A little bird once said, employee engagement is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it. Okay, not quite, but you get the picture.
Employee engagement reflects the extent to which employees feel invested in and motivated by their work. The more engaged employees are, the more satisfied, productive and more likely they are to stay at your company.
Because engagement is inconspicuous on the surface, we’re going to drive deeper to uncover 20 of the top drivers of employee engagement.
We’ve broken the 20 drivers of employee engagement into four categories. Feel free to click on the section that most interests you, or read on.
- Organizational Engagement Drivers
- HR Engagement Drivers
- Senior Leadership Engagement Drivers
- Individual Employee Engagement Drivers
Organizational Employee Engagement Drivers
The company as a whole has a greater impact on employee engagement than any other factor. Organizational drivers can significantly improve employee engagement across the board, but given their bureaucratic nature, they can also be difficult to change. Pay close attention to these factors and make sure to challenge the status quo if necessary.
1. Direction & Purpose
80% of employees are more engaged with work that aligns with the company’s mission and core values. It’s crucial for a company to have a clear direction with a well-defined mission statement, core values, culture code and employee value proposition. Setting organizational direction and purpose should be a collaborative effort that considers the future of the company while also taking into account its current state.
Establishing direction and purpose is also essential for recruiting great talent. It will help you find and hire people that will engage in their work beyond the the bare minimum and help in developing a cohesive employer branding strategy.
2. Resources & Tools
Resource limitations are an inevitability, but rather than concern yourself with limited resources, focus on how you can allocate what is available so it will have the greatest impact on your employees.
In order to know how to allocate resources, it’s important to stay in close communication with teams to prioritize resources, whether they be financial, educational, experiential or sheer human power and consider their responses in relation to areas most in need of improvement in the company. While it may seem obvious to hire a new team member with more experience, it may be cheaper and more beneficial to provide more training to your current team to help them be more engaged and accomplish more collectively than a new hire.
3. Work-Life Balance
Consider this: 80% of people consider work-life balance a priority when considering potential employers, and employees that identify as having good work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t. That sounds like a real win-win situation. Not only does providing work-life balance and flexibility attract more candidates, but they will work harder and be more engaged on a day to day basis.
4. Work Environment
65% of employees report that environmental factors like lighting and temperature contribute to performance and productivity. Many companies are moving away from the dreaded cubicle-farm layouts and are incorporating various options for employees to tailor their work environment to their preferences.
While certain people work well in silence with bright lights, others prefer background noise and dim lights. Some companies even set up their office by work style rather than department. You may not be able to completely remodel your office in the near future, but you should regularly ask your employees what changes would improve their environment, because it could be as simple as dimming the lights or implementing quiet hours.
70% of employees are most engaged when they are regularly updated by senior leadership about company strategy. In order for this to be successful, you need to make sure all of your c-suite, board members, senior leadership and other stakeholders are on the same page with how to be effectively transparent with employees. The last thing you want is information leaked or rumors spread that will cause distrust and animosity among employees.
When you create a culture built around transparency, people will be more open to addressing conflict and concerns. Sometimes people don’t know who to talk with or how to start a conversation and that can quickly escalate to decreased engagement, productivity and turnover.
6. Company Culture
Unlike other drivers of employee engagement on this list, company culture starts at the inception of a company and evolves with each new hire. As a business grows, it becomes very difficult to alter culture, which is why it needs to be a priority for even the smallest startups.
Culture has a significant impact on the daily lives and engagement of employees. Consider this— 77% of employees say that having strong relationships with colleagues is an important condition for engagement, and 82% of employees have at least one friend at work.
HR Engagement Drivers
Human resources plays a huge role in driving employee engagement. They are re the primary resource during the hiring, onboarding and training of new employees as well as moderating conflict, fostering culture and ensuring transparency on a daily basis.
Due to the nature of their role in the company, they have a unique opportunity to gain insight into individual employee engagement and direct change. These are a few areas specific to HR.
7. Engagement Surveys
Employee engagement surveys are the most popular way for companies to manage and drive engagement, which is great considering they’re incredibly effective and simple to implement. Additionally, 89% of HR professionals find that regular feedback surveys positively impact their organization. And just like that, the key to your engagement concerns can be solved, but where do you start?
There is a plethora of related surveys available online and even platforms that send out automated questionnaires with metrics to determine key pain points to focus and suggest resource allocation. We’ve found a couple of the top candidate and employee feedback tools available.
8. Perks, Benefits & Compensation
While these factors may seem unrelated to an individual's daily work, they do affect engagement in a real way. The right blend of perks, benefits and compensation allow employees to design the ideal work environment, establish work-life balance, plan their financial future and much more, all of which have a direct impact on engagement.
36% of employees stay at their companies because of the benefits and perks they offer, but designing the perfect package can be difficult. The best way to decide which benefits to prioritize, especially when you’re on a tight budget, is to survey your employees to see what they want.
Depending on the various demographics of your employees, there will be different desired benefits that will change over time as your company and its people age. For example, there are significant generational differences when it comes to benefit preferences— 36% of Baby Boomers seek benefits like employee discount programs, 34% of Generation Xers want paid parental leave and 46% Millennials value financial wellness programs.
9. Diversity & Inclusion
The impact of diversity and inclusion on corporate profitability have been proven time and again, but the benefits don’t end at the ledger. Diversity and inclusion practices have also been shown to increase employee engagement and trust, as well.
But creating a more engaging work environment goes beyond hiring diverse talent. Companies need to ensure that all of their employees feel comfortable and welcome at work. Aside from hiring people who share those values, it’s up to HR to implement diversity and inclusion programs that match their dialogue and vibe with employees.
If you’re having troubles internally, it may be helpful to hire an external diversity consultant to get you started.
10. Culture Committees
Dedicated culture committees are the second most popular way to boost employee engagement behind engagement surveys (55% to 29%, respectively). Giving employees a seat at the table encourages them to take ownership and feel like their opinions are being heard.
Depending on your company culture, size and employee interests, there are a variety of culture sub committees for companies to consider, like party planning or events, diversity and inclusion and philanthropic committees.
Not only do committees contribute to creating a more inclusive work environment, but they will give you an insight into the interests of your current team. Smaller committees are unique in that they bring together people of similar interests — regardless of their role or seniority— to bond and implement change from the bottom up.
11. Hire, Onboard & Train
Here are a few facts to ruin your day: the national average time to hire sits at 44 days, and of the employees that are hired, one third will quit within their first six months on the job. That’s actually the good news, as the best thing a disengaged employee can do is leave.
Here’s the bad news: A staggering 85% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged with their work. The problem is, these employees often remain in their current job as it’s an easy paycheck. They become a drain on the organization.
We highlight these statistics not to give you heartburn, but to give you motivation to make engagement assessments part of your hiring and onboarding processes. Human capital is by far a company’s most important asset, and it’s up to us to ensure that we’re looking for more than the right skill set when hiring.
Senior Leadership Engagement Drivers
As Millennials rise into senior positions, they are pioneering new methods for leadership and mentorship. The generation known for its rebellious nature and refusal to adhere to standard workplace practices is changing the game to the benefit of both employers and employees.
But as traditional processes are ditched in favor of modern techniques, it’s important to ensure that new leadership styles have a positive impact on employee engagement. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on.
12. Management/Leadership Style
42% of managers develop their leadership styles from recent managers, and while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does leave a lot to chance. It's important to respect your managers' individual leadership styles, but it’s also crucial that employers provide adequate education and resources to train leaders on how to adjust their style to better communicate with and meet the needs of individual employees.
In particular, managers are becoming more empathetic and flexible with employees and their personal lives. Work-life balance has proven to significantly affect an employee’s ability to engage with their work when they have time to relax and recharge.
13. Communication & Feedback
It comes as no surprise that employees often find it easier to communicate with people close to their own age. 38% of employees find it difficult to communicate with colleagues of different ages, and 77% of Gen Zers prefer Millennial bosses. This is to be expected, but businesses must work to overcome communication gaps between younger (typically direct reports) and older (typically managers) employees.
To mitigate challenges among diverse teams, it’s crucial for managers to initiate regular communication and feedback with employees. Not only does this help managers discover the learning style of individual reports, but it helps leaders adjust their own mentorship and communication style as well.
Unlike the one-sided performance reviews of the past, feedback needs to be a two-way conversation. Scheduling regular sessions and providing constructive feedback between managers and direct reports greatly helps both parties become more confident and engaged in their role.
While these conversations may feel intimidating, generational trends indicate that 97% of Gen Zers are receptive to regular feedback from their superiors. Just like the company needs to provide guidance and direction for growth and development, leaders need to provide guidance and direction for their direct reports.
14. Recognization & Appreciation
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that employees are more likely to be engaged in their work when they’re recognized and appreciated for contributing to the success of the company at large. Not only that, but 22% of employees will look for a new job if they don’t feel recognized for their work.
It doesn’t take much effort to create a program for employees to recognize each other’s accomplishments and celebrate the wins and milestones, both big and small.
15. Growth & Development
42% of employees indicate that learning and growth opportunities are a top priority when selecting an employer. This is to the benefit of both employees and employers and applies to all organizational levels.
Employees who are driven to learn and develop their skills are more engaged with their work because they are constantly being challenged with new material, thus improving their quality of work and elevating the success of the company.
While these opportunities can be limited due to available resources and tools, leaders have experience and knowledge to provide in-house mentorship and training to employees at minimal cost to the employer.
16. Support & Empowerment
Not to be confused with recognition and appreciation, support and empowerment pertains to providing coworkers (both managers and direct reports) with the tools and resources they need to excel in their role.
Whether that be providing training opportunities to improve a weaknesses, allowing employees to pursue passion projects or simply offering time off to improve work-life balance, it's up to leadership to figure out how they can better support employees to be successful and engage with their work.
Individual Employee Engagement Drivers
Believe it or not, Generation Z is making its way into the workforce, and with Millennials rising into senior level roles, these youngsters have high expectations for their employers.
Employers are struggling more than ever to attract, retain and engage fresh talent who don’t appeal to traditional employment opportunities. Here are a couple of drivers to hone in on for rising generations.
17. Learning Styles
Similar to leadership styles, every contributor has different learning styles that best resonate with them. While some people learn better through lectures and presentations, others may need to have hands-on experience before they fully grasp a new concept.
Mixing individual learning styles with individual management styles can be quite challenging, so this is another area to focus on during the interview process to ensure your new employee has the resources they need to succeed.
18. Passion & Commitment
76% of employees believe that having a meaningful job is a top condition for engagement, but meaningful work is a two way street. Employers have to create roles that have meaning, and employees have to find meaning in their work.
Identifying employees who are passionate and committed to their work starts with the hiring process. To find people who will be passionate and committed, it’s important to be transparent about your company’s goals, mission and values. Doing so can start as early as the job description and should continue in more depth during the interview process.
You should also continue to survey employees throughout their career to pinpoint areas for improvement. It’s certainly not uncommon for employees to lose passion and commitment to their work and become burned out. Sometimes the solutions to employee engagement are much simpler than you expect.
19. Initiative & Contribution
To be fully engaged at work, it takes a certain level of initiative from employees, and from employers to help employees do work that contributes to the company in a way that is both meaningful to the employee and significantly impacts the company.
If you encourage employees to test experiments and pursue passion projects, they will become more comfortable and confident taking initiative with their own work and consequently become more engaged. Additionally, it's important for leaders to recognize and reward people who model this behavior and build it into their culture.
20. Company Culture
While we already touched on company culture under the HR section, it's important to note that culture is created by the collective differences and common interests of the individual employees. When companies 'create culture,' they do so as a result of the people they hire and the opportunities they provide them to foster their own unique culture.