We’ve all heard the phrase “employee engagement.” It’s a common term that’s often linked to a multitude of business benefits, including better productivity, profitability, lower turnover, and higher employee satisfaction rates. Often cited as a cure for many personnel challenges, it’s a slippery term to pin down. What exactly is the definition of employee engagement? How is it used? How can we measure it?
These questions are important because, according to Gallup, employee engagement has remained stagnant in the United States – hovering around 30% – for the past five years. As long as engagement is low, both individuals and businesses suffer – they are less productive and successful than they otherwise might be.
In order to improve employee engagement, we must first define the term. It’s true that there is no hard and fast, universally-accepted statement. Instead, businesses and executives must look at their organization and ask themselves: What is our definition of employee engagement? What would a thriving workplace culture look like to us? For one company, that may mean lower turnover in certain departments. For another, employee engagement may translate to higher customer service. It’s a term and metric that is intrinsically tied to company values and objectives.
There are accepted truths to keep in mind. Members of a workforce who are empowered, balanced and focused on personal wellbeing will be better equipped to do their jobs with focus and clarity, day after day. Thus, just as employee engagement is intrinsically linked to individual company cultures, it is also essential to employee wellbeing.
Once you’ve defined employee engagement for your organization, you must measure it. There are many ways to set a benchmark engagement.
Surveys & Questionnaires
Many organizations use employee engagement surveys to gain insight. These tools are qualitative, often asking employees to answer a brief set of questions about their job satisfaction and daily motivation. The results provide a valuable snapshot of engagement at a given time. Infrequent employee engagement surveys cannot be relied upon to provide useful insight. Employee engagement is dynamic, and must be measured frequently in order to gain a full picture. The results can inform planning and facilitate program implementation and maintenance.
Often you can get a feel for employee engagement from the enrollment numbers in company programs, resources and benefits. For example, there is a link between internal job referrals and employee engagement – the happier people are at their job, the more likely they are to refer friends to work with them. The number of people using their workplace wellbeing program is another key indicator of employee engagement. When employees are engaged with their health and personal goals, they’re more likely to be engaged at work, as well.
There is a direct relationship between individual productivity and employee engagement – the more an individual is producing, the more likely this employee is to be engaged at work. On the flip side, a disengaged employee is likely to be unproductive, showing frequent absenteeism and presenteeism, reporting to work while ill or injured.
The most powerful way to measure employee engagement is to use all three suggested strategies in tandem. This will give the most well-rounded picture of the prevailing culture and overall engagement at your organization.
Now that you’ve defined employee engagement and set a benchmark, it’s time to work on improving it. The best employee engagement activities will be tied to the output you’re hoping to enjoy. For example, if you decided that high employee engagement would influence customer service, you should offer programs that help employees feel energized and able to deal positively with clients. Likewise, if you’re seeking to decrease turnover, offer programs and platforms that empower individuals to learn new skills, creatively approach problems, and gain leadership skills.
While specific employee engagement ideas and strategies will be unique to each company’s culture and objectives, there is one pathway that works across industries, countries, and companies of all sizes: employee wellbeing. Perhaps the most powerful way to improve and increase employee engagement is through sophisticated, strategic workplace wellbeing programs that employees may use to address their personal health challenges and reach their individual wellbeing goals. Just as each company must define employee engagement for themselves, each employee has a personal vision of wellbeing. For that reason, the best, most engaging programs are those that can be customized and tailored to meet each individual’s needs.
With a helpful definition, strategies, and methods of measurement, you’re equipped to begin improving employee engagement at your organization. Just remember, employee engagement is a truly strategic endeavor. You may need to try several employee engagement ideas and watch as they play out over several months – or even years – before you hit on a winning strategy. Here are some best practices to guide your employee engagement strategy: