What is Employee Engagement? A Complete Guide

25 August 2021
14 minute
What is Employee Engagement A Complete Guide

Have you ever experienced that Monday morning dread? Ever felt that you weren’t being valued in your job? Ever thought about leaving - or maybe you have left a role because you just didn’t feel that the business understood you?

The saying, ‘people leave bad managers, not bad jobs’ could really apply to this adage - and all of the scenarios above. The reason, our engagement. At its heart, employee engagement is about having an understanding of what is motivating someone in their role and what you can do to make that experience better.

Countless studies have shown that engaged employees produce better results than non-engaged ones. Whatever the industry, company size, nationality and even in good and bad economic times, the better engaged your workers, the better the results. 

In this guide we will learn about employee engagement, what it is, why it is important, the benefits of an engaged workforce, how to measure it and how to improve employee engagement in the workplace.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment your employee has to the organisation and its goals. This results in the workplace having the right conditions for each member of the organisation to be committed to the goals of the business whilst also developing a positive sense of their own wellbeing.

By getting to grips with employee engagement, you are getting an understanding of how actively engaged they are with their work, or if they are simply turning up and putting in the hours for a paycheck. Another aspect of employee engagement is that you can clearly measure whether the tactics you put in place to build engagement are working or not.

What engagement is not is employee satisfaction. Satisfaction can be someone still turning up to the office and filling out questionnaires about “how happy they are at work” but will happily leave when a call from a rival firm arrives offering a 10% pay increase. They will not commit extra time to perfect their craft for the business, go ‘the extra mile’ without encouragement either. In short, many can feel satisfied, but satisfaction is not engagement.

The key attributes of engaged employees

  • Motivated

They are active participants in the work they produce. They want to do it and they want to get it done to the best of their abilities - for both the employer and themselves.

  • Aware

They understand the company and where the company is heading - and what their contribution does to help them achieve that.

  • Content

They are not resting on their laurels, they are however happy and content.

  • Committed

They are committed to their work and when challenges arise, they are committed to overcoming them as well. Even introverted workers will step out of their comfort zones to complete the tasks.

  • Enthusiastic

Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their job - which means that they simply enjoy their work and their time spent there. Negativity towards projects rarely occurs in an enthusiastic employee. 

Why is employee engagement important?

We understand that employee engagement is not the same as satisfaction and that there are a few key attributes which make up an engaged employee, but why is it so important for both employees and for employers?

  • Employees

An engaged employee is more likely to be invested in the work that they do which creates better overall work and a general sense of wellbeing. Engaged employees are great ambassadors for a company, feeling pride in the work they do and wake up with a sense of fulfillment in the work that they are carrying out.

  • Employers

For employers, having an engaged workforce is about understanding that your workers not only feel loyalty and ambassadorship towards your brand but that you attain better productivity, work quality and that you can retain the best talent in the business.

5 employee engagement benefits

There are benefits to both employers and employee engagement in the workplace but let’s just take a closer look at what they are.

1. Improved employee satisfaction

Yes, employee engagement is not the same as satisfaction - as already described - but employee satisfaction is boosted the more engaged your employees are. A feeling of greater self-worth and that you are being valued for your contribution is part of the benefits of improved employee engagement.

2. Happier employees

There is no need to intimidate employees or resort to peer pressure tactics against happy employees. They want to be there doing the work. They don’t require micro-management or any old-style tactics to do better, instead, workshops and reviews are seen as a positive to getting the best out of them.

3. Reduced absenteeism

Studies have shown that a greater engaged workplace is going to see 41% less of absenteeism. They are committed to their work and care about the success of their team.

4. Better employee health

An engaged employee is less likely to be obese, less likely to suffer from chronic disease, more likely to eat healthy and more likely to exercise. All this contributes to a healthy employee who isn’t off work with stress related illnesses that add to absenteeism.

5. Higher staff retention

Engaged employees are more likely to be using their skill sets and learning new ones to help get the job done as they are being challenged. This makes them less likely to leave than those who don’t.

Other employee engagement benefits include:

  • Improved employee loyalty
  • Better customer service
  • Greater productivity
  • Increased profitability
  • Drives brand advocacy

How to measure employee engagement

Whilst employee engagement is something which can be measured, there is still no standardised form or methodology that is used across the board. However, there are various metrics which can be used to measure and assess employee engagement. These include things such as:

Absentee rate

You will notice if your team members start becoming more absent or taking longer periods of time off. Whilst there is a lag of reporting this, you can begin to get a feel if those who are repeatedly missing work are engaged or not in the work and the organisation.

Staff retention

Once absenteeism becomes more frequent for some people, you will notice employees leave. There is no defined rule for what a good retention rate is, but an industry number which gets thrown around is 10% over 12 months. If you have less than a 10% turnover, that is seen as positive - it all depends on the size of the business and the industry.

Productivity

Knowing if your employee is meeting predetermined targets/goals is key in productivity. It could be that at the start of the quarter you set a list of targets and they weren’t able to produce enough in the timeframe, or it could be an analysis over a longer period of time to establish if productivity is waning.

Customer happiness

Are your customers complaining more than they used to? Has something happened with the product or is the service changing? Measuring customer happiness can take many different scales, but complaints are the red button warning that usually indicates there is quite a drastic change.

Employee NPS (net promoter score)

Net Promoter Scores were originally introduced to measure the levels of satisfaction and loyalty of customers. These have now been adapted to measure employee scores. Generally, questions are answered on a scale from 0 to 10, where anyone answering 0 to 6 is considered a detractor, 7 and 8 considered passive, and 9 and 10 respondents are considered promoters.

To calculate your employee NPS, you simply subtract your detractors from your promoters (and ignore the passives) and divide by the total number of respondents: Employee NPS = (promoters - detractors)/ total respondents

Staff satisfaction

You can have meetings to measure this kind of KPI, or you could do anonymous surveys. But staff satisfaction is about how a group of people are responding to the organisation which in turn can demonstrate the impact of engagement at a bigger scale.

How to assess employee engagement

As outlined, there are various methods and KPIs which are used to measure employee engagement - as there isn’t just a standard version which can do this - importantly, there are various ways to assess these. They include:

Surveys

These can be done frequently or less frequently depending on what is being asked/measured. Many organisations are now opting for easily completed short surveys also known as pulse surveys. They are five questions or less in many cases.

eNPS - employee Net Promoter Score surveys involving one simple question

NPS was touched on before, but the theory stands as a way of measuring employee engagement.

Interviews

Think of exit interviews. Yes, this is a late stage scenario and you’d rather not lose talent but when you do, what insight can they bring and what can you learn from them?

Employee 1-on-1 meetings

Do you really want to understand what is going on with your employees and how engaged they are to the organisational goals? Then have regular conversations and meetings, formally and informally to better gauge how the scenario stands.

How to improve employee engagement

When understanding employee engagement it is important to focus on what actually drives this to happen in the first place. You must remember that engagement is dynamic as the needs of the organisation will change thanks to external factors as well as goal setting being a fluid process for many businesses.

At its heart, employee engagement is built on trust, respect and performance. Managers need to be aware that engagement is equally something that is created by an individual and their needs - the employee must choose to be engaged based on their circumstances.

The top drivers of employee engagement

  • Values and purpose

What values and purpose does the organisation share with the employees own values and purpose? What is more important to the employee, earning a high wage or working for a business that achieves social change or creates an amazing product that they can be proud of? Understanding the individual's values and what makes them wake up in the morning is essential to help drive that engagement.

  • Mental and physical wellbeing

Employees today no longer think that working extreme hours with little time to manage their health is the compromise they should make. The focus on mental wellbeing over the last few years has been a prominent move by large organisations to take this into consideration when hiring. Things such as “blanket days” to mental health support at a job are taken with great care and pride. Having good mental as well as physical health is important today, especially when it comes to feeling part of an organisation and their values.

  • Relationships with management

This is arguably one of the most important drivers for employee engagement. This relationship has been the cause of an employees’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their work or workplace and their subsequent decision of whether to stay in or go elsewhere. How you communicate with your employees and what you communicate to them are central issues in the relationship that lies at the heart of the psychological contract you take on when an employee joins a team.

It is important as a manager to have that challenge of forming genuine yet professional relationships with your employees that will benefit the company, the employee, and you.

  • Fairness

Feeling like you are being judged fairly for the work that is being produced, and being given a fair opportunity for salary increases and promotions are all key in driving engagement. They have to be reflected in the way the business works with the employee in promoting transparency across the business and how evaluations are carried out.

  • Safety

This could be about physical safety - research has shown that 70% fewer safety incidents occur in highly engaged workplaces or it could be about employment safety - do employees feel as if they have a long-term future ahead of them at that business.

  • Learning and development

Of course, advancement and being able to be better equipped 12 months from when an employee starts to that point is equally valuable. Whilst many employees will have different positions in their lifetime, the idea of long-term career potential and promotion opportunities are still as relevant today as they were many years ago.

They relate to engagement because it’s about their intent to stay in the workplace and the resulting decision of whether they stay or go.

  • Work resources and environment

What is it that you can offer as a business in order to create the best place to work in terms of the resources that an employee requires to develop and the environment that is then created because of that? If you want your team to be the best performers in their field, will it be regular training or access to different training platforms and materials to make them the best?

These are again, drivers to keep your team engaged. These key drivers can be neatly associated with techniques to improve employee engagement.

Techniques to improve employee engagement

  • Define the organisation's values and purpose

Be clear in what your organisation stands for and values. What are the key values that you hold dear and why is this important and think about why it might or might not attract potential employees - especially those who want to feel engaged.

From corporate messaging to the conversations that take place, your organisation’s values and purpose are the defining element that needs to be seriously considered.

  • Invest in and promote staff wellbeing

From incorporating tactics such as “blanket days” to longer staff holidays or even getting associations with local gyms/spas so that memberships are cheaper for the physical and associated mental wellbeing these are all easily workable solutions that can help a business put forward solutions to help staff feel like wellbeing is not just something done for show, but also a priority of the business.

Counselling and therapy may be something that could be offered to staff who are dealing with issues which may or may not be work related.

  • Establish open management communications

From an “open door” policy to informal meetings, staff need to feel as if they can approach their managers for whatever they need to. It means that there is an open culture of communication and one that fosters both a friendly yet important bond between employees and their bosses. 

  • Ensure fair and safe working conditions

From providing corporate guidelines to how evaluations are conducted to health and safety manuals and even demonstrations. Basic things such as knowing where to go in an emergency or knowing who the health and safety officer is in case there is an emergency are the simple steps businesses can use to create a more engaged workforce.

  • Provide staff development and learning opportunities

Make it clear how staff are developed, what the training plans look like and how this will help them achieve their goals and yours as a business. What training programmes are available to them, how they can get on the courses and what type of internal/external training is available.

  • Optimise the work environment and resources

From how an office is laid out to the availability of resources you can offer to help an employee do their job to the best of their ability. Creating the best possible environment that rewards and promotes employees to feel like they are being treated fairly and that they have opportunities to grow and learn is one the best ways to develop employee engagement.

How Thomas can help with employee engagement

An engaged employee is likely to be more invested in the work that they do which creates better overall work and a general sense of wellbeing. For employers, having an engaged workforce is about understanding that your workers not only feel loyalty and ambassadorship towards your brand but that you attain better productivity, work quality and that you can retain the best talent in the business.

Employee engagement is different from employee satisfaction and understanding the benefits of engagement can help you develop techniques to get the best out of your workforce.

With Thomas Engage you can establish levels of engagement within your organisation and identify strategies and initiatives to enhance employee wellbeing, motivation and productivity. Alternatively, check the wealth of resources we have on topics including employee engagement and wellbeing.

To find out more about how our solutions can help you to improve employee engagement in these uncertain times, please speak to one of our team.

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