The Ins and Outs of Employee Engagement

Engaged employees make for better workplaces! But what exactly does employee engagement entail? And if your organization is lacking in engagement, what can be done about it?

It’s a tall task to keep employees motivated and engaged. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings with lives that are messy, complicated, and largely shaped by a wide range of unique circumstances and challenges. Such challenges can and often do spill over into worklife, leaving employees less engaged, amongst other things. But there are measures that can and should be taken to alleviate such issues. Business owners, managers, and team leaders are now learning the true value of employee engagement and the profound impacts it can have on transforming one’s business. 

What is employee engagement?

Although it seems as if “employee engagement” is self explanatory, there are differing perspectives when it comes to exactly how it’s defined and measured. “The meaning of employee engagement is ambiguous among both academic researchers and among practitioners who use it in conversations with clients,” says a publication from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. The same publication, however, does find some commonalities amongst its varying definitions, namely “the notion that employee engagement is a desirable condition, has an organizational purpose, and connotes involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort, and energy, so it has both attitudinal and behavioral components.” 

The end-game for organizations includes a sizable increase on a variety of employee performance metrics. “Not only does engagement have the potential to significantly affect employee retention, productivity and loyalty,” says the Society for Human Resource Management, “it is also a key link to customer satisfaction, company reputation and overall stakeholder value.”

Why should companies focus on employee engagement? 

The benefits of employee engagement go beyond the employee productivity (though you will see up to a 22% increase in employee productivity); Customers and employees also reap the benefits. For one, engaged employees “are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.” It’s easy to understand how the benefits of engaged employees work their way down to customers and clients: Engaged employees take greater ownership and invest more of themselves and their creativity further into their projects. More invested and creative employees means a better product and/or service. Better products and services means happier customers/clients! It only makes sense that business owners and HR departments (if there is one) focuses on increasing employee engagement. But how do you inspire employee engagement?

How can you increase employee engagement?

There isn’t a one size fits all solution for improving employee engagement. Similar to employees, organizations too are faced with their own unique set of circumstances and challenges. There are, however, some practical ways of implementing measures to increase employee engagement over time. 

Show them where they fit in the picture: In many organizations, employees (or even entire departments, for that matter), feel lost in the shuffle. They can’t see or understand how their work contributes to the organization’s values and overall objectives. Executive Coach John Baldoni says you should simply focus on purpose. “Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose, they will feel and act more engaged in their roles.”

Prioritize personal wellbeing: With the onset, and continuation of, the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have witnessed first hand the importance of the personal wellbeing of employees. What better way to do this than to offer company-wide wellness initiatives? These are great opportunities to be creative. It is easy for employers to feel a greater connection and deeper level of engagement when they know their company takes active measures to improve their mental, physical, and mental wellbeing.

Optimize onboarding: You only have one chance to make a first impression. You could avoid the necessity for stopgap employee engagement solutions by incorporating the first two ideas into your onboarding process. Use the onboarding process to explain the nuances of the team and the roles within it. This will make it crystal clear for each new recruit what their role is and how they fit into the complex puzzle of the organization and its greater mission.          

Employee engagement is crucial. High levels of engagement suggest that employees have a clear vision of what the company mission is, and they see their place within the scope of everything going on around them. If you feel that your organization is lacking in employee engagement, then maybe it’s time to come up with new and creative measures to turn it around.

Further Reading