Employee engagement: the buzzword is everywhere, but can anyone really agree on what it means? How do you measure it? And how can you build an effective strategy that works in your unique company culture?
Employee engagement is tricky to define because it represents different things to different people. Some companies describe engagement as an emotional commitment to the company that includes both loyalty and dedication to achieving goals. Others define engagement in terms of productivity.
The truth is that both viewpoints are right. Engagement expert and Chief Scientific officer at Engage2Excel Jack Wiley, Ph.D. defines it this way: “Employee engagement is the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.”
Simply put, engaged employees have the internal motivation and drive to be productive contributors.
Why Is Your Engagement Strategy So Important?
Engaged employees have become the purple squirrels of today’s workforce. That’s not surprising, considering that companies with high levels of engagement report higher profits, higher overall business outcomes and lower turnover.
In other words, engaged employees are good for business. Companies with highly engaged employees enjoy:
- 33% higher profits
- 51% lower voluntary turnover
- 5X higher performance-related business outcomes
That’s why putting the right engagement strategy in place is among the top business priorities for many executives. You’ll know your strategy is effective when you see measurable business results.
But what does that strategy look like on the ground level?
What Are the Key Drivers of Employee Engagement?
To build an engagement strategy that makes a measurable impact on your business outcomes, start by understanding what matters most to employees. Our research indicates four key drivers of engagement:
1. Trust and Confidence in Leadership: Effective leaders know how to communicate their vision in a way that inspires confidence in others. They also demonstrate personal commitment to the organizational values they promote. Employees want to work for companies that value their contributions, and that means leaders should emphasize transparency, purpose and investment in people. Intentional listening is also essential to building trust. Taking the time to thoughtfully respond to employee feedback, for example, demonstrates that leaders value the ideas and experiences of their team members.
2. Respect and Appreciation from Managers: Interactions with managers directly influence how employees feel about their experiences at work. As the saying goes, people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. Successful managers know how to create jobs that people love by supporting team members with clear goals, mentoring, recognition and a collaborative team environment.
3. Meaningful, Challenging, and Satisfying Work: The third engagement driver rests on a manager’s ability to identify the individual strengths of employees and provide opportunities for them to apply those strengths in meaningful ways. When employees do work that utilizes their strengths, they are more likely to go the extra mile by applying discretionary effort to reach goals. Effective managers also give their team members the autonomy to think and create without micromanaging, while still providing oversight to keep projects moving in the right direction.
4. Career Development, Growth, and Learning Opportunities: Career advancement is the second most commonly cited reason people change jobs. If your employees don’t see a path for advancement within your company, they will often seek out those opportunities somewhere else. The takeaway for engagement is that employees want to grow. They will remain loyal to employers who support them in their development and career goals.
As you can see in these four drivers, engagement relies heavily on leadership both at the management level and the executive level. Strong engagement strategies emphasize vision, communication, recognition of employee contributions, feedback, leadership transparency and a culture of respect. Educating managers about their role in each of these elements is a great first step toward creating a highly engaged workforce.