What is Employee Engagement? Three Key Steps To Improving it

by Energage

As your business grows, so does your headcount. And this can make maintaining your company culture —  as well as employee engagement — much harder.

Here are 3 key steps you can take to be intentional about culture and get the results you want, even as you expand your business.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the degree to which an individual person connects with and commits to the mission and goals of your organization. At Energage, we define employee engagement as “individual passion working toward shared success.” That means engagement isn’t something you do to people; it’s something you inspire in them.

Employee engagement sometimes gets confused with employee satisfaction or employee happiness. Employee engagement is related to, but distinct from the other two.

Why is this employee engagement principle essential for every business? 

Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was a growing academic interest in the impact of employee satisfaction on business outcomes. As our economy shifted to be increasingly about intellectual capital, the benefits of getting maximum contribution from the workforce grew. The concept evolved from employee satisfaction (what an employee gets from the relationship with their employer) to employee engagement (what the employee contributes to the organization).

Today, organizations that leave their workplace culture to chance leave themselves at risk of low performance, high turnover, and exposure in the court of public opinion as being undesirable workplaces.

On the other hand, organizations that have embraced an employee-centric approach and improved their business through employee engagement have reaped the rewards:

  • Greater productivity
  • Higher profitability
  • Lower turnover and absenteeism
  • Better workplace safety
  • Improved customer satisfaction

Employee engagement correlates to industry-specific success factors such as increased patient satisfaction and lower readmission rates in healthcare.

Today, with only 31% of employees engaged according to Energage research, and historically low unemployment (down to 3.7% as of October 2018), employers are concerned with attracting talent that is truly committed to the success of the organization. And rightly so. Many companies have deployed employee engagement programs only to discover they generate a lot of information, but few real insights for improvement.

Making progress starts with asking the right questions — and measuring the right things.

How is employee engagement measured?

Academic definitions of employee engagement vary, although they remain very similar in concept.  At Energage, we look at three components:

  • Commitment
  • Referral
  • Motivation

This is the most widely used and most strongly validated definition of engagement.  If an employee is committed to do his or her best work, sees themselves staying with the company in the long term, and would recommend their employer as a place to work, then we would consider that employee engaged.

Three steps to enhancing company employee engagement

There are three steps you can take to help engage your employees and inspire them to invest their energy in making your business successful, boosting commitment, igniting a passion for their work, and strengthening their loyalty to your company.

1. Survey your employees to get a broader picture of what they value

The first step to improving employee engagement is to measure the current state of your workforce.  Knowing what your employees are truly thinking is how you include them and show that their input about the company truly matters.

Start with a short (under eight minutes) survey that can be benchmarked to other firms in your industry or region. The brevity of the survey should be considered, which means you should select the right employee survey questions.

The problem with many annual surveys is the length. More questions don’t mean more valuable insights. In fact, the longer the survey, the less likely employees will give quality, thoughtful answers — or even be motivated to complete the survey.

By keeping your survey short and delivered twice a year with lightweight, single pulse questions in-between,  you can expect to cull better quality, more timely responses that yield actionable insights.

And an important note: Be sure to thank survey respondents for their feedback and value their opinion.

2. Share your findings and drive dialogue

Now that you’ve collected the information you need to improve the business, share it — good or bad.

It’s a major mistake shield survey results from employees. If you want to build a strong culture, including everyone is important. This is a key step in how you improve your company’s employee engagement,  making them feel informed, included, and appreciated.

Start by prescreening the results and reading employee responses. This way, if personal or sensitive information is included in the results, you can protect the anonymity of your employees.

Next, review the survey data multiple times with as many people possible. Nothing will improve in your organization until you have used the data to inform productive conversations, from the C-suite to the front line. Include staff at all levels in your action planning. Begin discussing what the data shows and getting their feedback on how to tackle the issues. You’d be surprised to find out that there may be simple fixes to employee engagement barriers in the workplace. Lastly, come up with a full-throttle action plan that tackles the issues you’ve found.

3. Put results to use for Employee Engagement

The last step is to take the information you’ve gathered and put it to use. After all, an action plan is useless if you don’t take steps to execute it.

We hear that employees suffer from survey fatigue. But we beg to differ. They suffer from inaction fatigue. Follow through on everything you said you would do. There’s nothing more disheartening to employees than the promise of change and a lack of follow through — even if it’s the most minute of problems.

Start this process by taking care of the smaller concerns your employees have brought to your attention. This includes basic needs such as bathroom breaks, food, and overflowing trash cans. These may seem trivial but are close to your employee’s hearts. Demonstrating follow-up action will improve the employee experience.

Next, work on tackling the more personal issues that are hindering success. These problems include interpersonal issues, training and evaluating management, and job satisfaction for each sector or employee.

Take aways for Employee Engagement

Boosting associate engagement is a process. Starting with an employee survey opens the discussion of where your business can improve. From there, you’re able to develop an action plan and tackle core problems. Just remember: Keeping your word is key, so make sure to follow up with the action plan. Here’s to your success — and improved employee engagement!