Employee engagement refers to an employee’s emotional connection to and involvement in their organization’s goals. Organizations with an effective engagement strategy in place can better realize their employees’ potential, resulting in improved profit margins and retention rates.
This article will dive deeper into employee engagement best practices you can implement to improve your company’s culture and profitability.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why is employee engagement important?
- How do you measure employee engagement?
- Three types of employee engagement
- Best practices for encouraging employee engagement
Why is employee engagement important?
Employee engagement levels can directly influence your organization’s culture and employer brand.
Engaged employees look forward to going to work every day, and reinforce your company’s values. They contribute to company initiatives and always look for ways to optimize performance and work processes. They may also serve as team leaders or role models and look to motivate and develop leaders throughout the workplace.
On the other hand, disengaged employees may only do the bare minimum expected from them to keep their job. They sometimes underperform and miss deadlines, and can negatively affect the bottom line. The organization’s employer brand may also suffer due to increased turnover rates, low job satisfaction, and poor word of mouth.
Employee engagement tends to influence several critical aspects of the business, including:
- Work quality
- Talent retention
- Long-term shareholder value
These factors can, in turn, affect business growth and expansion, employee satisfaction and wellness, leadership and communication, customer satisfaction, and many other areas.
Implementing employee engagement strategies can at first seem like an unnecessary expense. However, according to research conducted by Towers Perrin and Kenexa, having engaged workers can boost net profit by 6% and multiply shareholder returns fivefold.
How do you measure employee engagement?
Employee engagement is typically defined as an emotional connection and commitment to the company, its reputation, and its goals. Since it can be difficult to associate hard numbers with emotions, companies often rely on qualitative analyses to determine engagement.
To measure the levels of emotional participation from workers, businesses can look at the following metrics:
- Job satisfaction and personal development
- Feedback and recognition
- Relationships with co-workers and management
- Happiness and wellness
- Alignment with the organization’s values
This type of qualitative analysis can be conducted through interviews, engagement surveys, and employee net promoter scores (eNPS).
Interviews are an excellent way to collect employee feedback in a private, safe, yet professional setting. Managers and HR personnel can get valuable information about the employee’s attitude toward their responsibilities, their workplace relationships, and the overall company culture.
Try to conduct these interviews 1 on 1 and in person, whenever possible. Aside from onboarding and exit interviews, it’s also important to have regular feedback sessions with direct reports. A best practice would be to hold these sessions either weekly or bi-weekly.
The employee should do most of the talking. That said, it helps to structure the interview more like an informal conversation to allow them to open up. Managers should ask open-ended questions and actively listen. This will make it possible to understand what makes the employee feel engaged and supported, and what situations or conditions may lead to decreased participation or burnout.
Employee engagement surveys can help you check the “pulse” of the workplace. They assess factors like quality of communication and relationships, workload distribution, and confidence in the company’s goals. Whether opting for a survey, try to prioritize five to 10 questions most pertinent to your organization.
Tools like the PI Employee Experience Survey™ let you measure and act on engagement. Poll your team or entire organization with questions custom-tailored to address feelings of disengagement. Discuss the results with your team, and create an action plan to improve engagement and foster a healthy, trusting, and productive culture.
It’s important to conduct these surveys at regular intervals and make them a part of a larger engagement strategy. Goal setting and improvements should be ongoing so employees don’t feel these surveys are merely a formality. When participants feel their voice counts, they’re more likely to be invested in their work.
An employee net promoter score is another powerful tool in determining the success of your engagement program. Similar in concept to a customer loyalty NPS, an eNPS can give you instant and clear information about the employee experience within your company.
Those that are most likely to recommend your products and services to others and refer new employees are your most engaged workers. The more promoters and fewer detractors you have, the better your score. Generally, a score between 10 and 30 is considered good.
Three types of employee engagement
Gallup began to measure engagement in U.S. workplaces in 2000, and the research has helped define three main types of employee engagement. These types are differentiated by level of commitment, and consist of actively engaged, neutral, and actively disengaged workers.
An employee’s level of engagement depends on several factors, including:
- Trust between the employee and their manager
- Attitude toward work tasks and current job role
- Strength of team collaboration and relationships
- Sentiment toward the organization’s direction, mission, and values
According to the 2021 State of Talent Optimization report, only 27% of companies know what’s driving disengagement among employees. So it’s crucial to take a pulse on where your workplace currently stands.
Let’s dive deeper into what each type of employee engagement means:
Actively engaged employees
Actively engaged employees feel enthusiastic about and energized in their role. They’re motivated to find new solutions, and enjoy finding a way out of challenging situations. Their positivity shines through in the workplace, so they often serve as motivators to other staff. You’ll frequently see them sharing knowledge and taking an active role in team-building activities.
This group will often form strong bonds with co-workers and managers. They’re passionate about mentoring new employees and helping them adjust to the work environment. Actively engaged staff also tend to go above and beyond, putting in extra discretionary effort and doing their best to see projects not just completed, but completed well.
These staff members also typically share the core values of the organization, and consistently work toward achieving the company’s mission. They have a positive outlook regarding the company’s direction and are often recognized as the most prominent brand ambassadors.
Actively disengaged employees
Actively disengaged employees are on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to shared values, workplace relationships, and attitudes toward work. These employees are unhappy in their current position and may be overburdened by their tasks. When faced with challenges, disengaged workers can experience burnout, which can lead to absenteeism and ultimately turnover.
It can be difficult for these employees to form meaningful workplace relationships due to their negative outlook. These workers tend to do the bare minimum, if that, to get their paycheck. As a result, disengaged workers have no desire to stick around in the organization and may be looking for a new career path elsewhere.
Worst of all, the behavior and underperformance of disengaged staff can hinder team dynamics and reduce overall productivity.
Neutral levels of engagement are most common in the workplace. These employees do their jobs and are often motivated only by the paycheck. They feel no connection to the company and will not spend extra time or effort unless they get some perks or benefits in return.
This largest group of workers is the most likely to be influenced by engagement initiatives. Increasing their buy-in and aligning them with the overall mission and values will help to keep these employees in house and boost their level of engagement.
Keep track of what percentage of employees fall into which categories to determine the overall level of employee engagement across your organization. When possible, make use of objective measurements like key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge on-the-job success.
Best practices for employee engagement
Implementing best practices for employee engagement requires participation at all levels of the organization. Managers and senior leaders in particular need to take an active role in engagement activities to promote a healthy and high-performing culture.
Here are some powerful ways to move the needle on engagement:
1. Regularly communicate with employees.
Regular conversations with staff are critical for creating an engaged workforce. Without a communication plan in place, it’s difficult to gauge and improve worker satisfaction, collect and act on feedback, and establish trusting relationships.
Communication should go both ways. There are numerous two-way communication tools available to managers, including:
- Meetings (1-on-1, team, departmental, and company-wide)
- Onboarding and exit interviews
- Surveys, polls, and questionnaires
- Performance reviews
- Emails and social media tools
- Open door policies
Using different strategies to ensure workers feel heard and supported can have a drastic impact on engagement levels. It’s especially important to leverage these communication tools in times of change or uncertainty.
2. Gather and act on constructive feedback.
It’s important for managers to understand why their workers are invested in their work, and what obstacles they’re facing. Feedback plays a vital role in this process. Make sure to gather feedback regularly, through a mix of meetings, interviews, surveys, and performance reviews.
With feedback data in hand, you can then create a plan to address areas of disengagement. However, creating this plan is just the first step. Only by setting goals, following up on progress made, and tweaking the plan as needed will you produce tangible results.
3. Take care of employee engagement year round.
Periodic performance reviews, meetings, and employee satisfaction surveys need to be strategically implemented throughout the year. You should also make sure to recognize and share any successful initiatives within the workplace.
Celebrating achievement through recognition programs can motivate the entire workforce. When workers feel acknowledged in their position, they are more likely to communicate and perform better.
Don’t forget to include your remote workers in these initiatives. Corresponding and coordinating with them may take additional effort, but it’s crucial they aren’t forgotten about. A dedicated internal communication strategy and email management tool will go a long way toward keeping everyone connected.
4. Lead by example in taking care of your wellbeing.
Taking care of workers’ health, safety, and wellbeing should be the basis of any workplace engagement initiative. Managers and executives that lead by example and promote wellness programs could improve employee retention by as much as 50%, according to a study conducted in Ireland.
Other strategies can include offering gym memberships, providing healthy meals at the cafeteria, investing in ergonomic office equipment, and offering health screenings.
5. Exercise on-the-spot recognition.
Employee recognition is a powerful tool for eliciting positive emotions in workers. Whenever a task or project is completed successfully, managers should acknowledge the staff’s efforts. Praise and incentives can go a long way if they’re provided consistently.
When providing recognition, keep in mind how your employees prefer to receive praise. If they have a high extraversion drive, they may enjoy being recognized publicly, for the whole company to see. If they have a lower extraversion drive, a private message over email or Slack may be more appropriate.
In either case, make sure to recognize your employees’ accomplishments regularly and sincerely.
6. Maintain transparency.
Engagement is built on trust and transparency. Keeping employees in the dark about the company’s strategic direction or the work being done in other departments can be a breeding ground for rumors, misinformation, and distrust.
Organizational changes, large projects, recognitions, awards, and even hardships should be openly discussed with staff at all levels. Holding back crucial information can prevent employees from doing their jobs or embracing change, whether positive or negative.
How The Predictive Index helps
Employee engagement levels have a direct impact on individual and organizational performance. Neglecting company culture can result in disengagement and stifle personal and professional development. On the other hand, nurturing shared values and implementing strategies to increase engagement can create a strong, reliable, and productive workforce.
The Predictive Index is a talent optimization platform that can help managers attract the best talent, design high-performing teams, inspire workers, and measure engagement. By taking advantage of PI’s tools, resources, and ongoing support, organizations of all shapes and sizes can get on the right path toward optimizing job satisfaction and performance.
Isaac is a Content Marketer with Mailbird, an email client. He has eight years of experience helping businesses big and small scale their content efforts and attract new leads. When he’s not writing about productivity, marketing, or technology, he can be found in a park with a good book.
You can find his latest work on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isaacdumet/