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The workplace is changing drastically in the 21st century. More and more people are working remotely, meaning that they don't have a physical office to go to every day. This means that businesses need to find fresh ways of keeping employees engaged with their work and providing them with an environment where they can be productive. We're going to help you understand what employee engagement is all about. Then we'll give you effective strategies for engaging your employees at work!
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is all about showing employees that their work matters and making them feel good. The more engaged an employee is with the organisation, the better they'll perform on a day-to-day basis. Engaged workers are also less likely to leave - which saves money in recruitment costs.
Here's a working definition of employee engagement:
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.
We can notice a few things from this definition.
- Employee engagement is emotional. It's not about how much time the employee spends at work, but about how they feel while they're there.
It's not just a one-way street from employer to employee. Employees have an important role in engagement, too.
- Employee engagement is all about the relationship between the two parties - it needs both parts for success!
- Now that we know what it is, why should we care about employee engagement?
Why is employee engagement so important?
Employee engagement is crucial for success because it is the driving force behind employee productivity.
Employee engagement can also lead to better customer service and more satisfied customers.
The emotional commitment that employees have towards an organisation is a large factor in their performance; it's hard for someone who doesn't care about what they're doing to do something well! Employee engagement helps increase productivity, which boosts the overall success of your company.
Let us show you some proof based on studies of employee engagement.
Here are 8 statistics that you should know about employee engagement
Statistics about anything rarely tell the complete story. You can start with these numbers, though, to get a better understanding of employee engagement and its effects on any organisation.
Only 15% of employees feel like they're contributing meaningfully at work. The other 85% are doing less than their best.
Now, this is the statistic for the whole world. The USA is a leader with about 33% engagement. Here in the UK, the figure is much lower. Only about 8% of UK employees feel engaged with their organisation.
4 out of 5 of your employees could be thinking of leaving. This is an alarming statistic that should be a wake-up call for every business and human resources manager.
These employees aren't greedy. In fact, 74% of them would take a pay cut to work at their "ideal job." Lack of employee engagement will affect your turnover and retention rates.
Employee disengagement costs a lot of money. Increased turnover, lower productivity, more frequent absences, and lack of collaboration all contribute to the massive price tag of employee dissatisfaction.
Engaged employees contribute to better customer satisfaction, higher sales, and increased profits.
Companies with great work engagement among their employees are 21% more profitable than organisations suffering from disengagement.
A key way businesses engage employees is through effective management and communication. Clear communications build trust, which is the primary component of employee engagement.
A long-term study found companies with high levels of employee engagement grew their revenue by 682% over an 11-year period. Companies with less engaged employees grew by only 166%.
Analysts attribute the 4x difference in growth to the benefits of higher productivity, collaboration and employee retention.
When people get bored, they seek new challenges elsewhere. This is the primary cause of changing jobs for 33% of people. Organisation culture mismatches drove a further 24% of people to find other employment.
Personal development and alignment with the company's culture and values are both major factors in employee engagement.
Recognition for a job well done is the most important factor for many employees. The management practice of recognising and rewarding outstanding work pays off in spades with employees who are more loyal and innovative.
Taking every opportunity to recognise and reward your workforce is one of the simplest ways to boost employee engagement.
Less than a third of employees feel there is enough opportunity to advance within their companies.
Many employees are not engaged because there is no possibility of promotion, they don't have the opportunity for advancement. They look elsewhere and disengage from their current work.
Knowing these things, how can we classify the different levels of employee engagement?
Employee Engagement: 4 Main Levels
We don't want to give you a super complicated breakdown of employee engagement levels. Instead, we've grouped your team members into four levels of engagement.
Highly engaged employees
Highly engaged employees have positive feelings about their place of work and are eager to do more so their company will succeed. They often refer potential hires to the organization as advocates for the brand, encouraging high performance in others.
Moderately engaged employees
Employees who are moderately engaged with their company have mixed feelings about the organization. They like certain aspects of their job but feel that there are also opportunities for improvement. These employees may not be entirely committed to the organization, which is evident by how they may behave during a typical workday.
Barely engaged employees
At barely engaged levels, employees are not very interested in their jobs. They usually do the bare minimum to get by and may even be looking for a new job or may quit at any given time.
Disengaged employees have a negative opinion of their place of work. They're disconnected from the company's mission, goals and future plans. They don't commit to their position or responsibilities at work. If managers aren't careful, they can affect those who are still engaged in a positive way to the company's success with their negativity.
How NOT to Understand Engagement
Employee engagement often gets mixed up with happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing. But there are some key differences that set those concepts apart.
Employee engagement is not the same as employee happiness. Happiness does not measure employees’ long-term dedication to a company, nor how committed they are with their current work and responsibilities.
We can only measure employee satisfaction at a surface level. Satisfied employees may not be engaged. Satisfied employees will stay put and do little to go the extra mile; they can usually be counted on in a bind, but they are unlikely to take initiative.
Employee wellbeing considers a variety of aspects about an employee’s life, such as their stress levels and whether they are fulfilling their potential. Providing employees with the resources to increase their health will improve employee engagement.
How to Assess and Measure Employee Engagement
Gaining insight into how engaged your employees feel is not always straightforward. However, every employee engagement strategy begins with assessing the level of engagement that exists in the organisation at the present time.
Let's talk about two aspects of the assessment process.
Hearing from Your Employees
Every organisation must find ways to actively and regularly engage with its employees. The extent to which you do this will depend on the size of your workforce, but it is essential for any organisation’s success that all staff are engaged and feel as though they have a voice in their workplace.
Surveys, polls, focus groups, and management reviews are all methods of assessing employee engagement. The best approach is to combine these various means of hearing from employees.
A quick note: always be sure that staff do not feel unfairly singled out during the engagement process, and it is a good idea to record any feedback for everyone’s reference.
How to Describe Employee Engagement
Which metrics are useful for measuring employee engagement? A short form of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale uses these three terms:
- ‘At my work, I feel bursting with energy’ (vigour).
- ‘I am enthusiastic about my job’ (dedication).
- ‘I am immersed in my job’ (absorption).
These three metrics should help you assess engagement in your workplace. If you improve employee engagement in any of these areas, your organisation will gain productivity and positivity.
How to create an engaged workforce
What approach can you take to improve employee engagement?
It’s important to remember that high employee engagement is an ongoing process. Employee engagement activities can improve employee experience, engagement metrics, and business outcomes. These should be part of an ongoing employee engagement strategy.
Which Things Help or Hinder Employee Engagement?
There are many factors that influence employee engagement. Here are just a few from a long list:
- Personality traits such as self-confidence and resilience
- Job Design, including management demands and available resources
- Management and Leadership Integrity
- Organisational Culture and Relationship Climate
- Management Practices
Autonomy, or self-determination, is crucial to help employees feel empowered to shape their jobs. A healthy independence leads to increased feelings of meaning and joy at work.
Surveys consistently show the quality of relationships and the support from management directly affect various aspects of engagement. Job satisfaction, intention to quit, effort, and enthusiasm are all affected by the level of relationships and support employees develop in their workplace.
The 2009 MacLeod Review showed four pillars of employee engagement:
1. Leaders who deliver a strong and strategic narrative about the organisation
2. Managers adept at motivating, empowering, and supporting their team
3. Regular and Meaningful input from employees to the organisation
4. Integrity in the organisation to match stated values to real workplace culture
Most team members are naturally motivated to perform well and do a good job. They are demotivated by feeling overworked, frustrated, or unsupported. Assumptions that reflect poorly on employees should be avoided. Employee engagement problems are more likely to be a management problem than a deficiency in the employees and team.
Employee engagement strategies
Strategies for successful employee engagement should take a range of different approaches and be holistic in nature. Strategies can focus on motivation, well-being, and helping employees understand their contribution to an organization’s purpose and objectives.
Achieving optimum employee engagement and wellbeing is not a one-off process. It requires ongoing, multifaceted strategies that include both the communications department as well as HR policies. To be successful in this undertaking, senior leaders must actively support these initiatives by being present at cross-departmental events so they can witness first hand what employees are experiencing.
Research has shown that engagement is heavily influenced by the individual's personality and job-fit. By recruiting for an employee who best matches a company's culture, we can increase motivation, which fosters increased productivity. To further cultivate this mentality, managers should also be mindful of carefully managing performance to ensure all employees feel valued in their roles to maintain high levels of job satisfaction.
Employees who feel unable to advance their careers will quickly become disengaged. Leaders should offer appropriate training opportunities to ensure these employees feel they have the opportunity for professional growth and advancement as well as other developmental opportunities that are aligned with overall company goals. Managers can approach this in several ways:
- Use of mentors and coaching
- Recognition for success in the workplace
- Performance reviews as a progressive tool
The main goal is to create a sense of "career within a career," where employees can see their work as an extension of themselves and feel they have the opportunity to grow with the company.
How to create an employee engagement action plan
What can be done to improve employee engagement? Every organisation can put an action plan in place to promote employee engagement. A simple plan has five major components.
1. Review survey results.
After employees give their opinions and share their feelings, the company should review the survey and seek to understand what employees are looking for. Try to identify the trends and issues that emerge.
If the results seem unclear, further surveys may be needed.
The company should discuss the main findings of the employee engagement survey questions to understand what they are looking for in their jobs. This will also generate discussion about how best to move forward.
2. Focus on the Major Trends and Issues
Once trends and issues have been identified, these should form the basis of early planning. For example, if lack of recognition is a repeated theme, then each manager can suggest ways to improve their own team member recognition skills. Likewise, if poor mental health and well-being are key issues, then managers can suggest ways to achieve a better work-life balance.
3. Create Many Solutions to Find the Few Great Ideas
Managers and teams can create as many employee engagement ideas as possible. During this stage, don't reject ideas, just keep them in a holding pen.
Once all the ideas have been collected, refine and scale those that seem to be more interesting than others. For example, if teams are interested in having some team members take on mentoring roles with new employees, then this idea can be refined as an employee engagement strategy. You can keep the less popular ideas for a later phase if they are viable.
4. Commit to Key Steps to Begin Change
Once the key activities have been identified, the company can make a commitment to implement them. Contributors should be recognised, managers given specific tasks, and business results clarified.
It may be helpful to have a launch event for specific changes to show employees the renewed commitment to their well-being. Of course, lack of follow-through will damage employee trust, so managers and team members must be careful to pursue the goals they set out.
5. Repeatedly Communicate Progress
A single event will not create the success many people are looking for. Instead, regular communication is necessary to continue to boost team performance, reinforce the change desired, and keep employee engagement as a central mission of the managers.
Pulse surveys can be done regularly to measure employee engagement and assess the impact of changes. As conditions change and improve, further learning opportunities and feedback should be incorporated into the ongoing strategy.
Best Practices of Employee Engagement Experts
Those organisations that are successful at measuring employee engagement and promoting healthy engagement do several things really well.
Celebrate Success and Strength
It's easy to get caught up in trying to make improvements. However, healthy leadership recognises present strengths and successes. It celebrates the team that does well. It values people who demonstrate commitment, good performance, and talent.
Constant growth should be matched with regular reflection and celebration. Everyone can have opportunities to receive praise and kudos for a job well done.
Connect Outcomes to Steps Taken
Strong leaders connect their activities to their business outcomes. Improvements in employee engagement should be tied to useful metrics such as productivity and profitability.
Staff retention, employee turnover rate, customer loyalty, and innovation are not byproducts of engagement efforts. These outcomes are the goal of engagement strategies and they should be strategically connected and regularly measured.
Engagement is a Strategy, Not an Activity
The best leaders understand their efforts as part of a plan and not just an isolated activity. They put their energy into a long-term employee engagement strategy that will improve conditions over time and lead to much better team performance.
A healthy leadership team will set short-term and long-term objectives as part of their employee engagement programs. They will foster relationships with key team members to boost the development of the right culture within the organisation.
Employee Engagement and Covid-19
Covid-19 brought major changes to the workplace. Employee engagement suffered in the early days of the pandemic when everyone scrambled to find the right work-life balance while working through lockdowns and challenges.
How do we understand and look at employee engagement going forward?
Why COVID-19 Made Employee Engagement Even More Important
Employee engagement can be heavily affected by things outside the office or workplace. The stress of a global pandemic, loss of loved ones, lockdowns, and massive changes in the workplace all caused stress for employees.
Here are a few ways Covid-19 affected employee engagement:
- COVID-19 made employees feel like they were not in control of their own health, which led to increased workplace stress.
- The pandemic also caused big shifts in family life and may have dramatically affected the work-life balance people developed.
- COVID-19 also caused people to change jobs, interrupting their career paths and making it difficult for others in the office to stay connected with them.
Understanding these influences helps us see the importance of adapting our strategies and programs to a constantly changing workplace.
How Can We Approach Employee Engagement After Covid-19?
Covid-19 revealed the great things about our team members. Their commitment to continued work and innovation should inspire us. The diligence many showed while working at home through a stressful time should make us feel grateful.
How can we continue to improve our employee experience to get the best results for our employees, customers, and businesses?
Here are three areas companies can continue to focus on as we move out of the pandemic.
- Give Value to Employees. The company can think through each connection with its employees to give them more value. Recruitment, onboarding, training, working, and development are all stages where the company can assess how it gives value to its employees.
- Equip Them with the Right Technology. About 70% of employees would like to continue to work remotely. Given the success of many people in a remote role, companies will be wise to equip them with the right technology to continue to work remotely.
- Communicate Culture Consistently. With less in-person connections, companies and leaders will need to do more to communicate the culture they want to create. Messaging needs to be on point to ensure the desired culture is being constantly reinforced.