What Is Employee Engagement? Why It Matters and How To Sustain It

What Is Employee Engagement? Why It Matters and How To Sustain It
green lines
Workhuman Editorial Team |   November 28, 2022 |    15 min
Employee Engagement

What is the greatest asset to any organization?

No matter the industry, the most important asset is an organization’s workers.

Not only do they do the work necessary to keep the business running, but they also serve as brand ambassadors and are the faces of your organization.

Employees have the power to make or break a company, which is why employee engagement is an essential aspect of day-to-day work operations.

Learn how to maximize employee engagement and sustain it to keep the most crucial aspect of your company thriving.

improve employee engagement with employee engagement software

What is employee engagement? (And what is it not?)

Employee engagement is the mental and emotional connection employees have with their work. Engagement relates to how much meaning employees find in their work, how connected they are to it, and the pride they take in it.

Note that the employee engagement definition is different from that of employee happiness and employee satisfaction.

Employees could be happy at their job and be satisfied with their work-life balance, pay, and benefits while still not finding much meaning in their job.

While HR needs to be concerned about all aspects of the employee experience, engagement refers explicitly to how employees feel and relate to their work, company, and team.

And the level of engagement at a company can have a huge impact on business success or lack thereof, meaning employers need to be aware of it.

Schedule a demo today to see how we can help you improve your company’s employee engagement.
Schedule a demo

Levels of employee engagement and examples

  • Highly Engaged: Highly engaged employees will have incredibly favorable opinions of the workplace, their team, and the organization’s overall success. Think of your employees as brand advocates who speak highly of their organization to family and friends while encouraging other team members to thrive.
  • Moderately Engaged: A moderately engaged employee thinks favorably of the workplace but sees clear avenues for improvement. It’s not very likely that employees will ask for more responsibilities or do more than the bare minimum requirements of their position. This level of engagement is equal to the minimum required level of work to avoid getting fired. In recent months, the term quiet quitting has been used to describe this level of employee engagement.
  • Barely Engaged: An employee who is barely engaged feels mainly indifferent to the organization and does the bare minimum most of the time, with the only exceptions being performing less. These employees are often actively searching for other jobs.
  • Disengaged: A disengaged employee has an actively negative opinion of the workplace and organization and disconnects entirely from the company’s goals. While this behavior often manifests as underperformance, these employees can be actively disruptive to the greater workforce, reducing the engagement of other team members.
8 benefits of effective employee engagement strategy

Eight benefits of engaged employees

Employee engagement isn’t something that just happens, but when companies actively work to strengthen it, the rewards are clear.

Here are eight benefits of a strong employee engagement strategy.

  • Engaged employees tend to be safer employees overall.
  • Engaged employees are more likely to be physically and mentally healthy.
  • Highly engaged workplaces see about 41% lower absenteeism.
  • Engaged employees are less likely to leave a company.
  • Employees with high engagement levels are likely to be part of the 54% of employees who would not accept another job offer.
  • They have better relationships with clients and customers.
  • They produce higher quality products on average.
  • Companies with higher levels of engagement tend to have 23% higher profitability.

What drives employee engagement?

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is the culture of the organization.

Engaged employees understand their organization’s leaders are committed to making the workplace great while ensuring a prosperous future.

However, one of the essential factors is that leadership understands that workers are their most important resource for success and that prosperity ties directly to how much a company invests in its workers.

employee engagement research shows better business outcomes with more engagement

After all, why should employees put forth discretionary effort if there is no mutual respect between them and the business?

Management key drivers typically focus on employee relationships with their supervisors.

Employees need clear expectations and instructions and a positive relationship with their supervisors in order to have a positive employee experience with the entire organization.

Engagement is also affected at this level by the tools employees have to get their jobs done.

Engaged employees also have the authority and freedom to accomplish their tasks effectively with the necessary tools and support.

Individual drivers of engagement are the employees themselves, and managers and HR can actively teach their employees to be more engaged effectively and healthily.

See also: 3 Popular Employee Engagement Models That Work

Employees setting motivating goals and being able to reward themselves and those around them tend to increase engagement and make the workplace more human with many moments of pride, not to mention improve employee satisfaction.

Measuring employee engagement

drive employee engagement important to business outcomes

Championing employee engagement doesn’t mean much without an effective way to measure those efforts.

Fortunately, plenty of tools are available to help understand how engaged your employees are or are not, often in the form of employee surveys.

Keep in mind that an employee engagement survey isn’t a standard, end-of-year survey but a different, more interactive and frequent survey that lets employees feel heard.

The presence of these surveys on their own can increase engagement, provided that a company takes steps to improve engagement based on the results and data from the engagement survey.

Employee engagement surveys

Employee engagement surveys are detailed surveys designed to gather information about the engagement levels of employees. They ask questions about how much employees believe in the company’s vision.

What future do they see for themselves at the company? How much meaning do they find in their work?

Of course, these surveys should be anonymous so individual employees don’t have to worry about potential repercussions for their honest responses.

Pulse surveys

engage employees and improve employee retention with pulse surveys

Pulse surveys gather information on real-time topics in a quick and effective way. They’re short, concise, and while they should be used all of the time, they tend to focus on employees’ immediate concerns after events such as a management change or merger.

Moodtracker® from Workhuman® is an effective tool for pulse surveys that uses advanced technology to analyze results and issue actionable recommendations.

Employee life cycle surveys

An employee life cycle survey gets employees’ perspectives through crucial transitional periods in their employee journey.

Here are three examples of employee surveys around the employee life cycle:

  • New hire survey: These surveys are typically part of the onboarding process. New employees respond to surveys regarding their engagement at early milestones such as 30, 60, and 180 days of work.
  • Stay survey: The stay survey focuses on employees who have worked at your organization for more than a year. It seeks to answer questions about employee turnover such as what would motivate employees to stay, and what would cause them to leave.
  • Exit survey: Employees who have decided to leave the company respond to these surveys before their departure. The surveys evaluate the factors that may have pushed them away and offer insight into what the business can do to prevent other workers from following.

Employee engagement strategy

To increase employee engagement, you’ll need to develop programs and initiatives to help employees find more meaning in their work.

You can implement several strategies with varying results, so you’ll first need to analyze what your specific organization needs the most.

Effective employee engagement strategy begins with issuing a survey. And only from there can a company effectively narrow down the pain points and begin to work through them.

Create an employee engagement action plan

actions plans are drivers of employee engagement and the organization’s success

One of the most critical factors for any employee engagement action plan is that it needs to be sustainable and maintained.

The following steps can help guide you toward making significant and effective changes to boost employee engagement.

  1. Review survey results: Analyzing the results of your employee engagement survey is the first step to discovering what the actual problems are. Look for what’s most commonly causing employees not to feel engaged.
  2. Select a focus area: Lack of engagement can come from various sources. Some employees may believe that the organization has no real future, while others may feel alienated by the company culture or siloed in their role. Determine what problem you want to address, then laser-focus your efforts on finding a solution.
  3. Crowdsource solutions: Coming up with real solutions can be challenging, so it’s essential to try and crowdsource them – especially if you want your employees to get on board. Appeal to the people who understand workplace problems the best, which are the workers. Make sure that questions about ideas for improvement are included in surveys, or issue another survey to them to determine the best future course of action.
  4. Set specific and measurable goals: With ideas for solutions in mind, you’ll need to be able to measure how well your organization accomplishes these goals. Goals need to be specific and quantifiable.
  5. Share progress: Sharing progress with the team is an essential part of the process. Employees tend to feel more engaged when their peers are engaged, so framing it as a collective victory everyone can enjoy significantly boosts engagement.

Encourage participation and support development

One of the biggest hurdles to boosting employee engagement is getting management on board, both in terms of shifting company culture and obtaining the funds to do so.

Fortunately, HR can use a few tools to help, including tools for tracking engagement initiatives and employee progress.

Of course, employees need to get involved with the ability to track their individual professional growth, and techniques to reward oneself at work can go a long way to foster engagement at that level.

Tie engagement efforts to business outcomes

Many managers make the mistake of thinking engagement is more a matter of public relations than business success. It plays a role in attracting new hires, certainly, but it’s also much more than that.

Remember that employee engagement is directly related to employee performance and retention, so it makes economic sense to ensure that employees are as engaged as possible. For finance-oriented business leaders, this return on investment will be another selling point.

Employee engagement initiatives

Engagement initiatives come in many different forms, and the best option for your organization will depend on the unique traits of your workers.

You may be able to start an initiative that increases employee engagement with recognition and a culture of gratitude that centers on executives being grateful for their workers rather than workers expressing gratitude to have their jobs.

Of course, you may benefit from an initiative that fosters independence and trust, allowing employees to forge their paths forward and giving them greater autonomy to reach the company’s goals.

Employees often report a lack of engagement due to their organization not trusting them to get work done, which is one of the many reasons that hybrid work and flexible work schedules have had a positive impact on the employee experience.

Employee engagement tools

To foster employee engagement properly, you’ll need the right tools. At Workhuman, we offer various tools you can take advantage of to make your employee engagement initiatives as effective and efficient as possible.

A survey solution

survey solution to gauge employee experience and see how other employees are doing

Surveys are essential for gauging exactly how your employees feel about their workplace and how engaged they are with it.

With our Moodtracker tool, you can issue pulse surveys that let workers have a voice.

That’s just the beginning, as it also offers analytics and actionable recommendations for improving engagement; plus, you can track the data over time to see how well these initiatives are working!

An employee recognition platform

employee engagement platform to reduce employee turnover

Employee recognition is essential for having employees feel engaged with their workplace and its mission and people.

Our Social Recognition® program creates a culture of excellence that has everyone feel seen, heard, and appreciated.

It uses a peer-to-peer system allowing employees to communicate and recognize each other from anywhere, connecting them to one another and their work, which proves to be a strong driver of employee engagement.

Continuous performance management software

conversations tool for tracking key performance indicators

Performance management is easy with Conversations®, which combines performance development efforts with structured feedback.

This platform allows company leaders, managers, and employees themselves to request and give feedback at any time to anyone throughout the company.

This tool compiles the check-ins, feedback, and goals employees have collected during their tenure, bringing people, rather than process, to the forefront.

A people analytics solution

People analytics are the best way to identify and solve problems with employee engagement, and Moodtracker makes this process easy.

In addition to crafting and issuing surveys, it collects data in easy-to-read and interactable dashboards that can compare results from your organization against benchmark data from around the world.

A segmented analysis is available by region, team, and department so that you can focus wherever you like.

How do you improve employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a collective effort that falls upon every person at every level of your organization.

While everyone has a part in maximizing engagement, it’s important to recognize the different roles that various organizational positions play in fostering an environment that engages workers.

HR’s role

The role of HR is to keep engagement initiatives and efforts running from behind the scenes. This work includes holding management and employees accountable for reaching engagement goals and following initiatives.

HR also implements software and training to help familiarize everyone with the tools required for engagement activities. Of course, they’re also the point of contact for any engagement issues that employees or management might have down the line.

Management’s role

While HR comes up with initiatives, managers are the ones who have to implement them in the workplace.

Their job is to develop healthy and trusting relationships with every team member while frequently and appropriately recognizing when milestones and goals are reached. Remember, management shouldn’t be setting goals alone, but rather working with employees so both management and employees can feel confident performing.


Key takeaways about engagement in the workplace

Maintaining an engaged workforce is a continuous effort, but the numerous benefits of employee engagement are well worth the effort, especially considering the applicability to the organization’s bottom line.

While engagement differs from happiness and satisfaction, they all gain from increased engagement.

Keep refining engagement strategies to unlock the full potential of workers and take your company to the next level.