What Is Employee Engagement? Definition, Benefits, Strategies.
Employee Engagement 101
Employee engagement refers to the degree workers feel invested in, motivated by and passionate about their jobs and the company for which they work.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is a concept in human resources that refers to the degree to which employees are invested in, motivated by and passionate about the work they do and the company for which they work.
It’s a top priority for C-Suites and HR professionals alike. Why? Simply put, highly engaged employees do more for your business. Specifically, an engaged workforce positively impacts the productivity and profitability of an organization, as well as its ability to retain top talent.
Employee Engagement Definition
Employee engagement is often misunderstood as employee satisfaction, and while the two ideas are related — satisfied employees are more likely to be engaged; engagement is a strong indicator of satisfaction — one does not guarantee or replace the other. Think of it this way: Satisfied employees are happy at work and engaged employees are happy doing their work.
Engagement is symptomatic of an employee’s motivation, and is not based solely on their financial compensation. An engaged employee is motivated by and committed to the company’s mission. These employees feel valued within the company and see value in the work they do — they understand the organization’s goals and believe their role contributes to its success.
Engaged employees use discretionary effort, which means they voluntarily do more than what’s expected of their role. These are the individuals who want to help take the company further; they produce quality work and are eager to perform better. They’ll be the ones who volunteer to show new hires around the office, stay late to finish a project and help out at corporate events over the weekend.
A successful employee engagement strategy is built on communication and trust between employees and employers. To foster employee engagement, leadership should model the organization’s core values, take pride in the company, encourage professional development and support each individual’s goals.
Importance of Employee Engagement
In a society where being a career “lifer” is increasingly less common, engaging your employees from the start is key to retaining the top talent you worked hard to attract.
Because no matter how good of a work ethic and overall fit a person is to your company, their engagement levels will decrease significantly if you don’t have a plan to support their interests and needs throughout their career. Only 36 percent of U.S. employees are classified as engaged at work, which is a major issue for employers. Still, executives and leadership teams often wonder why employee engagement is important. The following outcomes prove its positive impact on your business:
1. Engaged Employees Are More Productive
According to a meta analysis by Gallup, companies with higher levels of employee engagement saw a 21 percent increase in productivity. The reason? Engaged employees “bought into what the organization is about and are trying to make a difference,” Gallup’s chief scientist of employee engagement and well-being, Jim Harter, said in the report. “This is why they're usually the most productive workers.”
2. Engaged Employees Lead to Higher Profits
Not only can prioritizing employee engagement save you money, it can actually be more lucrative. Invest in your employees, and you’ll see it pay off in dividends. On the flip side, disengaged employees cost companies money. Employee disengagement costs the U.S. economy between $483 to $605 billion annually in lost productivity. When it comes down to dollars and cents, engaged employees are more valuable.
3. Engaged Employees Stick Around Longer
Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave their current employer. That’s great news, but it gets even better. While more than half of disengaged employees would consider leaving their job for another offer, that number drops to just 25 percent among engaged employees. Once you’ve gone through the process of hiring a great employee, the last thing you want to do is start from scratch because they left for greener pastures. Engagement is the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen.
How to Improve Employee Engagement
You understand the importance of employee engagement, but actually doing something about it can seem like a daunting task. It helps to have a solid plan in place. That’s where employee engagement programs come in.
The key is to first evaluate your employees’ engagement level, then address the gaps in your strategy. Consider measuring employee engagement by conducting an employee engagement survey, which will help you quickly assess just how engaged your workforce is and identify areas for improvement. Lean on managers and department heads for their input. Raw data is great, but real people will be able to provide context to the numbers.
Because your staff is composed of diverse individuals, it’s important to vary your approach to engage employees across all levels, departments and backgrounds. Consider working some of the below employee engagement ideas and initiatives into your strategy to improve your team engagement. Remember to set up checkpoints or follow-up surveys so you can gather feedback on your progress.
Model Your Core Values and Emphasize Your Mission
Employees are more engaged when there’s a goal they can get behind and a purpose to inspire them. Your core values and mission statement are the foundation of your company culture, which plays a large role in how engaged your employees are. It’s important that leaders — including and especially those at the very highest levels of the organization — embody and model the values and mission of the company.
Concentrate on Engaging Management
Your managers’ levels of engagement directly affects their teams. Employees report that 75 percent of great managers are passionate about the work they do. That kind of positive attitude is contagious. While your workforce engagement strategy should account for the individual needs of every employee, focusing on middle management is an effective way to influence the whole organization.
Productive amounts of feedback — meaning just the right amount — correlates with positive manager reviews. Even managers who give their direct reports too much feedback are rated higher by their team than those who don’t provide enough. The gist? Employees crave feedback, and it influences their level of engagement. Encourage middle management to establish regular check-ins or review sessions with their team. While it may be tempting to implement a schedule for feedback, keep in mind that every team is different and frequent touchpoints may feel unnatural to some.
Button Up Your Onboarding Process
You’ll never disengage an employee faster than in their first few weeks on the job. By providing new hires with effective onboarding, you let them know they have a place in your company. Take the time to explain the nuances of the team, the goals and values of the company as well as their position’s purpose. This not only sets them up for success in the role but also conveys their value to the organization’s mission.
Offer Professional Development Opportunities
Regardless of which industry you serve, the market will constantly evolve. Professional development is key to staying up to date and relevant. Not only that, but contributing — financially or otherwise — to your employee’s individual growth shows that you value them, in addition to their work. Some companies even offer mentorship programs to further engage employees who want to develop professionally.
Recognize Top Performers and Reward Achievements
Engaged employees will go out of their way to go the extra mile. However, they still want to know that leadership sees and appreciates their efforts. Take time to acknowledge your employees and allow them to do the same to their peers. Since feedback is a top priority among employees, encourage managers to make positive recognition part of their day-to-day. Additionally, consider engaging your HR department to implement an incentive program.
Employee engagement is an integral part of an organization’s success and there’s not a one-size-fits-all model. Your employee engagement strategy should be based on your core values, mission and employees’ goals. Get in the habit of conducting pulse surveys to gauge workforce engagement and areas of discontentment. As your organization grows and evolves, your employee engagement strategy should too.
Plan Company Outings
The level of employee engagement in your workplace has a lot to do with how your employees relate to one another. Offer opportunities for them to connect on things outside of work and foster personal relationships. You don’t have to go far or break the bank to do so — plan an optional on-site happy hour, game night or potluck dinner. Make sure to provide some variety in your events to promote inclusivity.