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Everything You Need To Know About Employee Engagement

Improving employee engagement should be a top priority for any company. Read this guide to learn how to make employees more engaged and productive.

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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement represents the level of commitment your employees have towards the organization. This can include positive connections they have with their colleagues, the values of the company, and their job.

Engagement is a subjective concept. Companies may look at different metrics to qualitatively and quantitatively measure how engaged their employees are. Some may choose to use surveys. Others may prefer metrics such as attrition, absenteeism, and more.

How you define and measure engagement is up to you and depends on your company’s structure, goals, and values. 

It’s important, however, to not confuse it with employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction usually depends on things like compensation and paid time off, whereas engagement doesn't necessarily—higher pay doesn’t always mean a more engaged person.

It’s important to look at the right metrics and to ask the right questions in your employee engagement surveys

Look at things like:

  • How employees feel about their career opportunities

  • Whether employees have everything they need to do their job or not

  • If employees find it easy to communicate with the leadership

What is an employee engagement strategy?

If you want strong employee engagement, you’ll need to create a strategy. This strategy should include any processes or policies that will help your employees feel more connected to your organization.

To create an employee engagement strategy that works for your company, you’ll need to select the metrics you want to track, your goals, and your budget.

Having a strategy will not only boost engagement, but also help you become more aware of it, prioritize it, ‌and document the process.

Why employee engagement is key to company success

Focusing on employee engagement has a wide array of benefits, such as:

  • Boost performance and productivity

  • Reduce voluntary turnover rates

  • Lead to more effective talent acquisition

It can also help create a working environment where people feel valued. Employee engagement data can be used to improve overall business performance, especially when used with other critical metrics.

For instance, HR can use this data to identify any red flags before they become serious issues. When you find such a red flag, drill deep to find its root cause. Ask questions like:

  • Why is engagement not optimal? 

  • Are people feeling disconnected from the business? 

  • Could you rethink your approach to rewards?

  • Do they feel like they're growing?

  • Do they have enough learning and development opportunities?

Looking at both engagement data and other business metrics will give you a unique view of what’s going on in your company that you can then use to make better decisions and improve performance.

Pros of employee engagement

There are many pros to having engaged employees. Let’s take a look at the most important ones. 

Increased productivity

Employee engagement improves productivity. When employees feel valued and know they have real opportunities to grow and develop, they perform better. Likewise, a team where people feel connected to one another, and where they can easily communicate with the leaders, will get better results.

Lower attrition rates

Replacing employees is a costly process. It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. Not to mention it can lower performance.

The good news: engaged employees are more likely to stay with the company for a long time. If they feel valued and know their voice is heard, they’ll be less likely to seek other opportunities.

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Lower absenteeism rates

Absenteeism can have multiple causes, and lack of engagement is one of them. This is an issue that can have a drastic impact on the company. Think lower productivity, unhappy customers, and even loss of revenue.

Plus, high absenteeism rates often go hand in hand with high voluntary turnover. It makes sense that you’d want to do everything in your power to avoid these issues.

Engaged employees have lower absenteeism rates. When people feel great about their work environment, they’re less likely to skip work.

Are there any cons to employee engagement?

Employee engagement in and of itself doesn’t have disadvantages. The problems may come if the strategy isn’t implemented. 

For instance, you may rely too much on one metric (or even the wrong metric). While engagement can boost performance and reduce attrition, that’s not always a guarantee. 

Productivity can be influenced by many factors, so relying only on engagement to help you solve all your problems can set you up for failure.

You should also be aware that sometimes engagement strategies take time. ROI may not be instant. In fact, it could take months before you see tangible results. 

That doesn’t mean it’s not something worth investing in. But it means you need to set correct goals and expectations before focusing on engagement.

How to create an employee engagement strategy that works

To create an employee engagement strategy that works for your company, there are a few steps you should take.

1. Surveys

The best place to start your work is by establishing a benchmark. Surveys are a great way to do this. The results will give you a preliminary idea of how your employees are currently feeling and how engaged they are. 

You may already see some areas where you could make improvements. But you may also spot strengths. Make note of all these things as they’ll help you in building your engagement strategy.

Use the metrics and data collected during these surveys as your baseline for improvement. As you roll out engagement initiatives, track your key metrics relative to that benchmark to determine if you are improving.

2. Analyze metrics

Surveys can only tell you so much. That’s why in the next phase you should start analyzing various metrics

For instance, look at absenteeism numbers, or turnover rates. Can you see any areas that could use some improvement? Write them down, but don’t hurry into making hasty decisions yet.

3.  Look at the context

Throughout the entire process, you should also look at the wider context. Say, for instance, that you find a troubling high absenteeism rate. Is it truly engagement that’s causing the problem? Or is it dissatisfaction with another area of the job or the company? 

In this example, it could even mean that you aren’t providing enough vacation or personal days off, resulting in spikes in sick day usage.

Avoid working with tunnel vision. Employee engagement can help solve many issues, but what if that’s not the root cause?

4. Brainstorm tactics and solutions

By now, you should know what’s working, and what isn’t. Now it’s time to think of ways to improve engagement. Be realistic and don’t forget about the budget. 

Engagement is a long-term strategy, something you constantly work on, improving, and making sure it works the way you want it to. 

Track your core metrics versus your original benchmark to objectively measure your progress and opportunities for improvement.

5. Document the process

Documenting your process of building an employee engagement strategy can help you on your way to success. It’s an easy way to present and analyze results.

It also helps you keep track of changes and the progress you make along the way.

4 examples of employee engagement strategies that work

By now, you should have a good idea of what employee engagement is, and why it matters. Now, let’s take a look at a few examples of engagement strategies.

Offer learning and development opportunities

Make it a goal to invest in your employees’ careers. A 2021 report showed that 61% of employees say learning and development opportunities are an important reason to stay at their current job.

Many companies invest in development during the onboarding phase but often forget about it after that. Making sure employees are constantly learning new skills will not only boost their engagement but will also help them be more productive. It’s an investment, but the ROI will be worth it.

61% of employees say learning and development opportunities are an important reason to stay at their current job

Create a merit reward system

Employees who do a good job deserve recognition. A merit increase program that rewards performance is a great step. It increases both engagement and satisfaction.

When employees work hard and get good results but nobody notices, they become demotivated and disengaged. 

But when they know their hard work is noticed, they’ll have every reason to keep working hard and engaging with their peers.

Create a diverse and inclusive environment

Diverse teams are more effective and even more engaged. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion means you’re working on creating a work environment where everyone has equal opportunities, nobody feels left out, and everyone knows their hard work matters. 

Such a culture will pay off, as people feel motivated to do their best work at all times.

Don’t forget about fun activities

Regular fun activities are great for relaxing and promoting a healthy work environment. They’re also great for helping people get to know one another better and become more engaged.

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How to use people analytics boost employee engagement

Employee engagement is an amazing tactic to boost business performance. People analytics can give you a better view of various issues that can impact, or be impacted by, employee engagement. Analyze how employees collaborate, understand who is at risk of employee burnout, and identify top performers and where employees can grow their career in the business.

One way to get started is by looking at relevant HR metrics. Absenteeism, for instance, can signal engagement issues in the workforce. Take a look at which employees have high absenteeism. If you find a worrying trend, dig deeper to find potential causes by asking questions like:

  • When did the absenteeism pattern start?

  • Is this taking place in one department, or multiple business units?

  • Are the absent employees high performers?

  • How long have they been with the company?

Retention and turnover are two key metrics to look at. Which employees are staying and which are leaving? Did voluntary turnover rates change over the past few months?

Employee engagement is not something that can be achieved overnight. It’s a long-term effort, but one that will bring amazing results, helping you reach your business goals.

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