Employee engagement – is it just another trendy buzzword, or maybe there’s something to it? If you’re wondering, we’re going to make it all clear.
With this article, you’re going to learn:
- what is the definition of employee engagement
- why is employee engagement important for your business
- how to measure employee engagement
- what are the most popular employee engagement metrics
- what are the best practices for improving employee engagement, including games, continuous improvement surveys and more
Ready to become an expert on the subject and improve employee engagement in your company? Keep on reading to find out more!
What is the definition of employee engagement
It makes sense to start with describing the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction, as both terms get confused quite often.
Employee satisfaction indicates how satisfied your employees are. They might be doing the very minimum and collect a satisfying paycheck, but still not get fully involved in what they’re doing. They’re neither very motivated nor emotionally committed to their work. Instead, they just come, do what needs to be done and leave unbothered. This usually applies to people who don’t consider their job as an important part of their self-image or personality.
Employee engagement, on the other hand, has more to do with emotional commitment. According to Kevin Kruse’s article in Forbes, employee engagement “is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals”. It means that the employee genuinely cares about what they’re doing at work. For example, an engaged employee is likely to be working overtime without being asked to do so. They’re always going to give 100%, even if their boss is not watching.
This is one of the most popular definitions of employee engagement, yet there are other ones around as well. For instance, Business Dictionary defines it as an “Emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort
in work-related activities”. As you can see,emotions remain a crucial part of the employee engagement concept.
Why is employee engagement important
Alright, but why exactly is employee engagement so important? We’re more than happy to support our statements with numbers. Here are some of the most interesting employee engagement statistics to convince you that it matters:
- A study by The Engagement Institute has proven that disengaged employees cost companies around $450-550 billion each year – and that’s in the US alone! The study suggests these employees are unmotivated, less responsible and don’t take ownership of their behavior.
- This statistic is not too optimistic, but we need to face it anyway. According to Gallup’s 2017 State Of the Global Workplace study, 85% of employees don’t feel motivated. This would mean that more than 8 in 10 workers have a negative attitude towards their workplace and keep doing the bare minimum to get through the day. The regional differences look quite interesting, too. 33% of the employees in the USA claim they feel engaged. On the other hand, in the UK it’s only 8% and the number keeps decreasing.
- It is also worth noting that it’s not always so black and white. A study by Achievers suggests that almost 21% of employees feel very engaged, around 16% claim to be fully engaged, and around 31% say they are engaged but feel like the company could do more to improve employee experience.
- Time to move on to more motivating numbers. A long-term study conducted by John Kotter and James Haskett suggests that good company culture has a measurable financial impact – it can lead to a four times higher revenue growth! To be exact, companies included in the study grew 682% in revenue
if they had a good company culture, and if they didn’t, they only grew 166% over the same period of time (which was 11 years).
- It’s not the only study that supports this statement. A meta analysis by Gallup confirms that businesses with highly engaged workers
are 21% more profitable than the ones with disengaged workers. What’s more, they’re also 17% more productive, which is hardly a surprise in that context.
- Good news is that the overall trend looks quite promising. Kincentric reports that employee engagement levels reached an all-time high in 2017, with 65% of employees claiming to be somehow engaged in their work.
The big question is: what can be done to keep this trend on the rise? Let’s start with measuring the current levels of employee engagement first.
How to measure employee engagement
Employee engagement is a rather abstract concept – how does one translate it into numbers? Creating a good tool to measure employee engagement is quite a challenge. Below we’re listing some of the best methods you can use.
Employee engagement metrics
There are many factors that add up to employee engagement. To measure it efficiently, you need to look at every single one separately. The most important ones include:
- Sense of agency – Before we can even talk about being engaged, the employee has to feel like they have a real impact first. If there is a problem to be tackled, they should be able to raise it and take action. This is also beneficial for the company, as it’s a great way to encourage workplace innovation.
The sense of agency can be increased with the help of waste management apps, such as Sherlock Waste. The platform can be used to solve the most urgent problems, share ideas and find areas for improvement. When the employees see that the management listens to their suggestions, they may want to contribute in their free time as well! We know that it’s likely to happen, as 25% of all ideas in Sherlock Waste are submitted outside working hours.
- Personal growth – Is the employee feeling fulfilled in your company? Are they learning something new? Do they feel like they’re growing as a person? Don’t forget that growth comes with taking a risk. You need to trust your employees, increase their responsibility and autonomy. They need to be faced with challenges in order to grow.
The psychological concept of flow will help you understand this matter. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined this term, flow occurs when “people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost,
for the sheer sake of doing it”. How do you make themso involved, though? The answer is: the task should be not to easy and not too difficult either.
If it’s too simple, the employee will get bored and when it’s too hard, they will become discouraged. It needs to be challenging enough to get them engaged.
- Happiness – It sounds like a pretty abstract metric, yet it still can be a great indicator of the employee’s engagement. Happiness at work depends on a wide range of factors, including organizational culture, salary (it certainly has an impact, however researchers disagree as to what extent), job security, autonomy, career development and work/life balance.
Ps. If you’re looking for a questionnaire to measure happiness at work, you might want to use one of the job satisfaction surveys we’re going to describe later on.
- Relationship with coworkers – A study from University of North Carolina suggests that as much as 22% of employees feel less engaged at work due to workplace conflicts. And that’s not all: 53% of them claim to have lost time because of worrying over a previous or potential confrontation with a work colleague, 28% lost time because they were avoiding confrontations are 37% are less committed because of a hostile work environment.
Sometimes the problem may lie not in this particular employee, but in another team member. You might even find out that you’re dealing with a “rotten apple” that’s making things difficult and unenjoyable for everyone else in the group.
Oftentimes, however, the challenges are more subtle than this. Group dynamics can be complex and whimsical. Not all personalities get along with each other, yet sometimes they need to cooperate nevertheless. In many ways, it’s the leader’s job to help them find a way to work together and come up with a satisfying compromise. One of the ways to do that is feedback training. People may find it hard to accept critique and to review the work of other people in a constructive manner. It doesn’t always come naturally and may lead to many conflicts and misunderstandings along the way. On the other hand, giving feedback can’t be avoided if you work in a team. The idea behind feedback is to empower your coworkers, make them more engaged and motivated instead of bringing them down. This is exactly why it pays off to learn how to do it the right way.
- Relationship with the manager – There is a saying that people leave managers, not companies. Gallup’s 2015 study suggests that it’s partially true – half of Americans claim that they left a job at some point in their life to “get away from their manager”. If you’re leading a team, you need to be aware that you’re also (at least partially) responsible for motivating your employees and making sure that they feel engaged.
Employee trust has to be earned. Be sure to listen to their needs attentively, remain open for feedback and ask them what matters to them most.
What’s more, your employees won’t feel engaged if you’re leading them by the hand all the time. Be sure to make them feel trusted and give them a certain degree of freedom so they can show what they’re capable of. Last but not least, don’t forget about mutual respect. How are your employees supposed to feel engaged if they’re being patronized?
- Recognition – According to Globoforce, a whopping 86% of human resources leaders say that employee recognition programs benefit employee relationships – a win-win situation, isn’t it?
Employee recognition has a positive impact on the culture of self-improvement. It will make your employees feel seen, appreciated and will encourage them to get even better at what they do. From the psychological point of view, recognition gives your employees a sense of meaning. They feel like their work matters and someone genuinely cares about it.
A small tip from us: small things matter as well. Don’t hesitate to tell your employees that you like their work or that you’re impressed with a particular task. It only takes as much as writing or saying a couple of words, yet it may mean a lot to someone – especially if they’re having a rough day.
- Wellness – People experience stress in many different ways. Some of them may process it somatically rather than emotionally. This may result in a decrease in their physical well-being, taking more sick leaves and, subsequently, feeling less engaged in their work. Of course, we all need some time off to catch a breath. On the other hand, it pays off to be attentive to the early signs of burnout.
If you see that a team member is feeling unwell and you feel that they are either overwhelmed or discouraged, don’t hesitate to ask them if they are feeling unmotivated or if there is something you can do to help them out. Obviously, they may not always be willing to tell you everything, especially if the issue is rather delicate. It makes sense to reach out anyway – it might be that the employee is waiting for someone to notice and they just don’t have enough courage to talk about their troubles. Showing a little bit of empathy can do wonders and it most definitely won’t hurt.
- Satisfaction – Although not synonymous with employee engagement (as we’ve mentioned before), employee satisfaction often goes together with feeling engaged. Keep in mind, however, that satisfaction is not always as high as the performance – and vice versa. The good news is that satisfaction is pretty easy to measure with the help of different tools, which we’re describing below.
Traditional employee engagement and employee satisfaction surveys
Psychological questionnaires are usually created with the Likert scale. You might not have heard the term before, but you’re probably familiar with how it looks like. The respondent has to read a short statement (usually not more than just one sentence) and rate how much they’re likely to agree with it, just like in the example below:
This approach is pretty easy to use and understand, but you can probably already see some limitations that come with it.
First of all, it’s a declarative method – the employees may be simply afraid to speak their mind openly, especially if it’s not anonymous. When it comes to the Likert scale, people may also hesitate to choose extreme options. This means that if even if they’re very dissatisfied with the salary, they won’t choose the “very dissatisfied” option because they don’t want to be perceived as “extremist”. What’s more, questionnaires of this kind typically offer a number of options to choose from. If there’s a problem that doesn’t fall into any of these categories, it won’t be tackled.
What are the possible alternatives, then?
Employee engagement software
Aside from traditional paper-and-pencil surveys, the employee engagement software market is booming, especially in the case of tech companies. G2.com lists more than three hundred entries in this category! There are apps dedicated to different aspects, such as employee recognition or satisfaction, or all-in platforms to help managers design a better work experience for the employees.
With such a wide choice, which one is the best one to start with? We’re listing our best practices below.
What are the best practices for improving employee engagement
Now you’re probably wondering how to increase employee engagement in your company. Here are some of the best practices you can implement right away:
Creating a common goal
It’s best to start with building a solid foundation for keeping your employees engaged. Trust and relationships are built when the team has a common goal. From the very beginning, you should put a great emphasis on this shared objective.
How do you make it happen, though? First of all, be sure to include everyone in the process. The goal should be relatable for all people in the company, regardless of their seniority. What’s more, be sure to celebrate great achievements. When the other employees see that going the extra mile is appreciated, they’re more likely to get engaged as well.
Fostering the sense of belonging
According to the Culture Amp report, employees with a sense of belonging are more resilient, perform better and are much more likely to challenge themselves.
This is why you should make your employees feel that they’re a part of one team. There are many ways to make that happen, from office spaces that facilitate social interactions to organizing team building events. In virtually every aspect of working with people, there is an opportunity to accelerate the sense of belonging. It’s a long-term investment that can be beneficial for both the company and the employees.
Stagnation is the biggest enemy of engagement. Truly engaged and ambitious employees are going to stay in the company only if they see opportunities for personal and professional growth. Passionate and dedicated individuals are looking for career advancement and you’re supposed to make it possible for them. We highly encourage you to listen actively to your employees and ask them about the directions they would like to pursue.
This approach is rooted in the lean management. If you’re not familiar with it yet, the first thing you need to know is that it’s focused on reducing waste. Waste can be understood in many different ways, from skills and physical resources to time and money. All of these types of waste occur when employees don’t feel engaged in their work.
Kaizen can be the right solution to this problem. It suggests that while perfection can never be achieved, you should always keep working proactively towards constant improvement and innovation. This can be tackled through the Plan-Do-Check-Act model:
Continuous improvement are one of the ways to implement this model. With tools like Sherlock Waste, you can ask your employees to submit their suggestions, vote on the ones they find important and take action to make a real change in the organization. The employees will feel that their opinion matters and they can do something to improve the things that bother them. SherlockWaste is a great pick in that matter, as it’s not just about suggestions – it’s about solving problems effectively.
Anonymous employee engagement surveys
There are some delicate problems that can be hard to express when talking face to face. Some are delicate enough that people don’t even want to speak in their own name.
This is why anonymous employee engagement surveys are one of the best ways to help you find real pain points and how real frustrations. Tools like these can be used for improving both the satisfaction and the engagement of your employees.
Employee engagement games
Another keyword you might want to keep in mind is gamification. Your employees may feel more motivated and engaged if they treat their work as a fun game. Think gaining points, unlocking achievements and getting rewards. It’s a basic psychological phenomenon – it works because everyone likes to win. The excitement and competition that comes with releases adrenaline, dopamine and, just like that, it automatically makes people happy. Why not give it a try?
If the employees stay in touch after hours, they’re more likely to feel attached to the team. This is more than likely to make them more engaged, too. As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article, engagement is highly emotional, which is why it makes sense to focus on creating emotional bonds. Don’t underestimate the power of company off-sites, fun activities after work or simply going out to grab a beer together. We’re all human, after all!
As you can see, employee engagement is definitely something worth your attention, no matter if you’re a manager of a tech team or a HR professional. We highly encourage you to explore different methods of measuring and improving this essential metric. It’s a long-term investment, both for the employees and the company itself. We hope you found this article inspiring!