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

Indhuja Lal

9 min read

What is employee engagement?

Employment engagement is the hot new buzzword in the market and no two people agree on the same definition.  Having lost all hope for humanity for an answer, 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.

What does employee engagement mean?

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!

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

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 good things to say.

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

Nope! There are six primary ways to define employee engagement. They are:

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.

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

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.

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 Wellbeing

Research 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.
  • 54% of disengaged respondents say their work affects their health negatively. 51% feels that it affects their well-being too.

The health campaigns and wellness campaigns play a very crucial role when it comes to building an emotional connection between employers and employees. 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.

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.

In other words, 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 because of 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 Earn 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 when it’s above $75,000 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.

Employee 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 will help to satisfy one’s need to feel like a valued member of the community. If an employee gets adequate recognition, it creates the emotional bond 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

What are examples of employee engagement?

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.

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

How did that happen?

For a start, the business committed itself to the employees. They improved the physical premises by having the barbed wire removed. Then, they focused on enhancing manager communications.

Campbell also tried to connect with them individually and instituted programs to congratulate individual success. From thank you notes to dining with them, the company did all that they could 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.

What causes employee disengagement?

Let’s also illustrate the answer here with an example.

When Samsung launched 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 media was full of reports about the phones exploding and burning within a few days of purchase. Samsung had to go through a massive recall of Galaxy Note 7. Analysts estimated that the company lost US$ 17 billion in revenue from the phone’s production and recall. To make things worse, internet trolls had a field day with memes about the exploding phones. From former president Barack Obama to its own competitor Lenovo, everyone trolled Samsung.

After months of silence, Samsung finally revealed the cause of the case the exploding smartphones. But the damage was done. As this example shows us, silence and lack of transparency can do more harm than employers realize.When the management turns a blind eye to employee feedback, small problems eventually snowball into brand reputation damage, lost revenue, and eventually, lost talent as well.

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

Why is employee engagement so important?

Organizations around the world have recognized employee engagement as a crucial factor and are striving to achieve it.

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.

The thing is, there are always companies that are ready to pay your employees more and to offer cool offices. It is the emotional quotient they develop towards your company, and their alignment with your goals that matter.

This also means the computer engineer that 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 by Towers Perrin claims that companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins. Another study shows that companies with engaged employees have 5x higher shareholder returns over five years.

There is no one solution that fits all answer for “what is employee engagement?”. If in one company it was a huge 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. Get some inspiration from these amazing employee engagement activities.

Bonus employee engagement example: Many tech companies employ hackathons, a more focused method of 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.

Wrapping Up!

This was a lot of information. But by reading this, you are half way there! Because the most important factor in employee engagement is to have the right mindset.

There is no definite answer to what employee engagement is. It varies according to your company. 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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