The Complete Guide to Employee Engagement

May 24, 2016 - 19 minute read - Posted by

Table of Contents

What is Employee Engagement?
Why Should Companies Care about Employee Engagement?
How Companies can Benefit from Measuring Employee Engagement
How to Measure Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement Metrics
Planning an Employee Engagement Program
Easy Hacks to Improve Employee Engagement Today

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is the commitment an employee has made to the organization they’re part of. A number of us have confused the term employee engagement with employee happiness or satisfaction. While they can come hand-in-hand, employee engagement requires a more in-depth view of the employee’s day-to-day and career goals. The commitment of an employee stems from both aligned personal goals to organizational objectives and values.

“A 5-point improvement in employee attitudes drives a 1.3 point improvement in customer satisfaction, which in turn drove a 0.5% improvement in revenue.” 

Anthony J. Rucci, Steven P. Kirn, and Richard T. Quinn (Harvard Business School)

When employees are effectively engaged with an organization, they’re not showing up to work just for the paycheque, they see value in their contributions to the company and genuinely want to succeed with the team. Essentially, employee engagement provides employees with the motivation go to above and beyond their written responsibilities and tasks.

Why Should Companies Care about Employee Engagement?

If there is one single reason to improve employee engagement it’s that it will have direct impact on the overall success of your organization. Increasing employee engagement is one of the best ways to reduce costs like frequent absenteeism.

By selecting the right metrics to measure levels of employee engagement within your organization, weaknesses can be be re-evaluated and changes can be made using the results. It has been tested that organizations that invest time into engaging employees are far more likely to succeed at developing an employee centric organizational culture that provides employees with a voice within the company.

“Highly engaged workers are twice as likely to be top performers, and three-quarters of them exceed or far exceed expectations for performance.”

—Watson Wyatt Report 2009

In many ways, the success of employees will be followed by quality of work and the ultimate success of a company. Developing a process to allow employees to provide input that will actually impact the outcome of decisions is real employee engagement that all companies should care about far beyond the office snacks and coffee.

How Companies can Benefit from Measuring Employee Engagement

Study after study have found engaged employees to be far more productive at work because they are able to understand why contributing to their organization is worthwhile. Engaged employees are able to find satisfaction from the success of the company.

The real impact of engaged employees is not only the productivity alone, but willingness to innovate and represent their organizations as true ambassadors of the vision and product or service provided. This builds upon define employee driven culture that will also help with the future recruitment of equally enthusiastic and engaged employees.

“A Jackson Organization study shows that companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity & assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” stock prices rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the market overall.”

—Dr. Noelle Nelson

How to Measure Employee Engagement

Learning how to measure employee engagement is the first step each company can take to improve it. Information is valuable when utilized in the right way. Conducting a number of employee surveys is one of the most common ways companies attempt to learn more about have engaged their employees are.

These surveys are a form of employee feedback used for the purpose of understanding employee engagement levels. However, annual employee engagement surveys have become as outdated as annual performance reviews. The problem with annual employee engagement surveys is that there are too far and few in between the time employees starting disengaging at work to when it starts getting reflecting in their quality of work.

Frequent employee feedback surveys or forms are becoming a faster and simpler way to efficiently measure employee engagement in the workplace. The increased frequency has the ability to gain better insights on how employees feel about their work and the company before they become disengaged from their work. In the time it takes to gain this frequent direct feedback, employees can already be presented with options to improve their experience in the workplace, voice what they feel are strengths and what they no longer enjoy working on.

The frequent employee 1-on-1 feedback process has made for annual employee engagement surveys to become obsolete as there are convenient web platforms that make it easier for managers to pose new questions and faster for employees to answer them.

At the end of the day, the faster employee engagement levels can be measured, the better it will be to make improvements and see results.

Employee Engagement Metrics

Here are the top ten measures for employee engagement. All of these factors have been incorporated into 7Geese’s feedback forms and recognition boards:

1. Feedback

Engaged employees seek feedback and coaching that can help them improve at their job and further their careers. As a leader, it is most important to be open to providing frequent feedback and conversation to keep employees from disengaging from their work.

2. Recognition

It is more than important your employees receive the recognition they deserve for their hard work. One of the top reasons for poor employee retention is lack of recognition and acknowledgement for great work. Companies that are able to recognize employees have a far better chance of engaging with employees and contribute to a substantially lower employee turnover rate.

3. Company Alignment

Knowing whether employees feel their day-to-day and personal values are aligned with the current company core values and goals is a strong reflection of how engaged employees are. This provides a more clear and meaningful direction to engage employees as employees should know how their work align, contribute and impact company goals.

4. Personal Growth 

Life encompasses far more than work and it’s important for employees to know that the organization supports their personal growth at work. People are far more motivated when they have purpose and providing the appropriate training for employees to grow professionally at work makes work all the more motivating.

5. Happiness

Employee happiness is a good metric to use when it comes to productive employees. While productive, employees may not be happy with what they’re doing. As with someone who is incredibly efficient at their job function, it may not be where their motivation lies. Seek to find new talents and grow employee happiness.

6. Satisfaction

Satisfaction varies form happiness in that it requires and environment they enjoy working in. It’s essential to be aware of whether employees are satisfied with their compensation and benefits at work. Their satisfaction reflects on how well they are recognized for the value of their work.

7. Wellness

Healthy employees reduce the rate of absenteeism and have more energy to remain focused at work. Employers play a huge role in how balanced the lifestyles of their employees are by offering more flexible hours and providing effective break times to allow for recharging.

8. Relationship with Peers

Do your employees feel part of the company and team? It’s important to understand whether or not employees are able to openly communicate and work well with peers for optimal productivity and satisfaction in the workplace.

9. Relationship with Management

“53% of people reported that they would remain with their current employers if they felt like they were more appreciated by their bosses.”

—Glassdoor Employee Appreciation Survey 2013

As the old saying goes, “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses” so having a healthy relationship with respected management is ideal to keeping employees engaged.

10. Culture Alignment

It all comes down to whether your past employees will recommend your company as the ideal place to work. Employees that live and breathe the company culture will not hesitate to recommend their place of employment to friends and family as well as represent the company culture well in the industry.

Planning an Employee Engagement Program

A lot of time can be invest into boosting employee engagement with little results to show for. Leaders have often tested what investments to make in order to gain better employee satisfaction. Much of the time employee engagement programs are designed and implemented by more senior management and leadership without the input of employees directly affected by the program.

The key takeaway is to measure employee engagement levels and design a program with their input in mind.

Taking the extra step to involve employees in the employee engagement program development process is a great way to start engaging employees in itself. This is a way to show, that as leaders, we are able to recognize the needs of employees in the workplace and value their well-being.

Quick feedback forms as discussed before is a great way to obtain frequent feedback and grow as part of a more established employee engagement program.

Here are some factors to consider when in the process of planning and establishing your employee engagement program:

Frequent Employee Feedback

Employees that receive frequent feedback will notice specific improvements to make to their day-to-day. This allows for more natural feedback conversations to occur between peers and managers and lessen the stress of quarterly or annual feedback surveys while making more immediate impacts.

Frequent Employee Recognition

Because it’s satisfying to have someone recognize the hard work we’ve put in. It is always recommended for peers and managers to give employees recognition they deserve. It’s not just about saying “Good job” once a week, but be more specific on what and why we’re singing their praises. Even if no specific employee recognition program is in place, making it a habit to recognize your employees is healthy to any employee engagement program.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

In order to ensure that employee engagement is headed in the direction of how your company culture wants to grow, have feedback processes that allow for teams or simply more than one individual employee contribute. This allows for more transparency in the feedback conversation that can transpire into a transparent company culture.

Let Data Drive Results

Go heavy on the testing and measuring for employee engagement and light on the opinions. Only ongoing feedback and employee engagement metrics will truly show how employees are doing in the long run. Start small instead of over committing to drive great results.

Take Away Annual Employee Engagement Reviews

Annual reviews are costly and time consuming for all employees involved. Formalities that go into conducting annual reviews on employee engagement can easily be replaced by frequent feedback sessions instead of waiting a whole year to see what went well and where employees could improve.

Easy Hacks to Improve Employee Engagement Today

When it comes to brainstorming employee engagement activities for your teams and departments it can keep your up all night just Googling affordable or free initiatives. The following are some simple hacks that you can consider when planning actions to further engage your employees in the workplace. Whether the ultimate goal is to retain employees, recruit for company culture or improve morale in the workplace, it’s important to consider the following factors:

Respect Your Employees and Their Time

As cliche as it sounds, employees are also humans that deserve the same amount of respect you wish to receive. So respect their time and offer flexibility in the work schedule when possible. Work to employees should be a part of their lives, not its entirety. Creating flexibility also allows for transparency when employees can’t make tight deadlines. Rather than feeling pressured to finish a project that isn’t the best quality, employees can feel comfortable asking for help from their team.

According to researchers of Georgetown University, a study showed 80% of employee participants to be happier and more satisfied overall when given flexible work options. And of those that already have flexible hours at work, 90% of the surveyed group indicate it lifted burdens off their backs and allowed for more work-life balance.

Similarly, a study conducted by Harvard University indicated that flexibility indicates trust building between employees and managers. This fosters happier, more committed and productive teams.

Allow Employees to Learn and Grow Personal Ambitions at Work

Allowing employees to grow in a direction they want to is one highly important asset to any company culture. One of our all time favourite interview questions include “On a scale of 1 to 10, how curious/odd are you?” show exactly this. Keeping in mind there shouldn’t be a right answer to the question but more of an opportunity to capture the ambitions of a potential candidate rather than restricting answers.

When employees are made aware their work helps them work towards their personal goals, this are far less likely to disengage as it is no longer just work for a paycheque.

Help Employees Understand the Purpose of the Company

Start with helping employees understand why the company does what it does. It’s not only difficult for employees to align their own work objectives with the company vision if they aren’t aware of it, it’s also difficult for them to gain passion when they see no correlation between what they’re doing and how it contributes.

For more information on how leaders can communicate their “Why”, see Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the concept known as “The Golden Circle”.

Make Commitments to Give Back

As an organization, providing value to customers and the community alike is an easy ship for employees to jump on and share the company’s vision. Before committing to working for a company, many studies have found jobseekers to look for employers that display strong commitments to philanthropy as part of their corporate strategy–resulting in higher employee retention.

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