Employee engagement is the measure of an employee's enthusiasm and commitment to performing their job. Engaged employees are passionate about their work and workplace, and feel intrinsically connected to their organization's success.
Employee engagement is often confused with employee satisfaction. While similar to employee satisfaction, employee engagement has a more significant impact on an organization's success. According to research by Bain & Company, an employee who is satisfied at work is 40% more productive than an unsatisfied one, but an engaged employee is 44% more productive than a merely satisfied one.
To improve employee engagement, you'll likely need to invest money in tools and technology, and your leaders and team members need to take the time to implement employee engagement best practices. While this is a big investment, failing to invest in employee engagement can cost your company much more.
Although improving employee engagement takes work, many of the solutions only require a little effort to see a big impact. Here are 10 ways you can improve employee engagement.
1. Conduct employee engagement surveys.
One of the first things you can do to improve employee engagement is conduct an employee engagement survey. This type of survey is key to understanding how engaged your employees currently feel and what is driving their engagement or disengagement.
"Until you really understand what's behind employee engagement, it's really hard to offer more than Band-Aid solutions," Carla Yudhishthu, chief people officer at Mineral, told business.com. "The best way to do this is by issuing an internal survey that gets at this in a scientific way."
Conducting the survey
An employee engagement survey will tell you how valued your employees feel at work, and how connected they feel with their job and organization. Employee engagement survey questions revolve around topics that can impact engagement, such as leadership, enablement, alignment and development.
Employees can use a Likert scale to rank the degree to which they agree with statements like "I rarely think about looking for a job at another company" and "I have access to the things I need to do my job well." You may also want to include some free-text questions that give your employees the chance to elaborate on what is or isn't working.
Acting on the survey results
Conducting an engagement survey is only half the battle. Take time to dig through the data and find key themes you can act on. Discuss the results with your team to identify which actions should be stopped, which should be started, and which should continue as is.
Once you decide a course of action, put it into play. Too often, companies come up with solutions, but soon push them to the wayside to continue with the status quo. Avoid doing this, as it can breed distrust among your employees.
Repeating the process
Wait a few months before conducting your next employee engagement survey. This gives you and your employees time to make the agreed-upon changes and see how well they work. Once you develop a successful employee engagement strategy, Quantum Workplace recommends administering surveys four or five times per year for optimal results.
2. Create an effective onboarding process.
According to Anna Dearmon Kornick, professional time-management coach and head of community for Clockwise, cultivating employee engagement can and should begin during the recruitment process, before a new hire is officially on board.
"The hiring process is the first opportunity to identify candidates that align with your company values," Kornick said. "Then, be sure to use your onboarding program to educate and inspire new team members so they begin taking ownership of the company's purpose at the very beginning of their tenure."
During the onboarding process, cover the four C's:
- Compliance (i.e., rules and regulations)
- Clarification (e.g., job expectations)
Send out personalized welcome packets, cover essential paperwork and training, review your company culture, and assign buddies or mentors.
3. Align employees with your vision statement.
A strong company mission and vision statement are more important than ever. Job seekers are taking notice of what companies stand for, and they want to align themselves with organizations that match their values and purpose. However, simply reviewing your company's purpose once at orientation isn't enough to keep employees engaged.
"If you are a business owner, you will not be able to create the type of company that lives out your vision without a group of motivated employees to help you accomplish your goals," said Adam Weber, senior vice president of community at 15Five.
Write employee job descriptions that match your values and explain to your team how their work directly ties into the company's overall goals and purpose. Engaged employees like to know they have a hand in the company's success. This reminds them of the impact they have on the organization.
4. Encourage open communication and feedback.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of any business. Build a culture that encourages open communication and honest feedback. Feedback can be given informally as events occur in real time, or it can be delivered in one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. Either way, employees must be able to trust their managers and feel free to express any questions, concerns or ideas they may have.
5. Prioritize employees' health and well-being.
Employee health has become top of mind for many organizations, especially supporting employee mental health. Organizations must create benefits packages and company cultures that support and encourage employee health to not only stay competitive, but also give their employees the tools to succeed. When your employees are physically and mentally healthy, they have more energy to engage with their job and organization.
6. Offer employee development opportunities.
The 2020 Retention Report by Work Institute shows that career development (or lack thereof) is the biggest reason why employees quit their jobs, and it has been for the past decade. This goes to show that, at the very least, you must offer professional development opportunities if you want to retain talent. Providing staff with ample training and development opportunities can also improve employee engagement.
Managers should work with employees to outline career goals and create opportunities for advancement. Employees can set performance goals that help them prepare for the next step in their career – whether that is a vertical or lateral move. Clear growth plans encourage employees to be engaged in their work and grow professionally.
7. Recognize and reward employee achievements.
It's no surprise that employees are happier when their supervisors and colleagues recognize their hard work and accomplishments. You can improve employee satisfaction and engagement by not only recognizing employee achievements, but also rewarding them for a job well done. Show your appreciation by celebrating employee milestones, verbally acknowledging weekly successes, and rewarding top performers.
If you don't already have a strong employee recognition program in place, ask your employees how they want to be recognized.
8. Take advantage of employee engagement tools.
Since there are so many ways to improve employee engagement (e.g., onboarding, feedback, surveys, recognition), several types of tools can assist you. For example, Yudhishthu said her team uses 15Five for biweekly check-ins.
"In addition to capturing general information on employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and how team members are feeling about the impact they are having at work, it also has open fields for giving direct feedback both ways (employee to manager and manager to employee)," she said. "Managers and employees are then able to have a much more forthright discussion about any issues during their one-to-one."
Some of the best HR software also has workforce management features to track and improve engagement. For example, in our BambooHR review, we found that the software has performance management features like feedback surveys, employee goal tracking, employee assessments and employee satisfaction (eNPS) reports. Similarly, our review of GoCo revealed features such as onboarding and offboarding workflows, new-hire orientation checklists, and automated performance review workflows.
Kornick suggests using tech tools like project management software, chat applications, video conferencing services and team calendars to keep hybrid and remote teams in sync, wherever they're working from. These apps can improve communication, build trust, and increase productivity and engagement.
9. Develop your managers.
Managers have a major impact on employee engagement, for better or worse. Weber said many organizations make the common mistake of promoting top-level individual contributors to management before they obtain practical management skills, resulting in poor management. He recommends developing each manager to avoid this.
"A good starting place is setting up a recurring meeting with groups of managers where they can share and collaborate with one another on real-time challenges they are facing," Weber said. "Long-term, the ideal state is consistent outside coaching for your managers; this upskilling effort has potential to unlock the growth of the company, and it increases the likelihood of managers' growth and quality content."
10. Build a strong company culture.
Companies with strong cultures often have a higher rate of employee engagement than those without. Part of employee engagement comes from when the worker feels connected to their organization, so they are more likely to be engaged if they feel connected to your company culture.
Integrate employees into your company culture as soon as they are hired (e.g., with a mentor or buddy system), and implement engaging events and activities. "Engaging" looks different for every company, of course. One organization might love trivia nights and team happy hours, whereas another might have a strong desire to embark on volunteer opportunities.
To ensure your activities improve engagement and don't exhaust your staff, ask your team what types of activities they are interested in. Kornick suggests conducting quarterly team surveys and roundtable discussions to identify what initiatives are worth pursuing.