Let’s start with the beginning:
What is employee engagement?
A very brief definition would be the following:
The emotional connection an employee perceives towards their organization, job role, and colleagues, which can influence their actions and level of effort and productivity in work activities.
An engaged employee is one who is 100% invested and involved in the company’s mission, vision, and values and who will act in such ways to facilitate the organization’s interests and objectives.
Suppose we were to look at this concept from an HR and management point of view. We should define employee engagement as a complex of measures and initiatives devised to boost an employee’s perception and emotional attachment towards the company, their job role, their colleagues, and the company culture, vision, and mission.
Why is employee engagement important?
Simply put, engaged employees generate better business outcomes than other employees. As a business owner, it’s up to you how you decide to treat them and how much focus you put on keeping them engaged and making them feel appreciated.
Disengaged employees will literally cost you money, as they are on your payroll, and they could use their energy towards contributing to the objectives of your organization.
There is no better source to understand the importance of employee engagement than Gallup. With their reports, they highlight why you should put more emphasis on elements when building your management strategy.
“Employee engagement is the degree to which an employee feels that they are truly part of a company, have a voice in its decisions, and feels respected.” – Darryl Dioso
What are the benefits of employee engagement?
Engaged employees are the ones who come to work and are involved, not just because they have the goal of getting paid, but because they’re invested in the organization's goals on more than one level: emotionally and professionally.
Supporting employee engagement and making it a priority will get your organization on a better path overall. But let’s see the key advantages you can benefit from:
1. Increased productivity and better quality of work
The first obvious advantage! Productivity is a crucial goal for every company, and one of the methods to achieve it is through engaged employees. A recent report revealed in the USA showed that only 21% of employees consider themselves “very engaged” at work.
The difference between engaged and disengaged represents a gap of 79% of employees who could be more productive and aren’t.
Engaged employees tend to perform better, come up with better ideas, be more innovative and maintain teamwork at the best level.
2. Higher retention rate
An engaged employee who is invested in his everyday activities is less likely to leave the company. Make a point of keeping everyone, especially top talent.
Every new hire starts with certain expectations and desires, and if your organization doesn’t meet those, they will begin searching for something better. Engaged employees reduce the cost of turnover and help in improving retention rates.
3. Higher level of employee and customer satisfaction
People who are excited about their work are usually the ones you want to talk to your customers. Why? Because their passion will be noticed and because your company’s image only has to gain from this. If your employees feel appreciated, they tend to behave towards the customers and are more inclined to deliver a superior customer experience and increase job satisfaction.
4. Company culture is amplified
Engaged employees are perfect to work with. They like or even love what they do, which can only translate into a culture of employee engagement. Without realizing it, they are the ones creating part of the company's culture. Make sure that you, as an employer, give recognition and provide positive feedback to your most engaged employees.
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” - Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup.
The team at Preciate provides an interesting diagram about how we can visualize the role of culture, relationships, and recognition at work.
5. Increased level of feedback from the employees
An engaged employee will have a constant desire for improvement on a personal and organizational level. Therefore, they will actively participate in meetings and will provide positive and constructive feedback for possible innovation and improvement.
6. Lower absenteeism rates
Employee absenteeism is the chronic lack of employee attendance without a valid cause, often unplanned and unannounced. When employees don't show up at work without any reason or without any notice, then you're encountering absenteeism in your organization. When the staff doesn't show up, the business will encounter consequences like reduced productivity, poor morale among the colleagues who have to fill in, and costs with replacing workers. This is why keeping the workforce happy, investing within absence management tools, team buildings, team culture, rewards, and solid attendance policies reduces absenteeism.
"Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability. And job flexibility increases engagement." - Gallup
7. Positive atmosphere all over
Engaged employees are of great help to others, not so motivated. Why? Because they bring a certain energy to their work every moment of the day to act as motivators for all the others.
Your most engaged employees are more likely to participate actively in training, which can convince others to do it.
Another critical factor is that through engagement, you will also lower the risk of burnout.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” - Stephen R. Covey
A good environment has smiling employees working in a relaxed atmosphere. They are engaged in what they are doing but have time to happily help a colleague in need, laugh at a joke, or discuss the latest issues over a coffee. In a positive work environment, there is time for compassion, empathy, and positive reinforcement. Here are five additional examples of positive work environment practices:
- Milestone celebrations
- Flexible work schedules
- Streamlined HR processes
- Celebrate work anniversaries
- Sustainable company culture
- Active employee recognition.
8. Improved collaboration
Having an engaged workforce is also a sign of success. And it’s not only about your business’ success but about personal or team-wide success.
Engaged employees work harder and are more productive because they feel valued, and this will show. It will add to your company’s reputation.
“Create caring and robust connections between every employee and their work, customers, leaders, managers, and the organization to achieve results that matter to everyone in this sentence.” - David Zinger
How to improve collaboration?
Collaboration among employees means bringing together ideas, points of view, and experiences through brainstorming and sharing concepts, dividing the work fairly, and guiding people towards a shared purpose. If you're looking to improve collaboration at work, we have a guide on the topic where we explain more about the following methods:
- Communicate regularly
- Use team-building activities
- Provide a collaborative work environment
- Track employee growth
- Lead your team by example
- Use tools to create bridges between coworkers.
Bonus: Better employee health
When coworkers are engaged at work, they are healthier also. They are more likely to stay fit, exercise, and eat better. Such habits result in fewer illnesses, accidents and more joy and energy to perform.
In case you enjoyed the insights, find below a graphic that summarizes the benefits of investing in employee engagement.
How to improve employee engagement ideas
Once you know how important it is to have engaged employees, it’s time to take action and improve this area. Let’s see how exactly you can achieve this and the key ideas and practical strategies you need to consider for each one of them:
1. Promote and sustain growth
Every employee will look for opportunities to grow professionally within the company. So, by focusing on training and development programs, you will work towards having more engaged employees.
To provide development opportunities to boost the growth of your employees, here are some tips:
- Provide your team members access to a coach
- Promote the culture of shared leadership, where they are empowered to make decisions
- Include employees in company strategy meetings, where they can shape the roadmap
- Pay for the external courses they want to follow.
2. Invest in wellness and well-being
It may sound like a complex concept because well-being is not something very measurable. General signs of happy employees are a good work-life balance, feeling appreciated, valued, and part of a team.
As a manager, you should encourage your people to have a healthy lifestyle. Staying for many hours seated in front of the screen is not always the best strategy. You can provide employee perks such as gym, spa, or swimming pool subscriptions paid by the company.
Implementing a wellness program can also lead to improved employee engagement. So you may consider helping your employees with their mental and physical help, thorough activities such as healthy lunch and snacks, fitness, creating flexible hours, or community service activities.
Investing in well-being will reduce the risk of burnout and will be another stepping stone to a more engaged workforce.
Tip: If you would like to send appreciation letters to your employees for good work or anniversaries/birthdays, you can use our templates free of charge.
3. Build good work relationships
We refer to both relationships with peers and managers. Internal communications are extremely important. An employee will not succeed without an adequate manager and colleagues who make them feel good at work and cooperate effectively.
Encourage constant communication through all kinds of means: from live communication to remote, through specially designed apps for team collaboration.
Note: Do you want to be a successful people manager? We share 12 skills you need to master.
Your business should focus on building powerful relationships, especially between the managers and the employees. How can this be achieved? Well, here are some ideas:
- Set up regular 1-to-1 meetings, where you discuss in detail the responsibilities, progress made, and challenges encountered. Such meetings are a great opportunity to learn more about the employee's life outside work, personal goals, and why not training needs. Tip: You can walk this meeting also - get some fresh air, burn some calories, change the environment, and have your key conversation done outside.
- Organize weekly team meetings. The right instrument to discuss ongoing project status, major announcements, milestones achieved, and other issues that need to be shared or discussed with the team. You can use team meetings to introduce a new hire to everyone, and when you believe the team is a bit low on energy, bring a motivational speaker to boost the spirit. Important: if there is nothing major to discuss, there is no need to mobilize the entire team and stop the productive flow.
- Clear onboarding process. It will be your first contact with the new hire. Make it remarkable by having clear tasks and milestones for each person that is involved in the process and that those tasks are done in time
- Boost motivation. Remember Dan Pink’s three conditions for motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
- Be accountable as a manager. Once you know about know the aspirations of your team members, if you want to work together for the long run, you should start to make them happen.
- Ensure management skills. Remember that businesses grow, and the current employees will become the managers of tomorrow. Make sure that they have the right management skills.
It is also important to discuss about peer-to-peer relationships because they are the most common. Every day your people communicate between themselves, ask for support, search for solutions, and try to close business deals, which requires collaboration between peers. The team spirit needs some seed to make it happen. Here are some suggestions:
- Organize team lunches for educative discussions among the workers, and create new friends.
- Start new projects that require collaboration between people with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
- Host brainstorming meetings on innovative topics or automate parts of your business where different generations are present.
- Organize team-building activities focused on problem-solving.
4. Clear defined responsibilities
If you want your employees to be interested and invested in your organizational goals, they need to understand those and their role in achieving them fully. Therefore, every job description should be complex and straightforward at the same time, explaining why every one of your employees’ jobs exists.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” - Tony Robbins
Important. When you're setting up the goals and roadmap for your team, consider the following best practices:
- Make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Prepare specific action plans:
- Break down the objectives into concrete tasks,
- Prioritize the tasks.
- Assign the tasks to the right people.
- Set deadlines and milestones.
- Use goal-tracking platforms to facilitate information sharing and transparency
- Involve the team members in the goals development phase.
5. Constant feedback and recognition
Employee feedback is helpful in many ways, but also for engagement. But feedback needs to be constant, not once in a while. Ensure your managers have precise guidelines, which they follow, and that the employees feel free to speak their minds during feedback meetings. Positive feedback has to be also concrete, so recognition is key. It can be monetary or not: a bonus of some gift cards, for example.
Feedback is a two-way street, so make sure your employees have the opportunity to give feedback regularly. It may be a great option to use anonymous online surveys, so they feel free to express their opinion.
Find below 7 ways to improve your feedback:
- Focus on the important issue at hand
- Avoid being emotional, provide sincere feedback
- If possible, meet face-to-face
- Be specific on addressing the issue (share observation, explain impact)
- Make it a conversation, where both sides share their views
- Agree on a solution, and the next steps to achieve it
- Summarise and agree on follow-up needed.
When your team will showcase a high level of feedback, then the indirect benefits will be the following:
- A boost in employee loyalty
- Higher sales
- Increased profitability
- Better decision making
- Fewer conflicts
- Increased happiness.
"69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were more recognised" - Officevibe study
6. Acknowledge and recognize hard work
To keep momentum and acknowledge your people's contributions, it is important to let them know that their work matters, contributing to the overall team goals and the business's success. Try to be as specific here to clarify better the role of the employee and the impact it has. Do not keep your appreciative words only for performance reviews. Make every worthwhile opportunity count. Here are three ways to show gratitude to your team:
- You can be appreciative during work anniversaries by giving some extra days off for loyalty.
- You can send a handwritten thank you letter
- When a demanding project has been successfully finalized, organize a team dinner.
Measuring employee engagement
Professional HR managers are looking closely at the workforce to understand the engagement level, what is working well, what can be improved, and if something requires urgent intervention.
Usually, engagement surveys are the right way to go for this. Common questions asked are:
- How happy I’m at work at [company name]?
- Is [company name] a great place to work
- I see myself with [company name] 2 years from now
- Is my manager motivating me to achieve my goals?
However, these questions will differ widely based on the type of survey you’re having: surveys for new hires, for existing employees, and exit interviews.
As your experience with engaging employees increases, you will also start looking more closely at metrics such as Employee retention rate, Voluntary employee turnover, Employee satisfaction, Employee absenteeism, Employee performance, and Employee net promoter score.