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What is employee engagement?

Learn more about how you can build a better workforce with the help of employee feedback.

Employee engagement is about more than happy employees. Engaged employees are invested in your company’s success, values, and goals. According to a 2021 Gallup report, businesses with highly engaged employees are more profitable, have lower staff turnover, report fewer safety issues, and have higher rates of customer loyalty. 

It won’t happen overnight, but by listening to employee feedback and taking action, your employees’ level of engagement can be improved.

Let’s chat about employee engagement, its benefits, and how to improve it in your company.

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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm and commitment a worker feels toward their job. Engaged employees feel valued, care deeply about their work, and are dedicated to the success of the company. High levels of engagement improve retention of talent, boost productivity, and lead to better business outcomes.

Some businesses mistake employee satisfaction, wellbeing, or general happiness with engagement. While these are important factors in the employee experience, they aren’t indicators of someone’s investment in the success of their teams, organizations, or the overall business. This isn’t about video games in the break room or free lunch on Fridays. Those are great perks, but making your employees happy isn’t enough to foster engagement.

What differentiates engaged and disengaged employees?

Engaged employees are loyal to your company and believe in your vision. They actively make efforts to help the company meet its goals. Engaged employees are optimistic, team-focused, and willing to go beyond their job description. They are emotionally committed and passionate about their work.

On the other hand, disengaged employees are average performers who feel no real connection to their work. They tend to be pessimistic about their job and company and may only do the minimum required to earn a paycheck. These employees rarely communicate their feelings about their work, and when they do, it’s to express negativity and complaints. 

What employee engagement is not

It’s important to not confuse employee engagement with happiness, satisfaction, or wellbeing. While these can have an effect on engagement, they should not be confused with engagement itself.

Employee happiness

Happy employees have positive feelings about their work and company. They’re energized and motivated to take on challenges in their jobs. Happiness can change on a day-to-day basis. You can help improve employee happiness with good communication, employee recognition, and other actions that enhance the work environment.

Employee satisfaction

Often mistaken for engagement, employee satisfaction describes how satisfied or content people are with various aspects of their jobs. Factors that influence employee satisfaction may include pay, workload, resources, perception of management, and other factors.

Employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing includes a person’s overall physical, emotional, and economic health. It influences their relationships at work, decision-making skills, and internal resources for dealing with a variety of situations. Employee wellbeing can impact engagement, but the two terms are not interchangeable.

Employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction

Employee satisfaction indicates how content your workers are with their current work situation. It can be measured using an employee satisfaction survey to evaluate how employees feel about their job and work environment. The survey may collect data on compensation, workload, resources, and other work-related factors

While an engaged employee is likely to be satisfied, a satisfied employee is not necessarily engaged.

How is employee engagement measured?

The best way to measure employee engagement is with an employee engagement survey. There are several types of surveys to measure employee engagement at different times during the employee’s tenure with your organization.

Employee engagement surveys

The first action item for gaining employee engagement in your organization is to conduct an employee engagement survey. The data collected from the survey will help you understand a number of factors that can be used to determine employee engagement. These factors include:

  • Understanding of their current job responsibilities
  • Relationship with their supervisor
  • How they perceive current company leadership
  • Perception of opportunities for career growth
  • Feelings about current work conditions
  • Psychological and emotional commitment to their work
  • Amount of effort above the minimum requirements they are willing to commit to their work
  • Feelings of pride in the company
  • Willingness to recommend the company to friends and family

Pulse surveys

A pulse survey is a short survey conducted on a regular basis. It may be administered monthly, quarterly, or at another interval of your choosing. These surveys are typically 15 questions or less and focus on current employee engagement objectives. They can be used for ongoing, regular evaluation of changes you’ve made to improve and increase engagement and to guide any necessary modifications. 

Pulse surveys are easy to administer and act upon. They build company culture by offering employees an opportunity to contribute and interact with the company as they work toward common goals. An added benefit of pulse surveys is their positive influence on employee wellbeing as employees feel their voices are being heard.

Keep in mind that a brief pulse survey may reveal whether an employee is engaged, but you need to dig deeper with more targeted surveys throughout the employee life cycle to obtain data that can be translated into meaningful training programs, activities, strategies, and initiatives to raise and maintain engagement levels. 

Employee life cycle surveys

As the name suggests, employee life cycle surveys are given at various points during the employee’s time with the company. There are several types of life cycle surveys to gather employee feedback on everything from the recruitment process to the exit interview. Questions that indicate engagement may be used within all of these surveys.

  • Recruitment surveys are used to evaluate your application, recruitment, and interview process
    • Example question: How quickly did we respond to you after you sent your application?
      • Within 2 business days
      • Within 1 week
      • Within 2 weeks
      • More than 2 weeks
  • Onboarding surveys examine your company’s onboarding process for new hires.
    • Example question: Did you have the equipment you needed for your job on your first day?
      • I had everything I needed
      • I had most of my equipment
      • I did not have any of the equipment
  • Training surveys evaluate the effectiveness of training programs.
    • Example question: How relevant is the training to your role?
      • Extremely relevant
      • Very relevant
      • Somewhat relevant
      • Not so relevant
      • Not at all relevant
  • 360-degree employee reviews allow employees to anonymously participate in reviews of peers, managers, and self-assessment.
    • Example question: How easy is it to get help from your manager when you need it?
      • Very easy
      • Easy
      • Neutral
      • Somewhat difficult
      • Difficult
  • Engagement surveys, which we are discussing here, identify areas for improvement in employee engagement.
    • Example question: How inspired are you to meet your goals at work?
      • Very inspired
      • Inspired
      • Neutral
      • Somewhat inspired
      • Not at all inspired
  • Exit surveys help gather feedback on management, staff, the position, and team dynamics.
    • Example question: How effectively do you feel your skills were used in your role here?
      • Extremely effectively
      • Very effectively
      • Somewhat effectively
      • Not so effectively
      • Not at all effectively

Not sure where to begin? Read more about employee engagement surveys, and find out how you can build a more productive workforce.

Drivers of employee engagement

We’ve covered what employee engagement is and talked about ways to evaluate engagement. Next, we’ll discuss the drivers that impact employee engagement. These drivers are areas you should address when building your strategy to improve engagement.

Company culture

Company culture is a set of shared values, attitudes, goals, and practices within a company. Culture has an enormous impact on employee engagement levels. It must be regularly cultivated to produce long-term results.

A healthy company culture that fosters employee engagement has:

  • A clear value system and goals that give meaning to work
  • A culture built on the basis of employee feedback
  • Leaders who are fair, approachable, and treat employees with respect
  • Employees that believe their work has a positive impact 
  • Goals that are ambitious but attainable

Industry

Drivers for engagement differ depending on the industry. Engagement drivers for a home improvement company may be motivated by workplace safety and team relationships, while a healthcare outreach program might need work to be tied to local community health goals.

Conferences, trade shows, and training sessions all offer opportunities for employees to learn and grow in their careers, regardless of industry. Any chance to make new connections, add to skill sets, and demonstrate expertise will positively impact engagement.

Job function

A big part of employee engagement hinges on job function. If an employee feels that their work is meaningful, they’ll feel motivated and inspired to do their best. Some employees are motivated by growth in their job role with expanded responsibilities and new projects that align with their interests. It may not be the actual job function that’s motivating, but rather their positive work relationships, work-life balance, or another factor related to their work. 

Career path

Depending upon where the employee is in their career path, they will be motivated by different things. Those who are early in their careers may be motivated by competitive salaries, opportunities for advancement, and chances to expand their skills. Employees who are later in their careers may be more influenced by work relationships, work-life balance, or having more flexibility in work schedules.

The role of leadership

Leaders set the tone and culture in the organization. They produce change and motivate employees. A good leader appreciates the values of the employees who are willing to commit their energy and talent toward accomplishing shared objectives. Leaders share their vision for the future and help employees understand that they are key in making that vision happen. They communicate clearly and frequently about changes in the organization and progress towards shared goals.

The role of HR

Your HR team is responsible for ensuring your employees have the right skills, tools, and environment to perform their jobs. HR should foster a culture of engagement and be proactive in sending surveys and setting policies and procedures that attract and retain talent that will help the company grow. HR should be in charge of initiatives for engagement and hold teams accountable for participation.

The role of managers

Good managers are critical for employee engagement. They are responsible for creating an environment for engagement by building positive relationships, listening to employee feedback and ideas, recognizing and celebrating individual and team successes, providing continuous feedback, and supporting employee development and growth. Managers should work on creating and maintaining a trusting and respectful work environment.

Multiple studies show that people leave managers, not companies. They have the greatest influence on their employees’ daily work life, including environment, processes, and operations. A manager’s positive and supportive role is crucial to employee engagement.

The role of employees

Employees are your gateway to understanding employee engagement. They will provide you with feedback, especially if you give them a well-thought-out survey that is honest and actionable about what is and isn’t working in the organization. Employees can help with brainstorming creative solutions to problems that are hampering engagement. Engaged employees will take ownership of their performance and career development and build meaningful relationships with team members and managers.

Benefits of employee engagement

Why is employee engagement important to your organization? Because it not only benefits your employees, it also benefits your teams, managers, and the business as a whole.

Improved team performance

Imagine you’ve promoted a high level of employee engagement in the individuals in your organization. Now imagine those individuals working together as a team. Engaged employees working together will produce amazing results and outcomes—far better than teams that are not engaged.

When a team is constructed of motivated, engaged employees, each individual is likely to be more engaged in their own role, resulting in a higher level of team performance.

Increased productivity

Your highly engaged employees are invested in their job and performance. They work harder and complete tasks because they like their jobs and buy into company values. How much more productive are they? A Gallup study revealed that engaged employees are 14% more productive than their counterparts!

Higher retention and lower turnover

Employees that have been with your company for a while have valuable knowledge and expertise. If they leave and are replaced by new employees, you must spend time and money training new hires and getting them into a position where they can fill the gap the seasoned employee left behind.

Engaged employees are more likely to stay with your company. They are committed to their job, team, and brand. More engaged employees mean a stronger, dedicated workforce to help you hit your company goals. It’s a good idea to use employee feedback to attract and retain your employees.

Decreased absenteeism

Your engaged employees are less likely to miss days of work and when they’re present, they’re fully immersed in their work. Disengaged employees are 81% more likely to call in sick and are less committed when they are at work.

Achieve team goals

Engaged employees working together on a team, as we discussed earlier, will produce high-level outcomes. These teams will have a direct impact on moving closer to your organization’s objectives. Engaged team members believe in your company's vision and will work together to make it happen.

Improved customer service

If your employees are happy and engaged, your customers will be happier as well. Engaged employees provide better customer service—which results in customer loyalty and retention. These employees care about the customer experience and will go out of their way to make sure it’s positive, resulting in profitability for the company.

Increased profits

Which leads us to increased profits—by up to 23%. This makes sense if you consider that you’re retaining your employees, increasing productivity, and elevating your customer service experience. All of this leads to increased sales and profits. These gains are long-term as long as you continue to improve your employee engagement efforts.

Increased sales

If your sales representatives are highly engaged, you could see an average increase in sales productivity of 18%. These engaged sales reps sell more products and services, upsell more customers, and have high customer satisfaction and retention rates. They believe in your brand, and customers trust them because of it.

Higher customer satisfaction

We’ve discussed that your engaged employees are more productive, focused on company goals, and offer improved customer service experiences. Their enthusiasm and positivity increase customer satisfaction—in fact, you could see an increase in customer loyalty and retention of 10% or more. 

How to improve employee engagement

It’s time to launch your plan to improve employee engagement at your organization. Be realistic in your goals—it takes time. Be clear about individual, management, and leadership responsibilities. Use data to measure employee engagement and drive changes that will work for your unique needs. If you need some help coming up with employee engagement ideas, SurveyMonkey can help. When you’re ready, make sure your employee engagement plan does the following:

  • Upholds core values
  • Establishes clear career paths
  • Keeps remote employees engaged
  • Recognizes employees
  • Promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)

Employee engagement will benefit not only your employees but also your company. You’ll see better customer service, improved sales numbers, productive individuals and teams, higher employee retention, and many more positive effects of employee engagement once you put your plan in place. Get ready to deploy your employee engagement survey now!

Not sure where to start? SurveyMonkey Enterprise is built for business. Contact us to find out more and schedule a demo now!

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