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What Is Employee Engagement, Indeed? The 6th Answer Will Surprise You!

Indhuja Lal

9 min read

When Samsung came along with Galaxy Note 7, their employees warned the company of risks in cramming too many elements into an aggregate design. The company turned a blind eye on the warnings and introduced the product. Soon the phones started exploding and burning within a few days. Samsung had to go through a massive recall of Galaxy Note 7. The company obviously experienced huge loss and to worsen the scenario, the internet was filled with trolls and memes about the exploding phones. From former president Barack Obama to its own competitor Lenovo, everyone trolled Samsung.

Would you like an example of how employee engagement has helped a company? Douglas Conant took over as the CEO of Campbell’s soup in 2011 and called it a “bad” company. 62% of the managers in the company identified themselves as not very engaged employees, while the market share of the company was draining out.

In 2009, only 3% of the managers identified themselves as disengaged, while 68% said they were actively engaged employees.

How did that happen?

He committed himself to the employees. He improved the physical premises by having the barbed wire removed. He then focused on enhancing manager communications. He also tried to connect with them individually and instituted programs to congratulate individual success. From thank you notes to dining with them, Campbell did all that he can to connect with them.

It was all about cultivating a culture of engagement. It was not the hockey or expensive additions that finally did the trick.

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.

Employment engagement is the hot new buzzword in the market and no two people agree on the same definition, you’ll find.  Having lost all hope on humanity for an answer, and you might ask Google the same question.

There, you would be swarmed with definitions, explanations and employee engagement ideas that you want to steal instantly. You would be closing the web browser getting even more confused.

So, what is employee engagement?

Organizations around the world have recognized employee engagement as a crucial factor and are striving to achieve it. But mostly it ends up like shooting blind. From all the definitions you have come across, you might have picked up a few keywords and has formulated your own definition for what is employee engagement. The keywords would be employee satisfaction, enthusiasm, better work environment, emotional connection, bonuses, healthcare policies etc. You have done everything you can to keep your employees happy. You moved to an awesomely designed office, you added 10 more items in the cafeteria, you have been giving appraisals, bonuses, insurance etc. Still, you are losing employees. Losing employees hurts more than losing customers. You have now completely lost your hopes on this power of employee engagement that everybody is talking about.

Employee engagement is essentially an emotional state. It is about how well your employees are connected to your company emotionally and nope, you cannot achieve it by giving bonuses or spacious worktable. Does that mean you don’t have to? No!

There are always companies that are ready to pay your employees more and to offer cool offices. It is the emotional quotient they have developed towards your company and how aligned their individual goals are with your organization’s goal that matters.

If you haven’t identified root causes for your employees leaving you or not contributing enough, the price that you pay in the end would be too devastating. Giving bonuses doesn’t make the employee who is fed up of micromanaging stay. There is no one solution that fits all answer for what is employee engagement. If in one company it was crammed workload in another it could be a nosy manager whereas in the next it could be less pay.

There are stories of companies that have had to face fire because they failed to connect with their employees. Your employees know your company inside out. Only when you reciprocate the trust and confidence as your employees do in you, the bridge is complete. You cannot expect to be condescending all the time and then complain that your employees are not creatively active enough. Wanna check out some amazing employee engagement activities?

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel.”

You have been hearing the term ‘engagement’ or ‘engaging’ so often, and I am sure you know what that means. Your employee is motivated to finish the work on time, he gives valuable input every day, he is on time and actively participates in the meeting and has nothing but positive to say.

Is that the whole answer for what is employee engagement? Is that all what engagement comprises of?


This also means the computer engineer does overtime without being asked to, the accountant picks up trash from the floor even when there is nobody to see. Engaged employees lead to better revenue and business outcomes. A research conducted by Towers Perrin claims that companies with engaged workers are enjoying 6% higher net profit margins. While another research says that companies with engaged employees have five times higher shareholder returns over five years.

Let’s now move on to the areas which actually aids and abets the engagement of employees in your business. 

1. Communication With Heart And Soul

The emotional element inherent to all communications that happen in the office space is often overlooked by the HR and communication professionals. In fact, these communications have a direct impact on employee engagement. When an employee is given proper and positive communication, they would definitely feel like they are looped in and is included. This emotional element in those communications can influence our basic human need to feel valued.

Good communication establishes a link between executives and their employees, managers and their direct reports. An effective communication strategy promises a reliable and legitimate relationship between the employees. This would help you to achieve the goals of your organization with solidarity.

If you think having such a status is quite natural, you need to think twice. A well-established communication neither grows overnight nor does it have any shortcuts. It takes experienced planning and strategic execution to get it done.

You cannot smother your employees with too much communication too. You should be able to balance it to the right amount or you will ruin it completely.

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.”

So how do you know when to stop?

Well, that depends on the size and the type of the organization.

For company-wide communications, the recommended frequency is once a week, though once a month could also yield somewhat similar information. Quality communications that are frequent demands time and resource. But keep in mind that not all piece of communication requires to be overly produced. Employee engagement surveys can go a long way in this regard. Sometimes, just a well-written email from the CEO to the entire company now and then could produce a very positive impact on employee engagement.

2. Caring About Employee Health And Fitness

A research conducted shows that 62% of engaged employees claim their work has only positive effects on their physical health. That number drops to 22% amongst the employees who are actively disengaged.

The health campaigns and wellness campaigns play a very crucial role when it comes to building an emotional connection between employers and employees. Especially when 54% of disengaged respondents say their work affects their health negatively,51% feels that it affects their well-being too.

Likewise, 54% of self-assessed disengaged respondents say their work has a negative effect on their health, while 51% see a negative effect on their well-being. Caring about your employees are no longer just a perk or a nice gesture, it has also some business value attached to all the employee health and welfare initiatives.

You would be amazed to know that the new Harvard Business Review reveals that on average, employers who had invested in health and wellness initiatives for their employees measured a 3-to-1 return as money saved… You are actually saving money in the long run by not have to spend thousands of dollars on healthcare costs. You are also effectively reducing productivity-loss happening because of constant absenteeism.

Like a cherry on the top, group fitness challenges and marathons conducted promotes teamwork and encourages congeniality which would ultimately benefit the organization to form a stronger core team.

3. Ensuring Personal Growth

Talented people have become your most precious commodity these days. Having an employee engagement strategy in place is crucial. How would your employee be emotionally connected if he or she doesn’t feel like you care enough about their individual development? Employees are driven with a voracious desire for growth. They need to constantly feel like they are top of their game. If they feel like it is a dead end job with no promising growth ahead they are going to look outside for better opportunities.

Paychecks can’t buy passion.

Encouraging your customers to work on passion projects is an amazing opportunity to inspire your employees. This can be something that is business related or something that they want to invest personally in. This keeps your employees motivated and ensures them that you are also standing beside their desires and ideas. This could be a nice gesture to show that you believe in their talents which can only boost their self- esteem.

4. Recognition Wherever They Earned It

Why do we go for work? For Money?

The famous psychologist Daniel Kahneman and Princeton Economist Angus Deaton conducted a research on the impact of money on happiness. Interestingly, they made headlines when they demonstrated that money doesn’t actually contribute much to our happiness. Not even above 75000 dollars a year.

Income you have earned beyond this surprisingly does not have any remarkable effect on our contentment. What does that tell you? Rather than seeing money as a scorecard, it should be seen as just a threshold.

This is where recognition programs enter.

Recognition programs can create an emotional connection between employees and the employer. But how does it work?

Well, the answer lies in psychology. Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ is a framework he has designed to understand our drive, motivation, and even the deepest human needs.

While financial rewards fulfill our basic needs for survival. Higher level needs like our self-esteem and our need to belong, cannot be satiated by money. Whereas, peer to peer recognition can satisfy both these needs.

An act of being recognized would help the individual to satisfy ones need to feel like a valued member of the community. If an employee is given adequate recognition to would definitely generate the emotional element required to engage him.

5. Managers Who Mentor

Employees who have trust in their managers are said to have more pride in the company and are more likely to be confident in their individual talents and about the organization. These feelings would definitely have a direct and significant impact on your company’s ability to retain the necessary talent. Training managers to showcase their best leadership qualities, helps you to harness this kind of power. It will portray a remarkable increase in employee engagement and employee retention rate.

Of course, the organization needs senior leadership when it comes to deploying engagement strategies. They set the vision and goals of your company. They set the tone for the organization and has a direct impact on their engagement and wellness initiatives.

But in reality, in most companies, middle management has a bigger influence on engagement than the executives. They are the bridge between the top management and the rest of the organization.

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

They get to make regular contact with your employees, they are the ones executing your strategies and visions and therefore becomes the essential element in your engagement strategy. According to some studies, managers are accountable for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.

The Dale Carnegie study reveals that the chief emotional driver in the workplace is the immediate supervisor. It is the reactions to him or her that explains how 8% of employees’ emotions towards the organization.

6. Fostering Friendships

We all have heard the advice to keep out personal life intact from our professional life. Mixing those up have always been predicted to be disastrous. Contrast to this popular belief, fostering a community sense with real bonding and camaraderie in the workplace should be considered as a strategic element of your company culture. All the research conducted on the matter brings proof to support that. Close work friendships have boosted employee satisfaction by 50% while having a best friend at work makes him/her seven times more likely to be engaged at work. In short, having a friend at your place brings in a higher level of contentment and happiness.

This makes the employees less stressed and more efficient. The work-life integration gives the employees an opportunity to be more comfortable in exhibiting their true selves. Employee engagement is fundamentally rooted in the emotional connection between the employees and their company. Forming personal bonds can inspire positivity towards the company and its goals

Wrapping Up!

I agree that this was a lot of information. But this shows that you care enough about your employees and that you want to know what is employee engagement and its strategies. You are half way there! The most important factor in employee engagement is to have the right mindset. By spending the time and effort to understand what employee engagement is, you have proved that you have the right attitude.

Many tech companies employ hackathon, a more focused method in passion projects. The employees are given a finite amount of time, in which developers work in teams to develop an idea into an MVP, minimum viable product. At the end of the session, a panel judges all the products and declares a winner. The idea or product need not have to be related to the company. It is all about setting a platform for the employees to share their ideas. GroupMe, the group messaging platform, which was acquired by Skype was a product from a hackathon.

There is no definite answer to what employee engagement is. It varies according to your company and how far you are willing to go for your employees. It is now time to bring everything that has been discussed here together and to plan an employee engagement strategy that suits your company. Make your employees truly engaged and proud!

Indhuja Lal

Product Marketer at SurveySparrow

A dilettante bohemian soul mesmerized with the magic of words, sworn to be unpredictable, and spellbound with the simplicity of humanity...

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