What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a measurement of how committed an employee is to their employer, how passionate they are about the work they do and how well their personal goals and values align with the mission and objectives of their employer.
An engaged employee is enthusiastic about working with customers and providing them services that generate profit and a good reputation. Not only that, but if your company has an engaged workforce, you’re more likely to retain your current staff — instead of having to frequently spend time and money hiring new employees.
It’s important not to confuse employee engagement with employee satisfaction. While the two may sound similar, they’re actually two different concepts. A satisfied employee is someone who likes their job and feels their employer meets their needs, while an engaged employee is someone who is committed to their work, dedicated to their employer and consistently performs at a high level.
An engaged employee is always satisfied, but someone can be satisfied without being engaged. For example, an employee may be happy with the compensation and job duties, but they may not be emotionally connected to their work or loyal to their employer.
To help simplify this concept, here are a few common characteristics of engaged employees:
- They accept responsibility for their work and hold themselves accountable
- They strive to always be punctual and complete assignments on time
- They complete quality work even when they’re not being supervised
- They commit to innovation and contribute to reaching organizational goals
- They understand their job role and how it fits within the organization
- They take time for professional development and skill-building
- They feel an emotional connection to their team and employer
Example of an engaged employee: An engaged media relations coordinator working for a public relations agency loves working with clients. They consistently earn media placements in notable national and local outlets. The number of monthly placements increased by 20% percent over the last six months for all clients. Three clients informed their manager about the commitment they’ve given to their campaigns and are happy with the results the coordinator generated.
How does employee engagement benefit employers?
Improving employee engagement can directly affect the productivity and success of an organization. When your employees are actively involved in their work and the success of the company, both the worker and the company benefits. When a business has engaged workers, their morale and productivity can also affect the overall culture of the business, encouraging other employees to also be engaged.
Here are just a few of the many advantages employers experience when they improve employee engagement:
- Increased productivity: Employees who are more engaged in their work are more committed to doing it well and getting things done right the first time. Because they are more focused, dedicated employees make fewer errors and are more likely to complete their work on time.
- Decreased employee turnover: It can be expensive to hire and train new employees. Disengaged employees are more likely to look for other opportunities than employees who feel connected to their work. When an organization is committed to making its workforce feel supported and appreciated and focuses on communication and transparency, it helps foster loyalty.
- Improved quality of work: Because engaged employees are more emotionally connected to their work, they often feel a sense of pride for the product or service they’re helping to deliver. And when employees are committed to always doing their best, the quality of their work improves.
- Lower rates of absenteeism: High rates of employee engagement are associated with less burnout and a greater interest in work. This often translates into lower rates of absenteeism. When employees are connected to their job and aren’t in danger of burning out, they’re healthier and more enthusiastic about coming to work.
- Better profitability: By default, increasing employee engagement can also yield better profits. Increased productivity, decreased turnover, better quality work and less absenteeism all contribute to a healthier bottom line.
- Strong example for others: When employees have a deep respect for their employer (company and manager alike), they serve as a strong example to new hires and their current coworkers. Plus, with more time at a company, an employee’s knowledge and responsibilities naturally increase so they become an even stronger asset to the workplace.
- Progress toward business goals: When everyone working for a company is working toward the same goals, achieving those goals is a much easier task.
Example of an engaged employee: Shelia, a project manager working for your organization, experiences backlogs in the production of print marketing deliverables. Her commitment to the organization and the development of her team motivated her to call a meeting with members of the production team. Sheila explains the backlog and proposes her solution to her staff. Sheila makes minimal changes proposed by employees and explains why she made those changes, as well as how their ideas contributed to the project. The team ends up meeting their deadlines while clients make a few minor corrections on their deliverables.
Sheila showed her willingness to stay focused and passionate in her work while interacting with her team. This commitment sets a good example for employees looking to develop their professional careers under a manager who values an engaged team alongside her.
As you can see, there are many reasons why improving employee engagement will benefit your organization.
17 ways to improve employee engagement
After your organization decides to make increasing employee engagement a top priority, there are a few crucial steps you’ll need to take. Here are several things you can do to start improving employee engagement:
1. Measure employee engagement to identify areas of opportunity
The first step in building an employee engagement strategy is to survey your workforce and define a benchmark. There are many different methods of measuring employee engagement and plenty of organizations that specialize in surveying employees. You can also prepare your own anonymous survey and ask employees to rank their engagement based on a few questions. Ask questions about the alignment of their career goals with your company’s, how they’re feeling today and if they see themselves working for your company in the future. Make sure employees can answer these questions anonymously so they provide honest feedback.
Here is a small sample employee engagement survey:
Rank the following statements from 1 to 5 with one being “I strongly agree” and five being “I strongly disagree.”
- I am proud to work for this organization.
- I have plenty of opportunities to improve my skill set and grow as a professional.
- I am motivated to do my best every day.
- I trust this organization’s leadership team.
- The organization’s values are clearly communicated.
- Changes within the organization are clearly communicated.
- I am recognized for my hard work and contributions.
- The organization supports a healthy work-life balance.
- My workspace is comfortable and has everything I need to do my job.
- My manager is qualified for their role and provides the support I need.
Once you compile the answers, you can identify where you may need to focus your attention most.
Indeed Tip: Part of engaging employees is constantly improving your tactics. Conduct regular satisfaction surveys to see how happy employees are with your efforts and adjust accordingly. Just the act of sending out these surveys conveys the message that you want to create the best environment for your team. Employees will want to do the same for you in return.
2. Create a focus group
Try scheduling a focus group involving five to 10 staff members. Focus groups give employees a forum to speak about their engagement with your company. Write a list of five specific questions to get a better understanding of how employees feel regarding the company’s culture.
Here are some questions to ask employees in the focus group:
- Do you feel that you’re contributing to the company’s goals?
- Do you have the resources to succeed in your position?
- Do you have a good relationship with your manager?
- Do you want a larger role in the company’s decision-making?
- Are you happy when you come to work?
3. Identify obstacles within your company culture
After you’ve reviewed the employee surveys and focus group results, determine where your organization needs the most work. Keep in mind that many areas overlap. For example, if your organization scores poorly on communication, this might also impact whether or not your workforce trusts your leadership team. If an employee doesn’t feel supported by their direct supervisor, they may not feel motivated to do their best. Often you’ll need to address multiple areas of your organization to achieve the highest level of engagement.
4. Determine how you will measure employee engagement
Worker engagement can be a subjective term. By clearly defining the goals and expectations of an engaged worker, you can set clear success measurements for both management and employees.
Determine how you’ll measure progress toward an engaged team of members and discuss this unit of measurement with all employees. Decide on goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.)
Creating performance development plans and tracking progress toward collaborative goals can help employees better understand their expectations in the workplace. You can measure worker engagement through a questionnaire, with questions like:
- What do you want to achieve from employment with the company?
- What training and development do you expect during employment?
- Where do you see yourself professionally in five years? 10 years?
- How do you define success?
The answers to these questions can help you evaluate each employee’s needs in order to make them a more engaged team member.
5. Improve communication at every level
Take time to determine how well your leadership team communicates information across the organization and how clearly managers communicate with their teams. When leaders excel in communication, employees are more likely to understand what’s expected. Leaders can also provide a positive example of how colleagues should communicate with each other.
Company leaders, department heads and team leaders should make sure to provide a steady stream of clear communication and how each employee adds value to the company’s mission statement. Try providing frequent updates on progress, recognitions and opportunities in email or company-wide communication.
Communication goes two ways, so if employees feel that they’re heard and acknowledged, they’re more likely to be receptive to anything their leaders have to say. Listen actively to employees’ concerns, ideas and questions and remember that your employees are not only experts in their field, they’re on the front lines every day, so their contributions are invaluable.
Related: Boss vs. Leader: Which One Are You?
6. Provide employees opportunities for skill building and career development
Professional development is critical to ongoing engagement. By offering employees the time and space to learn new skills and enhance their talents, you can help them feel more confident in their abilities and also improve the quality of their work. If you invest in your employees, they will invest in your company right back.
It’s also important to clearly define opportunities for advancement. Employee engagement depends a lot on whether employees feel they have a future with the company. Employees that feel like their accomplishments are rewarded in the long-term will increase the chance of the employees remaining committed to continuous improvement, productivity, and individual and organizational growth. Initiating one-on-one conversations with employees and finding out their future plans can help them achieve those goals by providing the opportunity to develop the skills they’ll need to begin ascending the corporate ladder.
7. Develop an employee recognition program
Simple displays of respect and gratitude can go a very long way towards employees feeling engaged with the company. Positive reinforcement empowers employees to put in additional effort to reach their goals. If an employee does a great job, tell them. Thank them for their contribution and watch their productivity rise even higher.
Compensating your employees fairly is one way to show you value their efforts, but many people also like to feel acknowledged when they achieve high levels of performance. Consider developing an employee recognition program and rewarding top performers monthly or quarterly. Recognizing employees for their hard work can also act as an incentive for other employees to improve their efforts, too.
You can also use HR technology to track the amount of recognition employees give to others.
8. Ensure a better work-life balance
A proper work-life balance shows an employee you value their personal time. When employees don’t have enough time to rest after hours, they increase their risk of burnout or becoming ill, which can affect their interest in their job as well as the team’s productivity. To help create a healthier balance, encourage employees to take breaks every day, step away from work outside their required hours and take scheduled vacation time throughout the year.
Employees who feel comfortable with their workload and have the ability to leave work behind when they clock out for the day will work even harder for you during working hours.
9. Clearly communicate company values
To help employees feel connected to your organization’s mission and beliefs, make sure you’re regularly communicating your company’s values. Some employers post their value statement publicly within their workspace or provide a printed copy for each employee to reference. Sharing this information will help guide employees and make sure they always have the company’s beliefs in mind when making decisions, acting as a representative of the organization or interacting with customers.
10. Provide regular direction and feedback
Feedback and direction are important to the collaborative process. Employees who understand their expectations and who receive clear and constructive feedback are more likely to be engaged. Be clear and direct with all feedback, and be willing to accept feedback from employees. Your employees make up your business, and their feedback can be valuable in reaching your business goals.
11. Foster transparency
Open communication and transparency can make an employee feel like they are more involved with the business. Let employees know how the business is doing. Discuss any concerns or achievements with them, and allow them to be a part of the challenges and celebrations.
12. Encourage workplace personality tests
Workplace personality tests, such as the Gallup CliftonStrengths test or Myers-Briggs, help all those who work together better understand each other. Try posting each person’s results in a common area or Slack channel so employees can browse the personality types of their coworkers and get a better idea of how best to communicate and work with them. Consider hosting team meetings where you talk about each person’s results and how you can all work together for the most cohesive workplace environment.
13. Plan team building outings
An effective way to improve employee engagement is by making it both easy and fun to interact with other employees through team building outings. Although you could conduct team building activities and exercises within an office environment, consider planning these outings away from the office instead. Employees will appreciate a change in scenery, and the opportunity to feel removed from their tasks for a short while.
When outside of the workplace, employees naturally engage with each other a little differently, taking the time to connect on a level they may not be used to when the focus is more on work. Team building activities can include something as simple as a trip to the local bowling alley or as constructive as an escape room where employees need to work together to accomplish a shared goal.
14. Provide functional and comfortable workspaces
When employees enjoy their work environment, they’ll look forward to spending time at work. Make sure your workspace equips employees with all the necessary tools, technology and conveniences they need to be productive, efficient and engaged.
Having a fun work environment is also an important factor in having a happy workplace. If the office allows for it, think about creating a game corner where employees can step away for a quick break. They can play a fast game of cards or ping pong with coworkers and then come back more engaged in their tasks than before.
Read more: How to Improve Office Ergonomics
15. Hire and promote qualified people to management
Your leaders have the potential to make the greatest impact when it comes to employee engagement, so it’s critical you select the most qualified professionals for these roles. Managers should fully understand the company’s values and employee engagement efforts and be prepared to support these things every day.
16. Conduct exit interviews
Conduct exit interviews to ask employees about their reasons for searching for another position and what enticed them to accept an offer. Give full details to the employee about the exit interview so they know what to expect and can prepare answers. Some employees are more likely to express themselves freely if they’re speaking in a one-on-one interview compared to speaking with multiple employees in the human resources department.
Read more: 10 Exit Interview Questions You Should Ask
17. Track your company’s retention rate
These statistics measure the effectiveness of engagement across your company, since higher retention indicates high engagement. Measure your company’s retention rate over a quarterly or annual basis to find out where you need to make adjustments to your employee engagement strategy.
For an employee engagement strategy to be successful, you need to ensure everyone is committed and ready to do their part. In addition to preparing managers, take time to share your plans with all employees and ask for feedback regularly. By taking the time to focus on creating better connections between your company and its employees, you will improve employee engagement and develop a more inspired and productive workforce.