Employee engagement

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.

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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.

What is 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.

Why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement can massively aid an organization, and organizations with engaged employees consistently outperform their competitors.

The benefits of employee engagement within an organization:

1. Better customer satisfaction

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.

2. Improved productivity and efficiency

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.

3. Reduction of staff turnover

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.

4. Lowered absenteeism

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.

5. Enhanced company culture

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.

7. Better business outcomes

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.

8. Decrease number of safety incidents

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.

Measuring employee engagement

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.

Employee engagement models

There are many employee engagement models available to help organizations better understand the process of increasing employee engagement.

IES model of 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:

  1. Job satisfaction
  2. Family-friendliness
  3. Cooperation and communication
  4. Health and safety
  5. Pay
  6. Conditions and benefits
  7. Equal opportunities and fair treatment
  8. Performance and appraisal
  9. Immediate management and training
  10. Development and career

When those needs are fulfilled, then employees will be engaged.

Schmidt model of employee engagement

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.

Penna’s model of 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.

The Zinger model of employee engagement

David Zinger developed this model in 2009.

This model balances three inputs:

1. Organizational

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.

2. Leadership

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.

3. Individual

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.

Want to learn where to start and how to build an action plan, what activities and best practices to use? Check our employee engagement strategy tips.

Employee engagement books, articles, and publications