What Is Employee Engagement? Learn the Value of an Engaged Workforce

The value of an engaged workforce and how you can improve yours
September 12, 2019
Updated: October 10, 2019
Written by Kate Heinz

Employee engagement has become a top priority among 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. 

It might seem like a lofty claim, but it’s true — employee engagement does wonders for a company’s success.

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Table of Contents

 

What Is Employee Engagement?

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Let’s start by reviewing the definition of employee engagement. Employee engagement is defined as the degree to which employees are invested in, motivated by and passionate about the work they do and the company they work for. It’s 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. 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.

 

Employee Engagement Definition

The degree to which employees are invested in, motivated by and passionate about the work they do and the company they work for.

 

What Does an Engaged Employee Look Like?

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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 that 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. Engaged employees are passionate about their work and the company they work for.

 

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The Importance of Employee Engagement – Quick Facts

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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. If that’s not reason enough, check out some of the employee engagement statistics below.

94% of employees with great managers report being passionate about their work and energized by their job. 

A manager’s level of workplace engagement has a large impact on that of their team. Passion is contagious, and a manager’s enthusiasm for their team’s work will inspire direct reports to engage just as deeply with their own work.

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

Companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable. 

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.

Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to look for work elsewhere. 

Your team works hard to recruit the right people for the job, and finding candidates to fill empty roles can require a ton of resources. Save yourself time and money by concentrating on your employee engagement strategy to keep your current workforce around.

 

 

How to Improve Employee Engagement

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Simply put, improving your team’s engagement level can lead to substantial business developments. The key is to first evaluate your employee’s engagement level, then address the gaps in your strategy. Consider conducting an employee engagement survey to 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 comprised of diverse individuals, it's important to vary your approach to engage employees across all levels, departments and backgrounds. Consider working some of the following 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.

 

Plan company outings

The level of employee engagement in your workplace has a lot to do with how your employees relate to one another. Set up 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 on-site happy hour, game night or potluck dinner. Make sure to provide some variety in your events to promote inclusivity.

 

Prioritize feedback

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.

 

Concentrate on engaging management

Your managers’ levels of engagement directly affects their teams. Let’s take a look at some stats: in the U.S., 34% of employees are engaged at work, which nearly aligns with the 35% of managers who report being engaged. Plus, employees report that 75% 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 of 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.

 

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