In this article, we explore what employee engagement is, how it has changed over time, the benefits of highly engaged employees, and the steps you can take to increase engagement in your organization.
Employee engagement is more than just a buzzword. Engagement affects just about every important aspect of your organization, including profitability, revenue, client experience, turnover, and much more.
Employees who feel connected to their organization work harder, stay
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Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work.
What is employee engagement? Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work. Let’s break that down further.
Employee engagement measures how employees feel about their organization. Based on their perception of their workplace, employees are categorized into four main groups:
When defining employee engagement, it's important to explore what employee engagement is not. Employee engagement is often incorrectly synonymous with:
So, how long has the notion of employee engagement been around? Here’s a timeline showing how it has changed and evolved over time.
As manufacturing and production jobs are automated or sent overseas, service companies take their place. “Employees are your greatest asset” becomes “employees are your only asset.” The idea of a lifelong employer fades away, pension programs are slashed, and employee retention grows to be a universal challenge.
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman coined the term “employee engagement” in 1999.
Employee engagement is appealing to HR because of its immediate benefits in retention, recruitment, job satisfaction, and happiness. But the benefits of employee engagement span much further than HR. Some of the most valuable and direct benefits of employee engagement are:
Decreased Turnover. Engaged employees turn over less often for three core reasons. First, they know they will be recognized for their contributions. Second, they see opportunities for professional growth and career development within the organization. And third, their organizations are more transparent. When changes happen, they understand why they're happening. These three pillars enable employees to connect to the present and future.
Increased Innovation. Engaged employees foster innovation because they know their opinions matter. They have the resources they need to develop and nurture new ideas. Consistent feedback challenges them to develop new and better ideas, solutions, and products.
Engaged employees are not afraid to fail when attempting new initiatives. That’s because an engaged organization treats failure as an opportunity to grow and learn. Instead of fearing failure, engaged employees feel their job is challenging and interesting. Tracked feedback allows them to see how they have grown over the course of their tenure with the company.
Engaged employees foster innovation because they know that their opinions matter.
Decreased Absenteeism. Engaged employees enjoy going to work. They know their leaders value employees as their most important resource. Engaged organizations listen to employees and allow them to work in the ways that they work best. They provide resources for employee to work remotely and accommodate flexible work schedules. Employees show up because work aligns with their lifestyles.
Decreased Workplace Injury. Engaged employees are less likely to get hurt. Their work environment is predictable, stable, and well-managed. Gallup reports that highly engaged, top-quartile work units have 70% fewer safety incidents. Why? Because leaders recognize employees as their most valuable asset. And they actively work to ensure and promote workplace safety.
When employees aren't concerned for their safety, they become more engaged, more productive, and more likely to stay. Employee move from mindless work to recognizing the importance of their individual contribution. They're held accountable, and rewarded for their contributions. Their opinions are heard, respected, and addressed.
When you invest in employee engagement, you’re investing in more than an HR program. There are tons of employee engagement statistics that prove how engagement initiatives contribute to the health, safety, productivity, and retention of your employees. In other words, the benefits of engaged employees are priceless.
Before you think about improving employee engagement, you have to know where you stand.
How do you measure engagement? One of the most accurate and efficient ways to find out is with an employee engagement survey.
While a survey is a good place to start, there is far more to measuring employee engagement. The purpose of collecting data is to be able to track trends over time and use your results to take action. Here are some reasons why your engagement survey may be yielding unclear or inaccurate results:
Some organizations choose to work with a third party to measure engagement. Whether your business is a small startup or an international enterprise, you can benefit from working with a third-party employee engagement software provider to measure engagement.
Once you have the results of your employee engagement survey, it’s time to develop an employee engagement action plan.
So, now you’re wondering how to increase employee engagement. There are three critical steps that your organization needs to take. It’s important that organizational leaders:
Everyone in the organization is important when it comes to driving employee engagement. But there is one role which is foundational to engaged employees: managers.
Managers are key to improving employee engagement because engagement is driven locally, even if it is reported globally. Managers have the most intimate and consistent interaction with employees in an organization. They have the largest ability to impact employee engagement. An employee is not likely to feel connected with an HR representative that is 4,000 miles or ten floors away.
Managers, therefore, have the largest ability to impact employee engagement.
HR can make changes that are generally good for the organization, but managers can build relationships that leverage human individuality and variability. That, in turn, will unleash greater loyalty, engagement, performance, and business success. It is a “win-win-win-win” among employee, manager, business, and consumer.
Conversely, management can also detract from employee engagement. If your management doesn’t have access to the tools they need to foster positive engagement, you could be spinning your wheels—or making things worse. Why? Because managers can make employees love their jobs or dread coming to work. As the accurate cliché states: People don't leave organizations, they leave their managers.
Employees have four core needs when it comes to engagement. And managers are best equipped to meet these needs because they interact with employee regularly and locally.
Coaching and Professional Development. Only 65.6% of employees have been directly coached by a manager or supervisor in the last 12 months. This is an enormous detractor from engagement. Visibility into company growth and professional development opportunities is a top driver of employee engagement. Coaching and professional development opportunities are key to improving engagement.
Recognize and Acknowledge Performance. Receiving recognition from management and peers is a top-5 driver of employee engagement. 82% of employees say it’s important to receive recognition from their manager. Organizations must provide channels and opportunities for managers to recognize employees.
Value Employee Voices, Ideas, and Opinions. Another top driver of employee engagement is knowing that their opinions count in the workplace. Employees don't feel motivated or appreciated when their ideas are dismissed or ignored. Organizations should provide channels for employees to voice their ideas to their managers and peers.
Even if you implement some of the best employee engagement ideas, employee engagement activities, and team building activities, improving employee engagement is impossible to do without some degree of support. That’s where employee engagement software comes in. Employee engagement software helps to build and maintain engaging workplace behaviors.
Sure, you can use a free survey tool to ask questions. But a comprehensive employee engagement software doesn't just measure engagement. Effective employee engagement tools help track, communicate, maintain, and report on engagement throughout your organization. Your engagement software must map with the three steps to building employee engagement: Listen, Focus, and Transform.
Asking questions is the core of measuring and improving employee engagement. A comprehensive survey tool will enable you to:
Ramp up your employee listening strategy with right surveys to the right people at the right time. Use three core survey types:
Features like text analytics and demographic slicing allow you to segment and better understand employees’ feedback.
This allows you to quickly identify the issues that matter most to your employees, saving time and resources.
Armed with quantitative and qualitative data, you can take action confidently. Address concerns based on data, not bias.
Recognition from management and peers is paramount to building employee engagement. Giving and receiving recognition shouldn’t be a hassle—nor limited to a monthly or quarterly meeting. Look for a software with intuitive and live feedback features.
An intuitive recognition tool allows management to read and listen to what peers are saying about your employees. Learn about events or milestones that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, and gain understanding into what your employees value.
By gathering recognition into a single, trending system, you can analyze and understand what your employees do best.
Transform your company culture into a participative group that values and rewards accomplishments and behaviors unique to your company’s culture.
How do you align individuals, teams, and your entire organization to a single set of company goals? It takes more than an email memo. A real-time goal setting and tracking software gives you immediate, real-time access into how individuals and teams are trending toward goals.
Listen to your employees’ goals and view their progress toward them in real time. When employees meet goals, set another for improved innovation and growth. Don’t limit goal reviews to a quarterly cadence.
With your metrics tracked in a central location, you can view where your employees are succeeding and provide recognition. You can also narrow in on where employees are struggling using metrics that mean the most to your organization.
Transform your organization from a basic ‘performance rating’ to an organization that has true visibility into the success and opportunities of individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole.
Feedback is just as valuable as recognition when building employee engagement. Find a system that allows employees and managers to give feedback in a way that improves individuals and the organization as a whole.
Attributed or anonymous feedback allows peers to give continuous feedback. But it’s not just limited to employees. Feedback can be requested from outside partners, direct reports, and customers. Get feedback from anyone about anything, from anywhere.
Feedback can be corralled into a single feed, which makes it easy to identify trends and focus on areas of improvement.
Two-way instant messaging allows your employees to better understand their feedback and the steps they need to take to improve.
From meaningless and sometimes harmful feedback loops to a continuous, incremental improvement model.
Funnel your feedback into a larger employee model to track goals and recognition moving forward.
One-on-one meetings are critical in helping managers connect with employees mentally and emotionally. One-on-ones ensure employees can express their ideas, feedback, or concerns in an individualized setting.
Listen to your employees' concerns, challenges, and successes. Discuss growth and development. Be sure you have the ability to record notes, goals, and follow-up.
Easily see a record of past conversations in a feed that integrates with recognition, feedback, and goals so you have a complete picture.
Transform your one-on-ones from unproductive, routine check-ins to an open, two-way continuous conversation over the course of your employees' tenure.
Employee engagement is more than just a survey. If you truly value your employees as your most valuable asset, you have to take action. Engaged employees aren’t just more productive—they can can lead to a better bottom line. To remain competitive in the digital age—and recruit and retain the best talent—you should have a plan to measure and drive employee engagement.
Employee engagement isn’t possible without empowered managers. Managers are the best resource you have in improving engagement. Providing your managers with the tools they need to measure, report on, and improve engagement is easy with a comprehensive and user-friendly employee engagement software.