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What is employee engagement? The ultimate guide

Do you understand the importance of engagement and how to drive it in your organisation?

What is employee engagement, and why do engaged employees matter to you? Happy and contented individuals require more than just an excellent office or the odd perk. Employees will be affected by work and team engagement, and if you neglect to measure or monitor how committed your people are, your organisational success could be impacted. 

This article will focus on what engagement is, why it’s essential to business success and how numerous drivers can impact it.

Engagement refers to how invested individuals are in the business they work for and how motivated they are to do their job. It relates to an employee’s state of mind and their attitude towards their job and employer.

However, it's more than job satisfaction that will make or break employee engagement. It can be affected by other workplace factors, including organisational culture, purpose, leadership, colleagues, and also location. 

Employee engagement will be constantly changing within your organisation. Therefore, although engagement levels are often measured, they must be measured regularly to gain a genuine picture of them.

Employee engagement is more than just something you should try to feature in your workforce; it’s essential. It can drive performance, productivity, retention and also employee absence. Gallup suggests that low engagement alone can cost over $7 trillion globally.

The more committed an employee is to their company, the people they work with and the job they do, the more engaged they should be. It’s not just about job satisfaction and happiness; it goes beyond that. Employees need organisational, work, and team engagement.

Individuals need to care about their role, their contribution and the organisation. Therefore, as an employer, you must ensure transparency of your goals and strategy. Otherwise, if your people don’t understand how their role and contributions fit into the broader business, they may not be engaged.

If your employees are engaged, you should experience increased profitability, productivity and a more physically and mentally healthy workforce. If you want to improve your organisational performance, you are unlikely to improve results if your people don’t feel invested in working for you.

Employers can’t just measure a snippet of employee feedback and then make a few changes to engage people. To measure and improve engagement long-term, you need to understand specific workplace factors to ensure effective change. 

Your strategy must encourage trust and transparency between employer and employees. It should focus on establishing and communicating the organisation’s mission, values, and objectives so that employees clearly understand how they fit into the broader business.

An engagement strategy should contain a commitment to assessing and improving engagement from leadership and management and communication to make it clear to employees why you are focused on engagement. 

It should also outline how engagement will be measured, whether that’s using an employee engagement survey or an external provider who can offer help with the design using an employee engagement survey template and manage analysis etc.

There’s no apparent physical description of an engaged employee, but you may be able to feel or sense an engagement culture. For example, engaged workers may offer more than their basic role requirements and may go above and beyond because they want to. 

A survey by Skynova found that after insufficient pay, 54% of respondents said they left their job within a year of starting because of a toxic work environment. Therefore, if your people aren’t happy, then this will impact the work culture, which could increase turnover. 

In addition, engaged employees may collectively create a feeling of enthusiasm and harmony and will be inclusive, open to helping others and in touch with organisational goals and values. 

Engagement is a continuous aspect of the workforce and is subject to change. It can be affected by many different factors:

For example, global employee engagement levels had increased for almost a decade before the pandemic. 

However, the pandemic drastically impacted engagement levels. According to Gallup research, in 2022, only 21% of employees said they were engaged at work, and only 33% said they were thriving in their overall well-being. Worryingly, most employees involved in the research did not view their work as meaningful and didn’t feel hopeful about their future at work.

The people who lead the organisation significantly impact employee engagement. If leaders engage with employees and keep them updated on change or company performance, employees should feel involved, and communication should encourage transparency. 

However, if leaders don’t treat their people with respect, openly communicate across the organisation, encourage poor practices or cut corners, it won’t create a culture conducive to high engagement. Furthermore, their behaviour will potentially impact managers and continue to drip feed throughout the organisation, further risking a culture of low engagement.

Managers are crucial in developing employees and can contribute to the difference between engaged and disengaged team members. This means that managers have a challenging role in engagement and require many skills to engage team members and maintain this engagement.

Ideally, managers need to be accessible and available for individuals to discuss challenges, listen, offer support, and discuss development needs and other employee concerns or opportunities. They must also ensure they are available regardless of team members’ location and be aware of employee pressure and stress. 

In addition, they have the challenge of ensuring they show every team member the same level of respect and must lead a team where trust and respect are the norm.

With the increase of remote and hybrid working, keeping teams united and interactive can be challenging. Therefore, organisations and managers must find ways to keep team members interacting and communicating with each other to encourage morale and engagement.

Different employees will have different work aspirations and needs. Some individuals seek advancement and development, while others favour continuity or security. Managers must, therefore, spend time discussing needs with each individual to understand what motivates them and what will lead to optimal engagement. They can also use employee surveys for feedback.

If management doesn’t communicate, trust and transparency may be impossible to achieve. But communication goes two ways, so managers and employees need opportunities to communicate openly.

Company restructuring can impact morale, motivation and, therefore, engagement. And even small organisational changes can affect how people feel about working for their organisation.

For example, if an organisation makes redundancies, this can affect morale and make the workplace difficult. Some individuals may come to work fearful about job security, and others may feel guilt or worry that they could stay while colleagues have to leave. In addition, those remaining may have to take on more work if the headcount is reduced.

Keep up with your competitors and focus on employee engagement now and in the future. Engaged employees are crucial to business success, so ensure your leadership team embraces and encourages engagement so that it becomes a top-down approach and forms part of your organisational culture. Although you can’t make every aspect of the workplace perfect, by gathering feedback from your employees, you can work to create a work environment where your people can thrive.

At Momentive, our SurveyMonkey service can help you to measure employee engagement and our pricing plans are designed to fit your needs. Sign up now to improve employee engagement using our survey design, data analysis and other engagement tools.

Everyone in an organisation can affect engagement, but strategy and its approach should come from the C-Suite. Line managers should then lead by example and encourage and nurture engagement, and HR will often be tasked with engagement measurement and change. 

The pandemic changed work patterns and made remote working acceptable for many employees. Therefore, communication and performance management can be more difficult with teams still spread in and out of the workplace. In addition, the Great Resignation highlighted an increase in employees changing their priorities and often expecting more from their employers.

The two concepts are related, but they're not the same. Engagement tends to relate to employee motivation, how content they are with their work, and how committed they are to their organisation and the organisational goals. If employees are engaged, they tend to feel valued and see value in their work. On the other hand, satisfied employees may be happy at work but feel disconnected from company outcomes.

You need to engage individuals as soon as they start working for you. During the first few weeks in the new job, individuals will quickly feel the culture, and effective onboarding can make them feel part of the organisation immediately. Therefore, managers, HR, colleagues, and leaders must be involved in onboarding and communicating organisational goals and values from the beginning.