Employee Engagement - Why It Matters and How to Improve It in Your Workplace
Aug 22, 2022•13 minute read
Organizations are under constant pressure to do more with less. To stay ahead of the competition, they need to increase productivity and drive innovation.
Investing in the latest technology or process improvement is one way to stay ahead of the curve. Cutting costs is another.
But the most successful organizations understand that the key to sustaining long-term growth is to focus on employee engagement.
The question is, what exactly is employee engagement? How does it affect the bottom line? And what are the best ways to foster it in the workplace?
Here we'll take a deep dive into this topic. We'll explore what employee engagement is, the benefits it can bring to your organization, and some practical tips for fostering it in your workplace.
What is employee engagement?
If you manage a team of people, you've probably heard the term "employee engagement" thrown around a lot. But what is employee engagement, really?
At its core, employee engagement is a measure of how connected and invested employees are in their work. Employees who are engaged feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work. They're passionate about their jobs and committed to their organization's success.
Engaged employees are also more likely to be productive, innovative, and resilient in the face of challenges. In short, they're the kinds of employees that every organization wants.
Types of employees in terms of engagement
In terms of the level of engagement, your workforce can roughly be divided into three categories:
The fully engaged employee: These are your rockstars! They are highly motivated and committed to their jobs, and passionate about what they do. They believe in the company's mission and are therefore also more likely to stay with the company and be advocates for it.
The disengaged employee: Disengaged employees are those who are just going through the motions. They may not be actively hostile, but they don't really care about their work or the company either. They're just punching the clock and collecting a paycheck.
The actively disengaged employee: These are your troublemakers. They are unhappy with their jobs, tasks (or even you), and are often negative and disruptive. They can be actively hostile to the company, will probably leave at the first opportunity and can do a lot of damage in the meantime.
The distribution of each category in most companies will be somewhat of a bell curve, with the majority of employees falling into the second category.
Truly successful companies, however, will work on moving as many employees as possible into that first category.
Why should businesses care about employee engagement?
In short: Engaged employees are more productive, more motivated, and more likely to stick around for the long haul. They're also more likely to go above and beyond in their work, which benefits both them and their employer.
And that's not just us saying it - there's plenty of data to back it up. So let's take a closer look at some of the specific benefits:
Improved customer satisfaction: Engaged employees lead to happier customers. In fact, according to the same studie, companies with engaged employees see a 10% increase in customer satisfaction.
Improved safety: Engaged employees are also more likely to follow safety procedures and less likely to get injured on the job. Companies with high levels of employee engagement have been found to have a 48% reduction in workplace accidents.
Reduced absenteeism: Employees who are highly engaged make it a point to show up at work and do more work -- highly engaged business units experience an 81% reduction in absenteeism.
And these are just the measurable benefits. The emotional ones are just as important, if not more so.
Engaged employees feel good about their work, and that positive feeling extends to the company as a whole. In turn, this creates a positive environment that attracts more top talent and further improves retention.
So in order to create a high-performing workforce, businesses need to focus on engaging all of their employees and depending on where they fall on the engagement spectrum, they'll need to use different strategies.
So your first step should be measuring employee engagement in your organization and then working on strategies to improve it.
How to measure employee engagement?
Measuring employee engagement is one of the most challenging aspects of managing a team. Engagement, even though is largely understood, is not something that can be easily put into numbers, but there are a few ways to measure it:
This is the most common way to measure employee engagement. Surveys can be used to gauge how employees feel about their jobs, their company, and their co-workers. They can also be used to identify disengaged employees and understand the reasons behind their disengagement.
The thing with surveys, though, is that they only give you a snapshot in time. Employee engagement levels can change rapidly, so it's important to measure regularly to get an accurate picture.
You should also take into account that a lot of employees may not be comfortable taking a survey, especially if they feel like their answers could be used against them. Even if they are anonymous, most people will not be completely honest with their answers. You should therefore not rely on surveys alone to measure employee engagement.
Another way to measure employee engagement is to look at performance review data. This can help you identify which employees are going above and beyond and which ones are not meeting expectations.
However, performance reviews can be subjective and they only give you a limited view of an employee's engagement. They also only happen once or twice a year, so they may not give you the most up-to-date information.
Employee focus groups
Employee focus groups are a great way to get employees to open up about their experiences and how they feel about their job. This can be a great way to identify issues that are causing disengagement and find solutions to them.
However, focus groups can be time-consuming and expensive to set up. They also require a certain level of trust between employees and management in order for them to be effective.
Engagement data from HR systems
Some companies have already understood the importance of measuring employee engagement and have started collecting data on it. This data is usually collected through HR systems, such as performance management or learning and development software.
Boost Employee Engagement
Create a space for employees to connect with each other and bring the company together.
This data can be very valuable in understanding employee engagement levels. However, it's important to note that not all HR systems collect the same data and some may not be able to give you the insights you need.
Exit interviews have quite a bad reputation and have been the subject of many jokes. However, they can actually be a valuable source of information when it comes to employee engagement.
After all, who can give you a better insight into the reasons behind disengagement than someone who is leaving your company?
In order to get the best results from exit interviews, you need to make sure that the employees feel comfortable being honest. This means that the interviews should be conducted by someone who is impartial and not associated with management.
Your internal communications (IC) team can also give you valuable insights into employee engagement. This is because they are in charge of driving communication between employees and management.
Smaller companies, that do not have designated teams for this, can also use integrated analytics from their channels to survey employee engagement.
The drawback here is that the data needs to be interpreted somewhat creatively. Most apps will provide you with data about which employees are interacting with your communications and how often.
However, even if some aren't engaging as much as you'd like, it doesn't mean they're disengaged. It could just mean that they're not the chatty type.
Regular check-ins with employees
One of the best ways to measure employee engagement is to simply talk to your employees on a regular basis. This can be done through informal conversations, one-on-one meetings, or even group meetings.
The advantage of this method is that it allows you to get a more accurate picture of how employees are feeling. It also gives you the opportunity to address any issues that may be causing disengagement.
The disadvantage is that it can be time-consuming, especially if you have a large number of employees. It can also be difficult to get everyone to open up and be honest about how they're feeling.
As you can see, there are a number of different ways to measure employee engagement, and each of them will provide you with a piece of the puzzle. The best way to get a complete picture is to use a combination of these methods.
Once you've collected data from these sources, you can start to develop a strategy for improving employee engagement in your organization.
How to improve employee engagement?
This is by no means an easy task and can take a lot of time, effort, and resources. But it's worth it because engaged employees will make up for all of that and more.
Where to start will depend on your company and the results of your data collection. As mentioned before, each company is different and what works for one may not work for another.
But before you come up with elaborate and creative incentives, let's first make sure you have your basis covered: the three C's of employee engagement.
What are the three C's of employee engagement?
Engagement strategies will vary depending on the employee's needs, and those will vary depending on the industry, culture, country, and employee's personality.
However, there are three major factors that are essential for employee engagement, regardless of the context:
An underpaid employee will not be engaged. It's that simple. In order to engage your employees, you need to make sure they are being compensated fairly.
This doesn't mean that you need to be the highest-paying company in your industry. But you do need to make sure that your employees feel like they are being paid what they are worth.
You also need to make sure that your employees understand how their compensation is determined. If they feel like they are being treated unfairly, it will only lead to disengagement.
This brings us to our next point: communication. Compensation is only one part of the equation. How you communicate with your employees is just as important, if not more so.
Employees need to feel like they are being heard. For this to happen you need to build trust with your employees and foster an environment in which they feel free to communicate openly with you. It also means giving them the opportunity to give feedback and be involved in decision-making.
Finally, employees need to feel a connection to their work. They need to feel like they are making a difference and that their work is important.
This means having a clear purpose and making sure that employees understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. It also means giving them the opportunity to work on projects that interest them and that they are passionate about.
These are the three essential C's of employee engagement. If you can get these right, you'll mostly be set. The next step is to come up with creative and effective engagement strategies that work for your company.
10 Tips for improving employee engagement
Once you have your bases covered, you can start to get creative with your engagement strategies. Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1. Define what employee engagement means to your organization.
Depending on the size of your company, your culture, as well as on your industry, employee engagement can mean different things.
It's important to take the time to really think about what employee engagement means to you and your organization. What are your goals? What would success look like?
Only once you have a clear understanding of what you're trying to achieve should you start thinking about how to get there.
2. Ask your employees what they need to be engaged.
This ties in with our first point. As we mentioned before, each employee is different and what works for one may not work for another.
The best way to find out what your employees need is to simply ask them. You can do this through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews.
Don't make assumptions about what your employees need. Let them tell you what would make them feel more engaged at work.
3. Offer opportunities for growth and development.
One of the most common complaints from employees is that they feel like they are stuck in a dead-end job with no opportunity for growth or development.
Create a Culture of Learning
Help your employees share knowledge by setting up a space for informal learning in your company.
If you want to engage your employees, you need to offer them opportunities to grow and develop. Be it through training and development programs, mentorship programs, establishing an informal learning culture, or even simply giving them more responsibility.
4. Encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Sure, you want your employees to be invested in their jobs and the future of the company, but not at the price of burning them out.
Make sure that your employees have the opportunity to take vacations, use their paid time off, and disconnect from work when they need to. A healthy employee is a happy and engaged employee.
5. Promote a culture of recognition and appreciation.
When was the last time you told your employees how much you appreciate them? If you can't remember, then it's been too long.
It's important to create a positive company culture that will facilitate recognition and appreciation in the workplace, and acknowledge your employees' accomplishments, both big and small.
There are a lot of ways to do that, be it through your IC channels or face-to-face meetings. Just make sure you do it regularly.
6. Encourage employees to take ownership of their work.
Another way to engage your employees is to give them a sense of ownership over their work. This means letting them know that their opinion matters and that their input is valuable.
Encourage your employees to speak up and share their ideas. When they feel like they are a part of the decision-making process, they will be more engaged in their work.
7. Communicate openly and frequently.
Employees who feel like they are in the dark are not going to be engaged in their work. It's important to communicate openly and frequently with your employees.
This means sharing information about the company's direction, goals, and plans. It also means being open about the challenges the company is facing.
When employees feel like they are in the loop, they will be more engaged in their work and more invested in the company's success.
8. Make sure employees feel like they are part of a team.
No one likes to feel like they are alone in their work. That's why it's important to make sure your employees feel like they are part of a team.
Encourage collaboration and teamwork, and provide opportunities for employees to social
This could mean offering flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting, or simply encouraging employees to take time off when they need it.
The bottom line is that happy employees are engaged employees. When you make your employees a priority, they will return the favor.
9. Keep your promises.
When you make a promise to your employees, make sure you keep it. This could be a promise to provide more training opportunities or to offer flexible working arrangements.
Whatever the promise is, make sure you follow through. When employees feel like they can trust you, they will be more engaged in their work.
10. Be transparent about company decisions.
When employees are left in the dark about company decisions, it creates a feeling of mistrust, which inevitably leads to a disengaged workforce.
Creating a transparent workplace, in which employees are kept in the loop about company decisions, will not only make your work processes more efficient but also provide your employees with a feeling of trust and ownership.
And when employees feel valued and trusted, they will be more engaged.
The thing with engagement is that it can't be forced. It's the one true indicator of how healthy your workplace is, and it all starts with making your employees a priority.
When you make your employees a priority, they will return the favor. When you engage your employees, they will be more productive, more innovative, and more likely to stick around for the long haul.