position and responsibilities. If not handled properly, their negative attitude will spread to their colleagues.
What employee engagement is not
Now that we understand the definition of employee engagement, let’s ensure clarity around what it is not.
- Employee engagement is not employee satisfaction. You can meet your employees’ needs with competitive benefits and workplace flexibility, and most likely, they will be satisfied with their job. But are they enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace?
Engagement requires an alignment of values and a sense of purpose. While satisfied employees are content with their workplace, they are not emotionally invested in the organization and its goals.
- Employee engagement is not about compensation. Sure, everyone likes more money. But money alone will not create the level of engagement and emotional commitment needed for long-term employee engagement. It can be a short-term fix to improve employee satisfaction, but as stated above, happiness does not equal engagement.
- Employee engagement is not the responsibility of top leaders alone. When you don’t empower all your people, you not only take away their ability to provide on-the-ground feedback to help accomplish your goals, you create a culture that is anything but inclusive, transparent, or energizing.
Managers should be armed with the tools and resources to ensure their teams are successful. But most importantly, make sure that they are engaged and inspiring engagement within your work culture.
Why it’s important
Employee engagement is important because it’s better for the bottom line. Research proves a correlation between engaged employees and successful business outcomes. Organizations with high employee engagement have higher retention rates, lower recruitment costs, and increased profitability and customer loyalty. Therefore, it makes good business sense to cultivate a work environment that retains and inspires your employees’ productivity and creativity.
Drivers of employee engagement
Understanding what motivates employees and drives them to be personally invested in their work is essential, but there are only so many universal drivers of employee engagement. While technology and Covid have changed how we work over the last few years, many of the drivers of employee engagement have remained the same.
Drivers are personal, and to understand what motivates your employees, you must pay attention to their needs. Often employee engagement is driven by employees’ desire for:
- Meaningful work – Employees motivated by their work feel they serve the greater good or help to achieve larger goals.
- Career growth – Some employees desire challenges in their job that give them new responsibilities and opportunities to grow within your organization.
- Empowerment – Give your team the tools needed to do the job and listen to their feedback when things are not working.
- Belonging – Even the loner wants to feel a part of a team. Make sure your workplace is inclusive, no matter the person or location of their job.
- Recognition – It’s vital to recognize and appreciate every employee, no matter how minor their role is in your organization.
- Leadership – Having exemplary leadership can make or break your employee engagement goals. Make sure you have leaders who are inspiring and supportive of your team.
- Fulfilling work relationships – Creating opportunities in and outside of work for your team to connect and cultivate relationships can go a long way to encourage engagement.
How to measure employee engagement
Measuring employee engagement can be challenging, but when it comes to your bottom line, it’s imperative. So how exactly do you measure your employees’ commitment to your organization? Here are a few ways to gauge the health of your employee engagement.
- Measuring employee absenteeism will highlight how motivated and productive your employees are. Engaged employees seldom miss work because they’re happy and committed to their job.
- Measuring internal promotions shows how willing your organization is to offer growth opportunities to its employees, which is something your team members are paying attention to. Improving career growth opportunities leads to better employee engagement and higher employee retention.
- One way to judge employee engagement is to look at your company’s success in retaining new hires. If new employees leave after a few months, your HR team must evaluate your company culture, hiring process, and onboarding procedures.
- Just ask. You can use feedback from surveys to measure employee engagement. Feedback can expose areas that need improvement. Making feedback meaningful in the workplace can empower employees and make them feel heard.
Check out our blog for employee engagement survey question ideas.
Employee engagement plan of action
As we established above, you can’t afford to be haphazard in your employee experience action plan. First, look at your employees and their drivers. Engagement drivers are personal and can vary greatly. There will be a few that everyone relates to, such as empowerment, belonging, and recognition.
Now measure where your organization stands. For example, do you have many absentee employees, or are you losing new hires right after they start? Ask your employees how they feel about your organization’s practices and work culture.
Once you have measured your employee experience and gauged your drivers, you can implement the best practices to improve your employee experience.
Employee engagement best practices
Nurturing employees is essential for employee engagement. Here are a few of employee engagement best practices HR leaders use to inspire employee engagement within their organizations:
Clear and concise communication is imperative to any business’s success. Communicating the goals and objectives lets everyone understand the focus and direction, while explicit expectations give employees a definite target to hit. These two pieces of information help your colleagues understand how to succeed within your organization. It also helps everyone feel connected.
Sharing with your team the importance of their work can inspire and get them excited about being a part of your organization’s more significant goals. Your team will feel that their work makes a difference and has a purpose, which keeps engagement up.
Companies must create an environment where leadership and employees can stay connected while working from the office or home. The best way to offset this issue is to develop human connections with team members. For example, hosting virtual lunches or contests and encouraging employee group chats can make everyone feel like a part of the team—no matter where they are.
4. Cultivate Diversity and Inclusion
It’s easy to create an environment that mirrors your interest and strengths. Still, your organization will never grow to its fullest potential if you are in an echo chamber. Cultivating a workplace with different ideas and people where everyone is welcome to contribute with their thoughts will encourage growth and development for your employees and organization.
Ideas to improve the employee experience
There are many inspiring ideas above to help your organization improve its employee experience, but we will discuss a few more for good measure.
Train and align your managers with your employee experience goals. Don’t fall into the trap of only promoting your star performers to become managers. Just because they are excellent workers doesn’t necessarily mean they will make great managers. Instead, look for personality traits such as empathy, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, accountability, and a team-building attitude. Starting from the top is the best way to improve employee engagement. The right manager can create an environment that makes employee engagement feel effortless.
Employee engagement is a top-down job. And the age-old saying that the best leaders lead by example still holds true today. To build an engaging culture, leaders must be transparent about their vision, goals, and plans. They need to be emotionally committed to them. Finally, leaders must be engaged with employees by communicating and being transparent so that employees feel included and like they are a part of the organization.
For more ideas, check out our recent blog, 10 Employee Engagement Ideas.
Tools to enhance employee engagement
Monitoring and improving employee engagement is easier than ever before. You can implement many employee engagement tools, software, and platforms to keep tabs on your workforce engagement. Here are a few that Simpplr recommends:
- Slack is a messaging platform that provides a single, unified place for teams to communicate in real-time. Unlike email, which typically gets buried in an inbox, Slack allows for direct, one-on-one communication between employees and group conversations. This makes it easy for teams to stay connected and collaborate, no matter where or what device they use.
- Trello is a project management tool that helps teams organize and track their work using lists and task cards. Trello allows team members to comment on tasks and collaborate with other employees in real-time, housing all relevant communication in one place and ensuring that everyone is up-to-date on the project’s progress. Trello’s visual interface makes it easy for teams to see what needs to be done and stay on track, making it a useful tool for managing projects of all sizes.
- Zoom is a video conferencing software that allows teams to connect and collaborate, even when physically separated by distance. With Zoom, teams can hold face-to-face meetings, share documents and screens, and communicate through voice and instant messaging. This makes it easy for teams to choose the best way to communicate and stay connected, no matter where they are.
- Simpplr is an employee experience platform that supports and enhances employee engagement through a range of personalized communications designed to help everyone feel connected, included and valued. Communications are tailored to an employee’s specific needs, role, location and other nuanced interests, and it is all facilitated by advanced AI technology that brings the right information to employees at the right time and on their preferred channels.
- Officevibe is a platform that helps managers understand and improve their relationships with their teams through weekly anonymous surveys on employee engagement. The surveys cover a range of topics—by collecting this data, employers can better understand what is driving employee engagement and where there may be areas for improvement.
- Reward Gateway is an employee recognition program that helps managers and team members acknowledge their colleagues. By using the program, managers can show appreciation for hard work and dedication of their team, and team members can express their gratitude and congratulations to one another. This creates a culture of compassion and appreciation within the organization and helps employees feel valued and supported by their colleagues.
Whichever employee engagement tools you choose to implement in your organization, you must regularly measure employee engagement. To make improvements and engage your team on a deeper level, you must first understand your shortcomings.
As you plan for your business’s future, it’s worth rethinking how you and your company approach employee engagement.
Reach out for a demo to help kickstart your process!