Ask a hundred HR professionals “what is employee engagement?” and you’ll get a hundred different answers.
But while it’s often misunderstood, employee engagement is essential to your organisation’s success.
Engaged employees enjoy their work more, get more done, and stick around for longer.
And to make sure your team is as engaged as possible, you need to know exactly what employee engagement is—and what you need to focus on to improve it.
Employee engagement definition
It’s not easy to define employee engagement.
So let’s start with what it isn’t.
Employee engagement isn’t job satisfaction. You can enjoy your work, but have your eyes on the door because you know moving jobs is the fastest way to a pay rise.
Employee engagement isn’t being friends with the people on your team. You might really get along with the people you work with, but simply go through the motions with your actual work.
Employee engagement isn’t free snacks, flexible working, or unlimited holidays. Your team is definitely going to appreciate these perks, but they’re not going to transform them into engaged employees on their own.
Employee engagement is all of these things—and more. It’s not just enjoying your work, or getting along with your teammates, or feeling looked after by your employer.
So, with that in mind, you can define employee engagement as a combination of:
- Job satisfaction,
- Motivation to perform,
- A sense of belonging,
- Intent to stay,
- And an emotional commitment to organisational goals.
What that really means...
Here’s a closer look at each of the five keys of employee engagement so you can see how they all fit together:
First things first: if an employee doesn’t enjoy their work, they’re never going to be engaged.
Instead of going the extra mile to do a great job, they’ll do just enough to collect their paycheque at the end of each month. Instead of pitching new ideas to their team, they’ll keep their head down so they don’t cause a stir (and create more work for themselves). Instead of looking forward to new projects, they’ll quietly dread them and wonder if they’re up for the task.
What employees with job satisfaction might say:
- “I enjoy the work I do on a daily basis.”
- “My job is interesting and challenging.”
- “I get to use my strengths at work.”
What employees without job satisfaction might say:
- “I don’t like the work I do.”
- “I’m desperate for 5pm to roll around.”
- “I don’t think I’m very good at what I do.”
Motivation to perform
Rising to the challenge of a difficult project. Playing your part in making an ambitious goal happen. The satisfaction of a job well done.
Motivation to perform comes in all shapes and sizes. But the end result is the same: your employees bringing their A-game to work every day rather than just going through the motions until the clock strikes 5pm.
What employees with motivation to perform might say:
- “I want to do a good job of this”
- “My opinions count at work.”
- “It’s recognised when I do a good job or go the extra mile”
What employees without motivation to perform might say:
- “Who cares? I get paid the same at the end of the month either way.”
- “What’s the point in speaking up? I’ll only get ignored.”
- “I can’t remember the last time I was praised at work.”
A sense of belonging
Us humans are social creatures. We’re hardwired to work together as a group to make things happen. As a result, we crave a sense of belonging in every area of our lives – and work is no exception.
If your employees don’t feel like a respected member of a team that has their back, they’ll never be truly engaged.
What employees with a sense of belonging might say:
- “I really get along with the people I work with.”
- “We all work well as a team.”
- “Everyone I work with wants to see me succeed.”
What employees without a sense of belonging might say:
- “I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with some of the people I work with.”
- “Nothing ever gets done because we’re always pulling in different directions.”
- “There’s so much office politics.”
Intent to stay
An engaged employee has hitched their wagon to your horse for the long-haul. They think your organisation is going somewhere, and they can see how their career is going to grow with it. They’d only think about leaving for an opportunity they couldn’t say no to.
What employees with intent to stay might say:
- “There are plenty of opportunities to learn new skills and loads of room to grow here.”
- “The directors really know what they’re doing.”
- “We’re going from strength to strength – and I want to be along for the ride.”
What employees without intent to stay might say:
- “I’ve hit a glass ceiling here.”
- “The directors haven’t got a clue.”
- “I need to get out of here before things start going south, or this is going to look bad on my CV.”
Emotional commitment to your organisation’s goals
Sure, you might not be saving lives. But an engaged employee truly believes that your organisation makes a difference in your clients’ or customers’ lives, no matter how small. And they’re committed to doing their part to make sure you continue making that difference.
What employees with an emotional commitment to your organisation’s goals might say:
- “We make a difference around here – even if we aren’t saving lives.”
- “I care about what we do and want to see us succeed.”
- “I can see how the work I do helps us succeed.”
What employees without an emotional commitment to your organisation’s goals might say:
- “Would anyone even notice if none of us turned up for work tomorrow?”
- “What exactly is it that we do?”
- “It’s not like what I do makes a difference around here.”
Why is employee engagement so important?
Ticking all five employee engagement boxes isn’t easy. In fact, research by Aon Hewitt shows a massive 54% of employees are passive or actively disengaged – and just 10% are highly engaged.
But here are a few research-backed reasons you should make improving employee engagement a priority:
Engaged employees get more done. Teams with higher engagement scores are 21% more productive, according to research by Gallup. Each disengaged employee, on the other hand, costs your organisation up to £4,467 a year in low productivity according to Totaljobs – a cost that quickly adds up.
Engaged employees generate more revenue – 43% more than disengaged ones, according to Hay Group. A study by Gallup even revealed that organisations with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by massive 147% in earnings per share.
Engaged employees stick around for longer. They’re 4x less likely to leave an organisation than their disengaged teammates, according to the Corporate Leadership Council. Since research by Oxford Economics shows the average cost of replacing an employee on a £25,000 salary is £30,614, that has a huge impact on your bottom line.
Engaged employees provide first-class customer service. Organisations with top quartile engagement scores average 12% higher customer advocacy according to Engage for Success.
In short, engaged employees outperform their disengaged teammates across every metric that researchers have thought to measure.
Which means it’s fair to say that your organization’s success relies on how engaged your employees are.
Build a winning case for employee engagement
100 stats, facts and figures to persuade and inspire your decision-makers.
How to boost employee engagement across your organisation
Now you know what the five keys to employee engagement are, you can focus all your efforts on exactly what’s going to get your employees most engaged.
Here’s how to launch an employee engagement strategy across your organisation that pulls all the right levers:
The first step is to find out where you’re starting from – and where you’re falling short. And measuring employee engagement with a carefully crafted employee engagement survey is the only way to find out what your team feels is missing from their work lives.
Of course, employee engagement isn’t something you can “set and forget”. Once you’ve launched an employee engagement strategy based on the feedback you got from your employee survey, it’s important to track what difference it makes.
Grab your copy of the seven survey questions proven to track employee engagement below to periodically take the pulse of your employee engagement levels and pinpoint exactly where you need to tweak your approach.
7 Survey Questions Proven to Track Employee Engagement
Inside this guide, you’ll find 7 scale survey questions that are proven employee engagement trackers; making them awesome core questions for surveying.