Talent optimization and the agile leader

What is employee engagement?

August 9, 2019

What is employee engagement?

By Steve Messina August 9, 2019

High levels of employee engagement lead to increased productivity, innovation, and enthusiastic workers.

Most people have had at least one job they didn’t enjoy—whether it was due to poor management or unfulfilling work. Even if a job isn’t horrible, it’s hard to forget that feeling of waiting for the clock to run out so you can go home.

This is the last thing that employers want for their employees. Disengaged employees are less productive—and many are one phone call away from leaving your organization. Maintaining high levels of employee engagement is critical to long-term business success.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to the relationship between an employee and the organization they work for. It can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative measurements include insights derived from one-on-one meetings and exit interviews. Quantitative measurements include pulse or employee experience surveys.

Engagement is not synonymous with employee satisfaction or happiness, though they often go hand in hand.

Highly engaged employees care about the work they do and put in discretionary effort. They go the extra mile to move the company’s mission forward.

Employees with high levels of engagement are easy to spot. They offer inventive solutions to problems no one has thought of before or seem excited about exceeding monthly goals or quotas instead of settling for the bare minimum. These team members are willing to stay a little later or work overtime when needed and invest in offering value in what they do. 

what is employee engagement

Why employee engagement matters

While most businesses keep track of key performance indicators, most are missing a critical metric to track: people data. People are a necessary component of your business strategy.

A recent study from Gallup revealed amazing insights about engaged employees: Organizations with highly engaged employees were 21% more profitable than those with less engaged employees. Engaged teams saw a 10% boost in customer satisfaction ratings and a 20% increase in sales. The numbers paint a clear picture: Engaged employees are good for business.

And it makes sense: When your team is excited about the work they do, they naturally work harder and want to put in that discretionary effort. 

Engaged employees are also less likely to quit. With the cost of turnover weighing between 50-200% of an employee’s salary—depending on their position in the company—retaining employees is cost-effective for businesses.

Ultimately, if you want your business strategy to succeed, you need engaged employees to execute.

How to measure employee engagement

It can be hard to measure employee engagement outright. After all, what does 70% engagement mean or look like? Employee engagement comprises many elements of the employee experience, including job satisfaction, alignment with organizational values, relationship with your direct manager, and more.

That’s why there are so many tools and methods for measuring employee engagement. Each method can measure an aspect—or multiple aspects—of elements that impact engagement.

Here are a few ways you can collect feedback about the employee experience and engagement levels:

  • Employee feedback software, such as Zeal’s Ava Bot
  • Employee experience surveys
  • Employee engagement surveys
  • Exit interviews
  • One-on-one meetings
  • Employee net promoter score

23 questions to ask on your employee engagement survey

How frequently should you measure engagement? That depends on the type of feedback you’re gathering and how quickly you’re able to act on it. While frequent input on the employee experience can provide great real-time insights into what employees are thinking and how they’re feeling about the company, if you’re not regularly taking action on the feedback, employees will stop completing your employee experience surveys. 

What kind of questions should you ask on your engagement survey? This blog shares 23 to start with.

4 strategies to boost engagement in the workplace

The 2019 Employee Engagement Report found that the composite engagement rate in the U.S. is 71%. This indicates the workforce is more engaged than some reports have shown. And while that’s great news for organizations, it doesn’t mean improvement isn’t still needed.

Here are four strategies companies can use to boost engagement:

1. Identify and address problem areas.

There’s room for improvement in every organization. If you’re not already measuring employee engagement, that’s a good place to start. While you could start by implementing some basic principles for engagement, the best way to address engagement issues is by determining the root cause specific to your organization.

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2. Hire well.

Job satisfaction starts with having the right person in the right role. If someone’s not a good behavioral or cognitive fit for a position, they’ll struggle to stay engaged. Use behavioral and cognitive assessments in the hiring process to determine if a candidate is suited for the position. Interview for culture fit to ensure the candidate is aligned with your organizational culture.

3. Offer learning and development options.

One of the top 10 drivers of turnover intent is the lack of learning and development opportunities, according to research from the 2019 Employee Engagement Report. This could take the form of internal training, leadership development programs, or mentorship opportunities. 

4. Keep the lines of communication open.

Employees need to know their voice is heard. When employees feel they can make a difference in their workplace, engagement and job satisfaction increases. 

Employees also need to trust their senior leadership. Foster an environment of trust with open, transparent, and frequent communication.

Employee engagement is a smart business strategy.

Employee engagement isn’t just about creating a great place to work; it’s a smart business strategy. Organizations that align their people strategy with their business strategy will see outsized business results.

Ready to take your people strategy to the next level? Learn more about talent optimization with this e-book.

Boost employee engagement with PI.

Learn the keys to creating a culture of engagement.

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