What is Employee Engagement and Why it is Important

What is Employee Engagement?  SHRM defines it as the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to an organization and that it is the lifecycle employees experience physically, emotionally, psychologically, and behaviorally with their organization.

Why is Employee Engagement Important?  When engaged employees feel safe and supported they behave in ways that are more productive for the organization.  Employee engagement affects an organization’s ability to attract quality talent, and retain, motivate, and develop existing employees.  It has a direct correlation with customer satisfaction and an organization’s ability to promote its mission, strategic goals, and overall performance and success.

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.  – Stephen Covey

It has always been a business strategy and opportunity to look at the state of the organization’s culture and employee engagement but at the current time, it is critical. The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Remote Work, Return to Work, Burnout, The Great Resignation, and Quiet Quitting have become common terms and issues related to employee engagement.  Since the pandemic, remote and in-person employees, managers, and HR staff have reported “Zoom fatigue” and feeling exhausted and stressed after daily virtual meetings.  A Gallup survey in 2021, reported 34% of full and part[-time employees felt engaged an 16% said they were actively disengaged.   Research from Zenefits showed 63.3% of companies surveyed find it harder to retain employees than to hire them.  In 2020, those numbers were similar with 36% feeling engaged and 14% feeling disengaged.  These are the lowest numbers reported from the previous ten years.  Many organizations are struggling in the current workplace environment and are challenging leadership, management, and HR teams to consider better strategies for long-term employee engagement.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report identified “12 Elements of Employee Engagement” that is being called the “Q12.”  The Q12 is a list of the most important questions to ask employees and managers to gauge how staff are feeling and what motivates them.  The Q12 are important but not novel to questions organizations have asked in previous culture and employee satisfaction surveys.  The information obtained from employee’s responses to these questions are key in identifying valuable insights to that will assist the organization to determine what plans and programs should be implemented to improve employee engagement and overall culture.

Employee surveys are an excellent tool for gaining insight.  HR Teams and leadership within your organization should consider if now is the right time to for an employee engagement survey.  Conducting employee surveys correctly takes planning, careful execution, and follow-up.  Below are some simple rules to follow before implementing an employee engagement/culture survey in your workplace:

  • Don’t do a survey unless you are serious about listening to your employees, communicating the results, and implementing a plan to improve employee engagement and culture.
  • Collaborate with employees to identify areas needing improvement. This process can be helpful to promote trust, teamwork,  and that the organization and leaders care about employee’s opinions.
  • Consider using an outside vendor to assist with development and to conduct the survey. This gives your employees the confidence that the survey and their results are confidential. Often employees don’t trust the process and therefore will not give honest answers to survey questions.
  • Once you have the survey results, work with leaders and managers to develop a plan and “road map” to address the key issues within your organization. Discuss engagement ideas that can be implemented based on the results and available budget.
  • Communicate results in a timely manner and provide a road map to address concerns. Misinterpreting the results or failing to act in response to the feedback can have a devastating effect on employee morale.
  • Managers set the tone for employee behavior and have the best opportunity to retain and mentor employees to be more engaged. Management training is also critical for leadership and effective communication with employees.

Employee Engagement Ideas to Implement

Purpose

  • Ensure employees know what is expected of them and that they understand how they fit into the organization’s mission and strategic plans.
  • Employees need to know and understand the company’s purpose, mission, vision, and values. Engaged employees want to believe in the company’s mission and feel that their job is important.

Communication, Feedback, Recognition/Appreciation, and Development

  • Prioritize providing constructive feedback on a regular basis and always show respect. Formal and informal check-in meetings are an opportunity for managers to discuss employee’s performance and providing coaching. Holding employees and teams accountable helps create trust, teamwork, and standards for excellence.  Managers should encourage employees to speak up and participate and ensure they know they are listened to and their opinions matter.
  • Employees need to feel respected, valued, and supported on a personal and professional level. The most successful managers know their employees as individuals and encourage employees to do their best at work each day.  Managers who know their employees personally and their talents can have a positive impact to the employee’s and the organization’s success.
  • Employee recognition and appreciation on a regular basis from managers and leadership has positive outcome in employee happiness and engagement, reduction in absenteeism and turnover, and better customer satisfaction.
  • Support employee’s career development and opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Provide employees with the right tools and equipment needed to do their job.

Employee Wellbeing

  • Offer flexible schedules. Hybrid / Remote work continue to be high on the list for employees.  However, burnout (also known as physical and mental exhaustion) is a common problem due to long hours, lack of control over their job, poor communication with management leaving employees feeling undervalued.
  • Provide benefit packages that include health, childcare, and family-friendly policies
  • Encourage employees to utilize EAPs (employee assistance programs) for assistance with emotional and financial wellbeing, and work-life balance.
  • Promote wellness programs and fun challenges that in-person and remote employees can participate. Healthy competition among individuals and teams is a great motivator.
  • “Mindful hours” when no meetings may be scheduled, and employees are encouraged to find work-life balance (meet up with a co-worker and walk around the park or some physical/social opportunity).
  • Require employees to take regular break and lunch breaks.
  • Coordinate social gatherings and volunteer opportunities to promote camaraderie, team building and connections outside of work. Provides opportunities to promote inclusivity and diversity.

ILG is committed to helping organizations implement engagement programs that drive real results and are happy to discuss issues and options.

Resources:

SHRM:

Zenefits:

Gallup: