After reading this guide, you will be able to improve employee engagement in your organization for both general and remote workers.
Given the current situation with COVID-19, many workplaces are turning to remote work, some for the first time.
With workers being away from direct supervision, employee engagement becomes that much more important, as an engaged employee is one who can be trusted to competently, consistently perform their job, often going above and beyond their job description to make sure that they are delivering high-quality results.
This guide will help you better understand employee engagement, how to curate it in your organization, both for general and remote work, and give you actionable tips and best practices for increasing your employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the level of mental and emotional commitment an employee has towards their job, the organization, and its goals.
An engaged employee is driven to help their organization succeed by directing their best efforts towards their work. They believe in the organization, and they will work to make sure that the organization succeeds.
It is important to note that employee engagement is different from employee satisfaction. A satisfied employee will not necessarily commit extra time and effort into the organization’s success, rather they will perform their job competently without expending extra effort.
Job satisfaction tends to be transactional, corresponding to salary and benefits. Employee engagement is not transactional; an employee with a higher salary will not necessarily be an engaged employee.
Employee engagement can massively aid an organization, and organizations with engaged employees consistently outperform their competitors.
The benefits of employee engagement within an organization:
Engaged employees will go above and beyond to provide great service to customers. They will take pride in performing their jobs to the best of their ability.
This could mean that a salesperson takes extra time out of their day to walk a potential customer through the product, a programmer works overtime to rid bugs from a client’s new program, or a retail clerk helps customers find the perfect fit of jeans, no matter how long it takes.
Customers who receive great service will both return and tell others about their experience, increasing customer loyalty for your organization.
An engaged employee wants their work to benefit the organization, so they will find ways to produce great quality work quickly. While an employee who is not engaged might simply want to come in and collect a paycheck with the least amount of work, an engaged employee will use discretionary effort to make sure that their work yields the highest result.
This is another example of how employee engagement and employee satisfaction are different. An employee might be very satisfied with their job but they will happily take another job if offered a nice raise. Studies show that employee retention is a challenge, with 81% of small businesses recognizing turnover as a costly problem. When an employee leaves, it can disrupt services, costing the organization money and upsetting clients, and replacing a lost employee can cost up to 40% of a salary.
If an employee is truly engaged, they will not want to leave their role, as they want to continue helping the organization reach its goals. They won’t be tempted to look for other work, because they are mentally and emotionally connected with the work that they are already doing.
Employee engagement leads directly to better staff retention, especially of top performers, which has become increasingly important, and difficult, with today’s hyper-mobile workforce.
Continuing from the above point, another benefit of employee engagement is that engaged employees will want to come into work, as they believe in what they are doing.
They are less likely to miss work, and will even make an effort to work on their own time.
Company culture is massively important to employees, and a bad culture can break an organization.
When employees are properly engaged with the organization, they understand their own importance in the company, as well as others, and are far more likely to take time to help train, advise, and lead those around them.
They are invested in the organization’s success, which is built by employees, so they will make sure that other employees are able to contribute to that success effectively.
Companies that have engaged workers report 21% higher profitability and were scored 17% higher on productivity.
Engaged employees work harder, doing a better job, driving up customer satisfaction and loyalty, and bringing a great deal of value into the organization.
Engaged employees will increase profitability through their work, and often lead innovation within their team, department, or organization.
Engaged employees pay attention to what they are doing, because they care about doing their job right. Workers will be more mindful of their surroundings and actions, and will go the extra mile to perform their duties correctly.
Engagement also increases innovation, with workers offering solutions to avoid safety incidents in the future, streamlining processes and increasing productivity.
Once you have given an employee engagement survey and identified the areas in which your organization needs to improve, the next step is to develop a strategy for doing so.
What actions you can take will depend on the size and budget of your organization, but no matter the level, there are concrete actions that your organization can undertake to improve employee engagement.
There are seven main areas that have the most impact on employee engagement:
Depending on the results of your employee engagement survey, there will be certain areas in which your organization will want to focus on.
Selecting two or three which are the most urgent is a good place to start.
After your organization has chosen the areas in which you will focus, it is time to develop an employee engagement action plan.
It is not enough to simply say that you want to improve rewards and recognition, you must develop concrete, actionable steps to do so. This is done by creating initiatives.
For example, if an organization wants to focus on training and learning opportunities, here is how they could develop an action plan:
Laying out a clear path to how this initiative will be achieved is the best way to ensure its success.
These ideas and best practices will help you construct your employee engagement action plan and effectively implement it in your organization.
Given how much time is spent at work, it’s no surprise that employees want their workplace to be a pleasant one.
This covers everything from the space in which they work to the small perks like coffee and snacks.
Changing the environment to better suit your employees shows them that you value their comfort.
This approach is all about the individual value that each person brings to the organization.
You want your employees to feel that both their opinion and work is respected.
An engaged employee is one who is willing to come to their leadership team with their opinion, even if that opinion is negative, because they know that they will be listened to.
This is the best way for organizations to quickly learn where issues are, but will only happen if the employees know that there are no negative repercussions for speaking out.
If an employee feels that their work is not properly recognized, they will quickly lose engagement. What is the point of working hard if no one cares?
This doesn’t mean that each time a project is completed successfully that your organization should be giving out cash prizes, even a simple announcement at a weekly meeting can be enough to energize an employee and make them feel valued.
Management teams should focus on recognizing individual achievements regularly.
It’s no good to work behind the scenes to increase engagement, employees should be updated often about what their leadership is up to.
Using strategies like all-organization meetings, weekly team updates and newsletters, an organization can let employees know that they are taking employee well-being seriously, and are working to make the organization a better place.
Employees will become more engaged simply by knowing that their leadership values them and is working to make the organization a better place.
If you want truly engaged employees, your organization has to make the action a priority.
If there are complaints, there should also be solutions proposed and acted upon by the organization.
If employees feel like their complaints, suggestions and thoughts on improvement fall upon deaf ears, they will quickly stop trying to engage.
A key part of an employee’s engagement is the feeling that their actions help the organization achieve its goals.
To help employees better understand how they contribute, make sure that they understand their role, and how that role is a key part of the overall organization. No matter their specific job, each person contributes to an organization’s success, and from day one, employees should understand their contribution.
Your managers are on the front line of empowering and engaging their teams.
Their role should be one of coaching, advising and nurturing their employee’s growth, rather than simply managing. When you have engaged managers, their employees will respond in the same way.
There are plenty of ways that leadership teams can energize and engage employees. These can range from in-office activities to group expeditions, and, depending on your organization, different ones will be effective.
How can you find out how engaged your employees are? It isn’t a simple, quantifiable question you can ask employees, nor is it something you can measure without your employees direct input.
Not only that, but different factors will engage employees in different companies, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for measuring employee engagement.
An employee engagement survey is one of the best tools available to measure employee engagement metrics.
A well-designed survey will give you plenty of data about your organization, as well as give you some insight into which areas need work.
You will even be able to pinpoint if there are certain departments under or overperforming, so you can further study those areas.
To measure employee engagement, an organization should design an engagement survey.
This survey should be given to all employees and should be done on a regular basis.
Some companies choose to perform an in-depth engagement survey once a year, then use pulse surveys on a more frequent basis to check in on employees. Other organizations choose to have engagement surveys much more frequently.
It all depends on the needs of the organization and the situation inside that particular industry, country, or the world.
Pulse surveys can be used to explore individual topics more closely or look further into how specific teams or departments are feeling, delivering real-time feedback from employees that can be used to measure the efficacy of new policies to drive employee engagement, but are less in-depth than an employee engagement survey.
If there has been an event inside the company, such as a change in leadership, disruption in the industry, or some other large event (such as COVID-19), then an engagement survey can be a great tool to help leadership understand how the employees are feeling.
The engagement survey is an important starting point for measuring employee engagement, but organizations can also use more continuous strategies to get data more frequently.
Using engagement surveys, pulse surveys, and one-on-one techniques can help an organization have a more complete understanding of employee engagement.
The goal of the engagement survey is to better understand your employees thoughts and feelings about the organization, find where there are problem areas or areas of particular strength, understand trends within the organization, and show your employees that you care about their thoughts and want to improve the organization with their help.
With a survey like this, it is important to design it from the end. It is useless to give your employees a survey if you don’t know what to do with the information you will receive from it.
Think about what you will do with the survey results.
Smart organizations also direct their management teams to measure engagement on a more individual basis, using one-on-one techniques to better understand how members of each manager’s team are feeling.
There are many metrics that can be used to measure employee engagement, but keep in mind that every company is different and these metrics will differ year to year, or even depending on the season, especially if your organization has one time of year that is busier or more stressful.
Your organization should keep track of the employee turnover rate, as it will give you valuable information about any problem areas within your organization.
There is no one turnover rate that should be aimed for across the board; it will be different for various industries, departments, and levels within an organization.
Consistently high turnover rates within one team or department could be an indication of an engagement issue.
Engaged employees stay with their company, as they are plugged into the greater goals of the organization and want to work to help achieve them.
This metric is closely associated with the turnover rate.
As stated above, engaged employees show up to work, and want to put in the effort so that the organization will succeed.
If there is a high percentage of absenteeism within your organization, you should take that as a sign that your employees are not engaged.
This is a simple, but effective, metric that simply consists of asking employees if they would recommend working at your organization to friends, colleagues, or family.
It is scored on a 0 to 10 scale, with 6 or less being classified as a ‘detractor’, 7 to 8 being considered ‘passive’ and 9 and 10 being considered ‘promoters’.
Survey your employees on this question, subtract the detractors from the promoters, and you will have your organization’s score.
A negative score will tell you that employees, on the whole, don’t recommend your organization as a place to work, while a positive score shows good employee engagement.
Look at the rates of new employee 90-day failure, as well as employee engagement with employee onboarding content.
If your employees are failing right out of the gate, this is a key indicator that they are not being set up for success within your organization. This can be traced back to a lot of factors, including a bad onboarding process, lack of training, or bad company culture.
We have mentioned that it is important to create a well-designed survey, but what questions should be there?
Employee engagement survey questions should cover the following areas, and should be rated on a scale from one to five:
Good examples of this type of question:
These questions could include:
Some example questions are:
All of the questions in these categories can be adjusted to better suit your particular organization.
The purpose of the employee engagement survey is to get a deeper understanding of your unique organization, and so there is no pre-made survey that can achieve that. For example, if there has been a recent shakeup of leadership, the survey might have more questions about trust in leadership than one for an organization that has had the same leadership team for decades. Consider what areas your organization needs to focus on, and design the survey with that in mind.
There are many employee engagement models available to help organizations better understand the process of increasing employee engagement.
The IES model, developed in 2003, emphasizes that employees must feel valued and involved to be properly engaged with their employer.
The ten core concepts that lead to feel valued and involved are:
When those needs are fulfilled, then employees will be engaged.
The Schmidt model, developed in 2004, places a great deal of importance on the recruitment and retention of the right workers.
This model posits that once an organization has the right workforce in terms of specific competencies and knowledge, then they can focus on creating a positive and supportive workplace, which in turn promotes a feeling of workplace well being, which will lead to employee engagement.
This model, developed in 2007, is a hierarchical model.
The pyramid-shaped model begins with basic working conditions. It then moves to the next level, learning and development, followed by promotion opportunities, which is followed by leadership, trust and respect. At the top of the pyramid is meaning.
As the organization develops each of these levels, employee engagement will increase. This model posits that an organization that follows this model, delivering meaning within work to employees, will increase their retention and attract better employees.
David Zinger developed this model in 2009.
This model balances three inputs:
Organizational input is the development of a culture where employee engagement is valued, prioritized and shared amongst all employees.
Recognition and appreciation are key aspects of this. At the top levels of management, support should be given, as well as investment in organizational resources and education, to increase engagement.
Leadership input is the development of leaders who are themselves engaged.
Zinger’s model states that employees will not become engaged if their leaders are not, so this is a key step.
Leaders must engage authentically with their employees, paying close attention and working enthusiastically to develop their team’s strengths and helping them overcome weaknesses.
Individual input is the employee’s own engagement contributions.
Employees should work to focus on the positive aspects of engagement, channeling their energy in the correct direction while making space to include fun in their work life. Ownership of one’s own work and contributions to the organization are key factors here.
Zinger’s model posits that when those three inputs are developed, employee engagement will increase.
The Zinger engaged model is arranged like a pyramid, with the bottom four blocks representing the leveraging of employee strengths, making meaning in work, leveraging employee energy, and employee well being. The next level consists of three blocks that represent living in the moment, fostering a strong workplace community, and proper recognition of employee effort. The third level is two blocks, representing the path of career development and excelling at a performance. The final level, which is the culmination of all the levels below it, is the achievement of results.