What is Employee Engagement? Top Engagement Strategies
By Carly Gail
An engaged workforce is instrumental in the success of an organization. Employees who are engaged perform better, are happier, and are more confident and productive in their roles. Unfortunately, despite how important it may be, employee engagement is an area of improvement for most companies.
A study by Gallup found that only 33% of American workers are engaged in their jobs, 52% say they're "just showing up," and 17% describe themselves as "actively disengaged.” Luckily, there are many ways to increase employee engagement and create a stronger, more efficient business.
What is employee engagement? Our definition:
Our employee engagement definition refers to the concept of how committed and emotionally attached a worker is to their organization and how willing they are to contribute to its success. An employees' level of engagement usually influences the way that they act in their role and the amount of effort they may put into work-related duties. For those wondering, "What does employee engagement mean?" we have compiled multiple lists to help navigate the concept.
Why is employee engagement important? 5 reasons
Businesses across the globe are prioritizing strong employee engagement practices to improve their employees' relationships with the organization. Engaged employees are far more likely to thrive in their roles and make positive contributions to an organization, whereas low work engagement can be detrimental to productivity and growth. There are many reasons why businesses need to implement employee engagement strategies:
Employee satisfaction and engagement are instrumental in retaining top talent--it goes without saying that happier employees are more likely to remain loyal and committed to a company. If a company wants to improve its' employee retention or reduce employee turnover, it should first examine the employee experience within the workplace. Because of a lack of connection and attachment, disengaged employees are far more likely to leave their current roles.
When employees are actively engaged and energized in their roles, they are more inclined to do their best work and positively contribute to the organization. Gallup even reported that highly engaged teams are 21% more productive than those suffering from disengagement amongst employees. Because engaged employees are more motivated in their work and focused on tasks, productivity inevitably increases.
Stronger client loyalty
When employees are actively engaged and energized in their roles, those positive feelings will carry over into client interactions. When client interactions are met with such mindsets, they're far more likely to evolve into a loyal customer. It is vital to foster a healthy and engaging work environment, as many aspects of a business are interconnected and built upon it.
Organizations with strong employee engagement reap the benefits financially; with higher quality work and lower employee turnover rates, companies aren't spending money and resources recruiting and onboarding new hires or correcting other mistakes. As engaged employees produce higher quality work, the value of a company increases--as does its' profitability. Research shows that highly engaged workplaces see on average a 20% increase in sales and a 21% increase in profitability.
Happier employees/healthier work environment
A healthy work environment is foundational in building a successful and profitable company or brand. When management places a high value on employee morale and empowers team members through engagement practices, employee performance, and overall wellbeing increase. For an organization to function correctly, company culture needs to be defined and well-maintained. Cultivating a healthy and happy work environment requires the active engagement of its employees and the prioritization of employee engagement programs.
What factors impact team engagement?
If you're wondering how to engage employees in the workplace--we've got you covered. We have compiled a list of the many factors that impact team engagement; this information should serve as a tool to become more aware of your own teams' engagement (or disengagement) and avoid such circumstances that could negatively impact employee experience.
Leadership directly affects job engagement-- when employees trust and believe in their leaders, they are more likely to be motivated in their roles. A leader of an organization is more than just a figurehead; they influence who joins the team, how managers interact with employees, organizational communication, and the very processes and structures that make up the business. If leadership is lacking, all of these areas (which all drive engagement) can suffer, which can be detrimental to an organization and its employees' wellbeing.
Most people would associate engagement with the work environment that an employee is subjected to. If the workplace culture is toxic in any way, it's much more challenging to enjoy coming into work and participating or contributing. Workplace culture includes the accepted behaviors and formalities within a team, shared values, how team members interact, how goals are accomplished, and tasks are completed, and more. If these factors aren't currently contributing to a healthy environment, it is crucial to look into what needs improvements or get feedback from your employees to begin making positive changes.
Career development opportunities
Prioritizing career development opportunities helps employees envision a future within the organization and become motivated to perform well in their roles. If an employee does not have something to work towards, they may not feel connected to the company or feel that they add any value to the brand. Opportunities for growth and career advancement are among the main drivers of employee engagement because they create a sense of belonging and purpose. Ask for employee feedback to determine whether your team is feeling stuck, unmotivated, or directionless within their roles; there are many ways to begin implementing strong training and development processes to boost employee engagement.
Most people require some sort of validation in the work that they do, while many go without. A study by Gallup reported that only 1 in 3 U.S. workers feel that they have received recognition for their work in the past seven days. While constant or unwarranted praise is unnecessary, it is vital to facilitate positive affirmations to validate hard work. When employees are recognized for a job well done, they feel valued as a team member and as though their work is a meaningful contribution to the vision. When employees feel this way, they are more inclined to be energized and high-performing in their roles. There are many ways to recognize employees: public awards, monetary rewards, promotions, or even just a positive performance review from a manager to acknowledge that their efforts are appreciated.
Communication is key: vocalizing your opinions or ideas understandably and clearly is essential in communicating effectively. However, everyone has their preferences, and sometimes communicating effectively with one employee may look different than with another. Understanding these preferences and framing your conversations effectively to resonate with the other party is instrumental in getting your point across and understood. When an organization lacks communication, things often go unsaid or swept under the rug, leading to tension or conflict, ideas may be miscommunicated or ill-executed, and employees will feel unheard or unseen.
Take advantage of resources like personality tests, which can tell you anyones' personality, motivations, communication styles, conflict resolution, and more, to help you better understand. You may also wish to implement regular check-ins to get employee feedback and understand the different levels of employee engagement within your team.
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity is about creating a workforce of employees from different backgrounds, whereas inclusion measures the culture that empowers this workforce to be successful. Reducing biases related to characteristics that do not affect job performance, such as race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, must be approached with sensitivity and open-mindedness. Implementing various practices and core beliefs can create an environment open to people from different backgrounds and experiences.
Research from SHRM shows that companies can expect to see an increase in employee engagement and productivity by implementing diversity and inclusion practices. Harvard found that there are a few crucial steps to take before implementing such procedures:
1. Understand what constitutes Diversity
2. Recognize your own biases, both conscious and unconscious
3. Evaluate the diversity of your current team
4. Include Human Resources in your planning
When an organization has excellent communication, they are transparent with one another and build trust. To be transparent, there must be open conversations around all decisions and practices, no matter how insignificant. When managers are transparent with their subordinates, they are being candid about the "how" and "why" rather than only dictating the "what.” Including employees in these contexts will make them feel like they are valued members of the team and are actively contributing to its' success. When employees feel they have no say in anything or like they are kept in the dark about much of the happenings, they will feel isolated, unengaged, and detached.
If employees struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance, they are far more susceptible to burnout and dissatisfaction within their roles. When employees can balance work and life, they can reserve more time to do what they enjoy outside the office, rather than focusing only on work inside and outside of regular business hours. In doing so, they benefit their overall well-being, impacting how they show up and perform at work. Employees that show up with a more positive outlook, refreshed and recharged, will be more productive and engaged in their roles. Here are a few ways to improve your team's work-life balance:
1. Adopt a hybrid/remote model, or offer remote work as an option
2. Allow flexibility within schedules (ex: 4 10-hour shifts or flex hours with later/earlier start/end times)
3. Increase PTO or consider implementing unlimited PTO
A most basic concept that an employee who is compensated fairly will work harder than one who is not may not be one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement. In fact, research shows that the overlap between job satisfaction (and therefore engagement) and compensation to be less than 2%! While it is true that someone who is paid more may be more motivated to perform better because the stakes are higher, they could still be disengaged due to a lack of connection to their company. Competitive compensation certainly is a factor, though, and a great way to get employees in the door (and hang on to them!). While fair pay is undoubtedly important for employee engagement, do not neglect the other factors when improving your current methods or processes.
Of course, employees who are inspired in their roles perform better-- without inspiration, anyone lacks purpose and vision. Be enthusiastic and clear about the company mission, and give employees the opportunity to get excited as well. Invest in their future with career road-mapping, open communication, frequent feedback, and growth opportunities. If all the main drivers of employee engagement are strong within an organization, inspiration is sure to follow.
How to measure workforce engagement
Measuring engagement is crucial to build trust, better understand employees, and identify blind spots within an organization. There are various ways to measure employee engagement in the workplace; here are some of the ones we found most effective:
1. Employee engagement survey
While the main objective of a survey is to measure engagement, it also makes employees feel heard and valued. Surveys give employees a chance to voice their concerns or needs; when those concerns are acknowledged, employees are more likely to be engaged in their roles. When employees fill out these surveys, employers can take their feedback and develop an action plan to improve whichever areas are lacking. Implementing such programs can aid employee engagement and organizational growth, as engagement is the foundation of a successful and efficient business.
2. Understand what employees need
Thanks to the employee engagement survey, employers will have a direct line to the needs and opinions of their team and can better understand what drives their interest at work. If multiple surveys come back concerned about career advancement opportunities, employers can prioritize training and development opportunities for workers. Similarly, if feedback says that employees feel overwhelmed or unable to balance work and life, employers will know to re-evaluate their current scheduling practices. When employers make an effort to understand their employees and begin to prioritize making the right changes to satisfy their needs, employees will likely be more engaged and happy in the workplace as a result.
3. Be consistent
Even after the initial action plans are set into motion, it is essential to continuously check in with employees and gather feedback. Remaining communicative and receptive to concerns is crucial to avoid employees relapsing into disengagement. Consider distributing employee engagement surveys annually, or opt for quick pulse surveys more frequently if needed, to stay on top of any trends or issues within the workplace. Once you develop a strategy for the surveys, you will be able to use the information to create benchmarks of engagement levels within your organization and better understand where needs improvement.
5 employee engagement best practices
The importance of employee engagement in the workplace should not be underestimated; make it a priority to develop robust employee engagement practices for your organization. Here are a few of our favorite practices to ensure a more dynamic environment:
Each team member brings something unique to the table and can offer their individual strengths and abilities. Understanding that each employee plays a role in the organization’s success, and treating them with respect, can help them feel more confident asking for help or voicing their opinions.
Recognize employee achievements
Employee recognition is a great driver of employee engagement, and for a good reason, humans need to feel validated and appreciated. Be sure to recognize your employees for accomplishments, big or small, and carve out time to acknowledge their hard work when warranted publicly. Implementing incentives or awards for high performance, quarterly or monthly, is a great place to start.
Help employees understand their impact
Especially in larger companies, it is easy for employees to feel insignificant or like what they are doing isn't making a difference. Help them understand their role in the organization’s success and why their position is necessary for its success. When employees understand their jobs better, they have a purpose and a vision of what success may look like in their role.
As a leader of an organization, you can't constantly interact with all your employees regularly. Because of this, it is critical to empower managers with coaching and management techniques. When managers are equipped with the tools to help them interact effectively with their subordinates, they can foster growth and employee satisfaction amongst their teams. When the managers of an organization are motivated and engaged, they will behave in ways that inspire those around them to be engaged too.
Don’t just listen
All of the effort towards better understanding your employees is for nothing unless you take steps to implement changes based on their feedback. Whether you are career roadmapping with an employee, strategizing new methods or processes, or simply acknowledging their concerns, it is essential for employees to feel heard. Words are empty promises without tangible support to back them up.
3 effective employee engagement strategies that work
Engagement in the workplace is vital for a company's success. It is important to be aware of your team's current engagement levels and implement positive practices and strategies to improve the work environment and make engagement more likely. There are various ways how to increase employee engagement in the workplace, including practices and strategies. Here are some effective strategies to help boost engagement within the team:
Encourage open communication
As mentioned before, communication and transparency are critical for employee engagement. Consistently encouraging communication amongst employees, management, and leaders can help employees feel connected and involved. Establishing guidelines for communication, such as two-way feedback and one-on-ones, can help remedy disengagement and also improve work culture.
Create clarity within roles and growth opportunities
In addition to helping employees understand their impact, it is also a good idea to clarify their opportunities for growth and development within the company. When employees are able to visualize their future within an organization, they are more likely to feel included and motivated within it. Offering skills development opportunities, such as on-the-job training or courses, can also help foster a more engaged and high-performing workforce.
Understand individual working styles
With a team comprised of unique individuals and personalities, not everyone will have the same abilities, tendencies, or preferences in the workplace. It is important to understand what energizes or drains each employee, how they prefer to communicate, and the most effective ways for them to work. Doing so can help employees feel understood and acknowledged, and can improve their engagement as a result. Using tools like personality tests can be useful here, as they provide actionable and powerful insights.
Staff engagement activities
Once you have determined where the current processes need improvement, it's time to put your workplace engagement strategies into practice. Setting time aside for staff engagement activities is important because it further nurtures a more connected and involved environment. If you are wondering how to get employee engagement to increase, activities are also a low-pressure, fun option to consider. Utilizing engagement activities can also help employees build stronger working relationships with one another, and deepen their commitment to the team and company by extension. Here are a few to get you started:
Monthly happy hours or lunches
Each month, schedule a happy hour or catered lunch for employees. These types of events are low-stress and give employees the opportunity to get to know one another outside of their job positions. While attendance may not be required for these events, offering incentives such as free food or spirits can encourage employees to show up. These events are best suited for teams that may benefit from a more intimate connection amongst employees. If you are a remote team, try hosting a monthly happy hour via video call!
Create a wall of recognition
Dedicate a wall in the office or the breakroom for employees to call each other out--positively! Doing so can help employees feel recognized and encourage interaction and connection amongst team members. All you need is a bright variety of colored sticky notes and markers to start this engagement activity. Then, craft a fun sign and throw some black or white paper on the wall to highlight a special area for the post-it notes. Team members can write on the post-its and stick them to the wall as they please. If you’re not back in the office or have teams spread across geographies, you can implement the same activity over a shared Slack or Microsoft Teams channel.
Offering team-building activities outside of the office can be a nice change of pace for most and may activate engagement within the workplace. Escape rooms are a popular option for a smaller team as they require teamwork and communication from participants. For larger teams, consider something more significant, like a field day with outdoor games and activities, to promote collaboration in a fun, different environment. If your team is remote, consider a virtual escape room such as Puzzle Break; all your team needs to do is join a virtual conference room, where they will receive instructions and be divided into groups. Each team will get the chance to solve mysteries through clues, puzzles, and challenges. Each game is moderated for teams of any size and skill level and therefore suitable for any size group!
Assess your employee engagement strategy
Once you have your employee engagement initiatives in place, do not neglect the importance of constant reevaluation. Keep an open mind about your strategies and practices; as time goes on, you may need to improve or reconfigure them. As your organization and team grow, you gain new perspectives and may develop the need to restrategize. Remember the critical objectives of your organization, and listen to your employees continuously to keep everyone engaged and happy.
Workplace engagement key takeaways
Engagement in the workplace is instrumental in the success of a business, as it directly affects employee lifecycle and performance. Prioritizing employment engagement initiatives, such as employee recognition or career advancement opportunities for your team, is essential to cultivate a more dynamic environment. Understanding what your employees need to be motivated and energized in their roles is the first step to implementing effective strategies. If you nurture employee engagement within your organization, you will see improvements in all aspects of your business.
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