What Is Employee Engagement, and Why Is It Important?

From retention and referrals to motivation and productivity, employee engagement can be a game-changer. That’s why more and more organizations are investing their time and resources into it. Top Workplaces is here to explain what employee engagement is, the right way to measure it, and how to make improvements. 

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is how strongly employees feel connected to their work and their employer. Although many people use terms such as employee engagement and employee satisfaction or job satisfaction interchangeably, employee engagement is broader than employee satisfaction. That’s because satisfaction is primarily about how happy the employee is in their role at the company. Employee engagement also considers the motivation, commitment, and connection employees have to their role and the organization.

Engaged employees and disengaged employees differ in many ways, from their demeanor and work output to their connection to their jobs, team, and the company as a whole. Engaged employees have a positive attitude towards the organization and play a large role in a company’s overall employee satisfaction and employee retention.

On the other hand, disengaged employees are a significant factor in higher employee turnover, lower productivity, and in worst-case scenarios — a negative company reputation that hurts its employer brand.

Why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement is essential for a variety of reasons. Generally, employee engagement drives performance and retention. When employees are engaged, they want to stay with the company and give their best every day to help achieve company goals. They’re also willing to recommend and refer others to your organization. A lack of engagement can be one of the reasons why good employees leave or choose to “quiet quit.”

This focus on driving success for the organization can also help drive financial growth. Top Workplaces reach employee engagement levels that are more than double those found in average organizations. Research conducted by Irrational Capital and Energage reveals — for the first time — a direct link between corporate culture and business performance. This study shows Top Workplaces organizations outperformed the market when the COVID pandemic first hit and now during the recovery.

Employee engagement for employees

For employees, employee engagement is important because it gives them a sense of connection and purpose that drives their work. As long as employee engagement is built and nurtured at the individual and company levels, employees can thrive and feel passionate about their contribution to the company’s mission. When employees are not engaged, they feel undervalued and underappreciated. And that’s when they often look for a better opportunity at a different organization.

Employee engagement for employers
For employers, employee engagement is crucial because it builds passionate company advocates who do their best work to help achieve the organization’s goals and mission. It’s also one of the effective company reputation management strategies. When companies make business decisions that align with their mission, vision, and values, employees are engaged. They’re happy to come to work, they want to stay put, and they give their best each day. But when employees lack that sense of connection, the company runs the risk of poor performance — and even a bad reputation.

Good companies understand what employee engagement looks like and when it’s time to make a change.

How to measure employee engagement

The best way to measure employee engagement is by leveraging the right employee metrics at the right time. This information is critical to getting accurate, actionable insights to drive growth and change.

Top Workplaces, the program that offers regional and national employer recognition, utilizes a credible employee engagement survey to measure the workplace experience. It captures feedback on factors such as alignment and connection that organizations can translate into business intelligence to make people-informed decisions. Knowing where you stand according to the metrics of what makes a great workplace helps you to make positive changes.

Leveraging a survey that has been statistically validated and benchmarked against other organizations is critical to ensuring that you know you’re starting with a trustworthy foundation. For example, Top Workplaces has surveyed over 27 million employees nationwide. The survey data is analyzed against millions of data points to see how your company stacks up against others in your industry. Repeating the same survey year after year helps you understand your progress and see how change efforts have impacted your organization.

Confidential third-party engagement surveys enable you to collect and analyze candid responses at the individual and team levels throughout the organization. With this data, you can identify responses compared to others in the same role or demographics, such as tenure and role type. Leveraging this information at the granular level allows you to identify groups, teams, or departments with higher or lower-than-average responses to learn from them, help them grow, and reduce employee turnover.

Related: How to Interpret and Analyze Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement drivers

Many individual, manager, and leadership-driven themes drive employee engagement. Employee retention and engagement strategies become more impactful when companies understand the workplace experience themes behind engagement and their many interconnections. 

General engagement drivers

The following statements, which can be measured and benchmarked across all industries, take a pulse on general engagement by measuring employee motivation, loyalty, and referral:

  • This company motivates me to give my very best at work.
  • I have considered searching for a better job in the past month.
  • I highly recommend working at this company.

Growth and development drivers

Themes based on employee growth and development also impact engagement. These statements measure employees’ opinions about career potential, their employer’s commitment to formal training, and general growth enablement:

  • My manager helps me learn and grow.
  • This company enables me to work at my full potential.
  • I get the formal training I want for my career.

Alignment and communication drivers

These statements measure alignment by asking about direction, values, and meaningfulness:

  • This company is going in the right direction.
  • This company operates by strong values. 
  • My job makes me feel like I’m a part of something meaningful.

Appreciation and inclusion drivers

Because respect and support are crucial for engagement, the Top Workplaces survey uses these statements to get a pulse on employee appreciation and inclusion:

  • I feel genuinely appreciated at this company.
  • My manager cares about my concerns. 
  • This company encourages different points of view. 

Related: 20 Key Employee Engagement and How Employee Engagement Drives Growth

How to improve employee engagement

With intentional effort and leadership support, it is possible to impact employee engagement positively. Here are a few guidelines to follow.

Ensuring you prioritize transparent communication throughout the organization helps employees understand how decisions are made and how their contribution fits into the overall organizational strategy. Top Workplaces winners learn how to improve employee engagement by soliciting feedback from their employees and implementing that feedback across the organization.

There has been a significant shift toward remote work in recent years. While employees are working remotely, communication is essential to feel involved with the organization. Fostering remote employee engagement helps ensure you can identify concerns before becoming larger issues and nurturing relationships throughout the organization. It’s also one of the best practices for flexible workplaces.

HR teams play a major role in ensuring that employee engagement is a priority. HR teams should help disseminate information to employees in tandem with the management, discuss their value with each member of the group, how their role contributes to the organization beginning when they are hired, and how any organizational shifts affect that. Ensuring that employees understand their contribution helps keep them engaged within their role. HR is vital in disseminating employee engagement surveys, communicating their results, and creating an employee engagement strategy to improve company culture.

To improve employee engagement, you should go directly to the source: your employees. Employee engagement survey insights from the Top Workplaces survey have helped over 70,000 organizations receive feedback to help inform decisions that improve employee retention, boost employee engagement, and drive business outcomes.

Become an Employee Engagement Specialist

The people science experts at Top Workplaces created the Employee Engagement Essentials Certification to help teams and individuals learn about employee engagement. Go here to learn about the certification process and its many benefits for you and your organization.

If your company believes in the power of a people-first culture that prioritizes employee engagement, get recognized for it! Top Workplaces is the nation’s leading employer recognition program, offering awards in 60+ regional markets plus national honors for culture and industry excellence. To participate, begin by nominating your organization below.

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