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The definitive guide to employee engagement

By Gabe Scorgie

24 min read

The definitive guide to employee engagement
Illustration by Maya Ramadhina

Every single employer, manager, and supervisor want productive, dedicated employees. But it doesn’t happen by chance, it’s built on employee engagement. 

This guide will take you through everything you need to know to ensure you have an engaged workforce. First, let's talk about employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to the emotional and psychological connection an employee has with their work, the organization, and its goals. 

Some may think that it’s just about job satisfaction, but it goes beyond that. It also includes the extent of their enthusiasm, commitment, motivation, and sense of purpose.

True employee engagement leads to people who are more productive, innovative, and dedicated—all leading to higher job performance, better retention, and ultimately organizational success. Based on that, there’s no doubt it’s crucial in the workplace.

The following guide will walk you through the following key areas:

Why engagement alone isn't enough
Levels of employee engagement
Benefits of employee engagement
Who is responsible for employee engagement?
What drives employee engagement?
Key factors in employee engagement
Strategies for building employee engagement
Measuring employee engagement
Best practices for lasting employee engagement
Common challenges in employee engagement
Software that boosts employee engagement

Let’s get started!

Why engagement alone isn’t enough

Before we dig any deeper into this, it’s important to preface that employee engagement on its own isn’t enough—it’s not the be-all and end-all. The reason? It doesn’t address the employee’s ability to get work done, or the recognition they receive for their efforts. 

While an organization may invest greatly into motivating their employees, they don’t invest into helping them do their job.

This results in a group of fired up workers with a lot of energy and desire, but nowhere to direct it. Every time they try to get a project done, they run into issues. Files aren’t where they should be. They don’t know how to move the project along. They can’t find the person with the right expertise. 

When this happens, employees disengage and lose motivation.

When employee engagement isn’t effectively connected to the ability to get work done,  organizations are unknowingly building the wall of frustration. 

To break down this wall, organizations need to do everything they can to empower their employees. 

Motivate them, give them the tools to get their work done, and celebrate their effort. That’s what a high-performance workplace looks like. 

To learn more about moving past employee engagement, check out our ebook on creating a culture of success.

4 levels of employee engagement

Employee engagement goes beyond just job satisfaction and taps into the emotional commitment and enthusiasm that employees have for their work and their company. When employees are engaged, they are more likely to be productive, innovative, and committed to achieving the organization's goals.

However, not all employees are equally engaged, and understanding the different levels of employee engagement is essential for effective management and improvement. Let's look at what differentiates each level and why determining each one is so crucial.

1. Highly engaged employees

The dream team of any organization is a highly engaged workforce, which results in up to a 21% increase in profitability. They are deeply committed to their work and the company's mission.

Highly engaged employees consistently perform above and beyond, willingly investing their time and effort to ensure the organization's success. They are enthusiastic, proactive, and self-motivated, taking pride in their work and feeling a strong sense of belonging within the organization.

People who are highly engaged are often the innovators and ambassadors of a company, inspiring others and driving positive change. They are not just employees; they are advocates for your business.

2. Moderately engaged

Moderately engaged employees represent a substantial portion of the workforce in most organizations. They generally have a positive attitude toward their work and the company but may not consistently go the extra mile.

These employees are productive and contribute effectively to their teams, but they might not actively seek out opportunities for improvement or innovation. 

Maintaining and increasing the engagement levels of these employees is vital, as they have the potential to become highly engaged with the right encouragement and support.

3. Unengaged

Unengaged employees are those who are disinterested or indifferent about their work and the organization. They may show up to work, complete their tasks, and collect their paycheck, but their hearts and minds are not fully invested.

Having unengaged employees can be detrimental to productivity and morale, as they are neither actively contributing nor undermining. 

Identifying and addressing the reasons behind their lack of engagement is crucial, as it can prevent them from slipping into the next, more concerning category.

4. Disengaged

Disengaged employees are at the lowest level of engagement. They are not only uninterested in their work but may actively undermine the organization's goals or create a toxic work environment.

Disengaged employees can be a serious problem, as their negative attitude and behavior can spread to others, causing a ripple effect of decreased morale and productivity.

In fact, disengaged employees cost companies up to $500 billion each year. 

However, rather than giving up on them and letting them go, it's important to identify and address the root causes of disengagement as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Understanding the various levels of employee engagement is vital for any business aiming to cultivate a positive work environment and maximize its workforce's potential.


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Benefits of employee engagement

Employee engagement isn’t just a buzzword, as the logical first step for any organization wanting sustained growth and success. Paired with the foundation mentioned above, it brings many benefits. To name a few:

Increased productivity and performance

There is a 22% increase in productivity in organizations with a high level of engagement. It's clear that when employees are engaged, they’re more committed to their work, and they’re motivated to excel.

Engaged employees tend to be more focused and attentive to their tasks, and instead of being easily distracted, they’re more likely to stay on track, which results in higher output, not to mention higher quality output. 

Higher employee satisfaction and retention

Engaged employees are often more likely to find fulfillment in their roles, leading to higher job satisfaction. They tend to take pride in their work and are often willing to invest extra effort to meet or exceed expectations.

Additionally, they’re less likely to take unnecessary time off or quit. It has been shown that highly engaged employees are 87% more unlikely to leave an organization, and workplaces with high employee engagement can experience a reduction of 31% in turnover rates.

A reduction in turnover means companies can avoid the cost and disruption associated with recruitment and training.

Improved company culture and morale

A workplace full of engaged employees is one that resonates with enthusiasm and positivity—both of which are contagious. These employees are more likely to collaborate effectively with each other, which strengthens teamwork and is often a stepping stone to a culture of innovation and creativity since employees are willing to share ideas.

Great company culture leads to exceptional results. Almost 90% of employees at companies that support employee wellness and engage their employees are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work. 

Who is responsible for employee engagement?

Engagement is a shared responsibility throughout an organization, and it is essential for a successful business. While it's not solely the task of any one department or role, there are key players who play pivotal roles in driving employee engagement.

Understanding the roles of the key players is essential for fostering a workplace culture where employees are motivated, committed, and productive.

Bring your people together


Leadership, starting with the top executives of an organization, bears a significant responsibility for employee engagement. These leaders set the tone for the entire company. Their vision, values, and commitment to employee well-being profoundly influence the workplace culture.

When leaders demonstrate genuine care for their employees, establish clear goals, and communicate effectively, they can inspire a sense of purpose and belonging among their workforce. 

Engaged leadership fosters trust and empowers employees, making them more likely to be engaged and motivated.


HR professionals design and implement policies, programs, and practices to foster a positive workplace. They oversee feedback channels to address employee concerns.

Additionally, HR plays a key role in talent management, encompassing recruitment, onboarding, and training. An effective onboarding process can contribute to a remarkable 69% of employees remaining with a company for three years. HR has a critical role to play in achieving this goal.


Perhaps the most direct and impactful influence on employee engagement comes from managers. 

Research has shown that managers have a significant role in shaping the engagement levels of their teams. As a matter of fact, 70% of the variance in team engagement across business units is explained by the quality of the manager.

Effective managers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, provide regular feedback, and create an environment where employees feel valued and supported. They also ensure that their team's goals align with the organization's mission and provide opportunities for growth and development.

Employee engagement is a collective effort, and multiple stakeholders play a part in shaping it. Successful organizations recognize the importance of all these roles and work collaboratively to create a workplace culture that fosters engagement.

What drives employee engagement?

Employee engagement isn't just a matter of a paycheck. This is about fostering an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and committed. Understanding the drivers of employee engagement is essential for organizations aiming to create a workplace that people genuinely want to be a part of.

  • Work-life balance: Employees appreciate a balance between their professional and personal lives, which reduces stress and boosts satisfaction.

  • Autonomy and empowerment: Allowing employees the freedom to make decisions and influence their work leads to increased engagement.

  • Strategic, transparent communication: Clear, honest communication from leadership about company goals and direction builds trust.

  • Co-worker relationships: Positive relationships with colleagues contribute to a sense of belonging and overall job satisfaction.

  • Recognition: Acknowledging and rewarding employees for their contributions and achievements boosts morale.

  • Workload: Managing workload effectively to prevent burnout and overwhelming stress is crucial.

  • Growth Opportunities: Providing avenues for career advancement and personal development motivates employees.

  • Work Culture and Environment: A positive, inclusive work culture and a comfortable work environment contribute to engagement.

  • Visible Leadership: Leaders who are approachable, visible, and engaged themselves set a strong example.

  • Benefits and Incentives: Competitive benefits and rewards programs demonstrate an investment in employees' well-being.

  • Role Clarity: Clearly defined roles and responsibilities reduce confusion and promote efficiency.

  • Sense of Belonging: Feeling like a valued part of the team and organization enhances engagement.

  • Goal Support: Employees who receive support in achieving their professional goals are more engaged and motivated.

These drivers collectively contribute to creating a workplace where employees are not just clocking in and out but are genuinely invested in the organization's success. 

Key factors in employee engagement


As you should have guessed by now, employee engagement doesn’t just happen by chance. Companies that have highly engaged employees have put the work in. Here are three key steps you can take if you’re interested in creating an employee engagement strategy

Effective communication

Open and transparent communication helps create a supportive and inclusive work environment, the type fosters engagement. It means employees are always clear about their job role’s responsibilities and performance expectations. 

Additionally, when employees understand the organization’s mission, vision, and goals, they’re more likely to feel connected to the bigger picture, which can give them a sense of purpose and engagement.

Recognition and rewards

Recognition fosters a sense of appreciation and reinforces positive behaviors and engagement. It motivates employees to perform at their best levels and helps them feel valued. This can boost their self-esteem and encourage them to take pride in their work. It’s important for organizations to publicly recognize and celebrate both individual and team achievements.

Opportunities for growth and development

Employees who can see a clear path to advancement and continuous learning are more likely to be motivated, committed, and satisfied in their roles. Consider improving employee engagement by providing employees with opportunities to advance their careers and enhance their skills through training and development programs.

Strategies for building employee engagement

It’s important to develop a plan or strategy if you have a goal of building employee engagement—especially when you consider the benefits. Here’s a short list of some things you can focus on:

Establish clear goals and expectations 

When employees understand what’s expected of them and how their work aligns with company goals, they’re more likely to be motivated, committed, and engaged. Goals should be specific and measurable, and managers should provide updates and address any questions or concerns promptly.

Consider, for instance, a scenario where you're a member of a project team in a software development company. The company's primary goal for the year is to launch a new software product revolutionary in its field.

Within this context, here are the objectives that accompany it:

  • Clear Expectations: Your manager ensures that you and your team members have a precise understanding of your roles and responsibilities within the project. You know exactly what is expected of you, from coding specific features to conducting testing.
  • Alignment with Company Goals: Your manager communicates how your project fits into the bigger picture. They explain that the success of this software launch is vital for the company's growth and competitiveness. You understand that your work directly contributes to achieving this overarching goal.
  • Specific and Measurable Goals: Your team's goals are crystal clear. In this case, you're tasked with developing a specific module of software, which must meet certain performance and quality benchmarks. These goals are quantifiable, so you can track your progress.
  • Regular Updates: Your manager maintains an open line of communication, providing regular updates on the project's status. If there are any challenges or concerns, your manager encourages you to voice them so that they can be addressed promptly.

The combined efforts of a number of objectives lead to the achievement of the main goal. Understanding how your work directly impacts the company's success makes you more engaged and committed.

Encourage employee feedback and involvement 

When an employee feels that their voice is heard and that they have a say—even limited—in their company’s decision-making processes, they’re more likely to be engaged and committed. This can be achieved through several ways, including open-door policies, regular surveys, and anonymous feedback channels.

Provide work-life balance and well-being initiatives

When employees feel supported in maintaining a healthy balance between their work and personal lives, it positively impacts their job satisfaction, motivation, and overall engagement. 

A few ideas on how to achieve this include having flexible work arrangements, remote work support, stress management, parental and family support, and more.

Measuring employee engagement


If your organization has implemented a strategy for employee engagement best practices, the next step is to measure its effectiveness. There are various methods and tools you can use to achieve this, and here are just a few:

Employee surveys and feedback

Don't underestimate the power of a well-crafted survey. Employee surveys provide valuable insights into their overall satisfaction, commitment, and motivation levels. You can choose to use standardized questionnaires or design and customize something specific to your organization. 

Just be sure that anonymity is maintained throughout the process and that channels and platforms for feedback are in place.

Two common types of surveys used to measure employee engagement are pulse surveys and exit interviews. Let's explore each of them briefly:

Pulse Surveys

Frequently and regularly conducting pulse surveys is a great way to gauge employee engagement. These are typically short, targeted questionnaires sent out at intervals, like weekly, monthly, or quarterly. 

The advantage of pulse surveys is that they provide real-time insights into employee sentiment, allowing organizations to address issues promptly.

Questions can cover a range of topics, such as job satisfaction, workload, teamwork, and company culture. The key is to keep them concise so employees are more likely to participate and provide honest feedback.

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews, as the name suggests, are conducted when an employee is leaving the company. While not conducted during the employee's tenure, they provide valuable feedback that can help improve engagement for current and future employees.

These interviews typically consist of open-ended questions about the employee's overall experience, reasons for leaving, and suggestions for improvement. 

By analyzing the feedback from departing employees, organizations can identify patterns and make necessary adjustments to enhance engagement and reduce turnover.

Questions to ask on an engagement survey

When crafting an engagement survey, the questions should revolve around specific categories that shed light on the various aspects of employee engagement. Here are some key categories to consider:

  • Job Satisfaction: These questions gauge how content employees are with their roles. They may cover aspects like workload, job security, and work-life balance. For instance, you might ask, "Do you feel your workload is manageable?"

  • Company Culture: This category explores the organization's values, atmosphere, and inclusivity. Questions in this category could address diversity, team collaboration, and alignment with company values. For example, "Do you feel that your contributions are valued in our organization?"

  • Communication: Questions may focus on the clarity of internal communication, the accessibility of leadership, and opportunities for employee feedback. A sample question could be, "Do you believe you receive clear and timely communication from company leadership?"

  • Career Development: Employees often seek growth opportunities. Questions here might delve into their perception of career advancement within the organization, training and development programs, and mentorship. You could ask, "Do you see opportunities for career growth within the company?"

  • Recognition and Feedback: Questions in this category address how well employees receive feedback, recognition for their efforts, and their ability to influence company decisions. For instance, "Do you receive regular feedback on your performance?"

  • Work Relationships: Strong bonds with coworkers contribute to engagement. You may explore the quality of working relationships, team dynamics, and collaboration. A question could be, "Do you feel supported and respected by your colleagues?"

  • Leadership: Employee perceptions of leadership can impact engagement significantly. You could inquire about trust in leadership, the visibility of leaders, and their effectiveness in setting a positive tone. An example question might be, "Do you have confidence in the decisions made by our senior leaders?"

  • Work-Life Balance: Balancing work and personal life is crucial. Questions could touch on workload, flexibility, and the ability to manage personal responsibilities. For instance, "Do you feel you have a reasonable work-life balance in your current role?"

  • Well-being: Employee well-being encompasses physical and mental health. Questions in this category may explore stress levels, access to wellness programs, and support for personal challenges. A question could be, "Does your workplace prioritize your well-being?"

  • Overall Engagement: These questions provide a holistic view of employee engagement. They typically ask employees to rate their overall engagement level or job satisfaction on a numerical scale, allowing for quantitative analysis. An example might be, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how engaged do you feel in your current role?"

Crafting a well-balanced engagement survey covering these categories can provide a comprehensive view of your employees' engagement levels.

Track performance metrics 

As a standalone, performance metrics aren’t likely to provide a complete picture of engagement, but they can offer valuable insights when used in conjunction with other methods. Having said that, here are several metrics to track:

  • Productivity
  • Absenteeism rates
  • Turnover
  • Performance appraisals
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Quality control
  • Promotion rates

Analyze employee turnover and retention rates 

As mentioned above, turnover is a useful metric to track. High turnover can be a sign of low engagement and job satisfaction. 

You can calculate turnover rates by dividing the number of employees who left the organization during a specific period by the average number of employees during the same time. You can also calculate rates for different teams and departments to identify areas of concern.

You should also examine the reasons for departure by analyzing exit interviews, surveys, or feedback from departing employees. Look for common themes that are related to job dissatisfaction or disengagement.

Best practices for lasting employee engagement


To achieve lasting employee engagement, organizations need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond surface-level initiatives. Here are several best practices that can put you on the path to lasting employee engagement:

Build strong leadership and management

It’s important to cultivate effective leadership at all levels of the organization since engaged leaders set a positive example and inspire their teams. Leaders should be trained in people management skills, including communication, coaching, and feedback. Additionally, they should be encouraged to build strong relationships with their teams based on trust, respect, and support.

Foster a positive work environment 

A positive workplace will contribute to higher job satisfaction, better collaboration, and increased productivity. There are several strategies you can use to attain this. Here are a few ideas

  • Respect and inclusion
  • Open communication
  • Trust and empowerment
  • Recognition and appreciation
  • Work-life balance
  • Professional development
  • Flexibility
  • Celebration of diversity
  • Employee assistance programs

Promote a culture of trust and transparency

Employees who trust the organization they work for and have access to honest and open communication are more likely to be engaged and committed. 

To promote and cultivate such a culture, there should be transparency in decision-making, where employees are involved in the decision-making process whenever possible. Additionally, leaders should model transparent behavior by sharing information, admitting mistakes, and demonstrating trust in their employees.

Make it easy to get work done

If an employee’s success at their job is hindered by roadblocks, eliminate them. Empower them to make decisions within their areas of responsibility and, where possible, encourage autonomy. 

It’s up to you to provide an employee with the tools they need to get the job done, whether that’s expertise, documents, or anything else. Whatever it is, make sure it’s easily accessible.

Celebrate successes

Celebrating success can contribute to a positive workplace culture. Recognizing and acknowledging achievements, both big and small, not only motivates employees but reinforces their commitment to the organization. 

Be sure that each employee is aware their work is valued through regular recognition—both private and public. This could be with certificates and awards, monetary rewards, thank you notes, milestone celebrations, and more.

Common challenges in employee engagement

We’ve talked a lot about the strategies and drivers of employee engagement, but the course you set will likely be met with challenges. Here are three things you may face:

Resistance to Change

Resistance to change can stem from various factors, including the fear of the unknown, a reluctance to disrupt established routines, or maybe even concerns about job security.

If you’re facing this challenge, clearly communicate the reasons for change and its potential benefits. Try to be as transparent as possible about the details of the change, including things like the timeline and expected impact on individuals and teams.

To the extent possible, involve your employees in the process. Seek out their input, feedback, and ideas, and this will make them feel like they’re active participants. 

Additionally, be sure to address any concerns, listen actively, and never dismiss their concerns or become defensive. If necessary, provide training and support.

Disengaged or difficult employees 

If you want to maintain a positive work environment and improve overall engagement, it’s necessary to address disengaged or difficult employees. Here are some steps to help you do so:

  • Identify underlying issues: Understand the root cause behind the behavior. Is it due to personal issues, work-related problems, or a mismatch between skills and tasks?
  • Set clear expectations: Clarify your expectations regarding job performance, behavior, and engagement and ensure that the employee understands what’s required of them. Emphasize the importance of their role by aligning your expectations with company values and objectives.
  • Collaborative problem-solving: Involve the employee in finding solutions to whatever issues they are facing by asking for their input on how to improve their engagement and performance. Collaborative problem-solving empowers employees and increases their commitment to change.
  • Document conversations: Keep records of all your conversations and agreements with the employee. This documentation could be useful if further action is required.

Align employee goals with organizational objectives 

When employees' individual goals and aspirations align with the broader goals of the organization, it can lead to increased engagement. A few ways you can achieve this is by:

  • Communicating the company’s mission, vision, and objectives clearly and consistently
  • Encouraging employees to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that align with their job and the company’s goals
  • Involving employees in the goal-setting process by encouraging discussions between managers and employees that ensure goals are both challenging and achievable
  • Reviewing and aligning incentive programs with organizational objectives and individual performance, ensuring that recognition and rewards reinforce goal achievement

Software that boosts employee engagement



Engaging employees is crucial to maintaining a productive and motivated workforce in today's dynamic work environment. Luckily, there is a range of software solutions designed to encourage employee engagement, making it easier for businesses to connect with their employees and foster a positive workplace culture.

What to look for in engagement software

When seeking the right engagement software for your organization, keep an eye out for the following key features:

  • A central hub for employees: Look for a platform that serves as a central hub for all employees, where they can access essential information, collaborate, and stay connected.
  • Ability to celebrate together and organize events: The software should enable you to celebrate achievements, milestones, and personal events collectively. Research even indicates that 63% of employees prefer working for companies that have a culture of regular praise and thanks, even over those offering higher pay.
  • Bringing people together: Effective engagement software should facilitate connections among employees, helping them build relationships and create a sense of community within the organization.

Having determined the features you need, it is time to decide which software solution to use.

Top 5 employee engagement software

Listed below are our top picks for employee engagement platforms that are sure to help your organization flourish:

  • Jostle: Stands out for its targeted announcement feature, allowing you to send tailored news and updates to specific office locations, divisions, or departments. Also offers real-time employee feedback through org-wide polls and features like a sign-off option to track who has read important information.
  • Microsoft Viva: Promotes inclusive company culture through spaces for conversations, company news, and shared interests. Contributes to improved productivity and well-being through actionable insights from analytics.
  • CultureAmp: Equips companies with tools to nurture a functional workplace culture. The platform also supports building high-performing teams with real-time feedback, goal tracking, and development-focused reviews.
  • Simpplr: Enhances speed to value by aligning with business objectives and outcomes. Its intelligent search feature provides quick and accurate results, making information easily accessible to employees.
  • Lattice: Serves as the core of your employee engagement strategy, helping unlock performance management, career development, and success. A culture of appreciation and growth is created through customizable reviews for each team.

Each of these software solutions offers unique features and benefits, catering to different organizational needs. Evaluating them against your specific requirements will help you choose the one that aligns best with your organization's goals and culture.


Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when strategizing for employee engagement. To recap, here are some key takeaways from what we’ve discussed:

  • Employee engagement defined: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment and enthusiasm that employees have toward their work, organization, and its goals
  • Importance of employee engagement: Employee engagement is necessary for increased productivity, job satisfaction, retention, improved company culture, and overall business success
  • The engagement gap: Engagement alone is not enough; it must be supported by an environment that enables employees to succeed and feel valued—otherwise, they could end up disengaged, which is known as the engagement gap. 
  • Key factors in employee engagement: Effective communication, recognition and rewards, and opportunities for growth and development are important elements when aiming for employee engagement
  • Strategies for building employee engagement: Establishing clear goals, encouraging feedback and involvement, providing work-life balance, and celebrating successes are effective strategies for building and maintaining employee engagement
  • Measuring employee engagement: Employee surveys, performance metrics, and analyzing turnover and retention rates are common methods for assessing employee engagement levels
  • Best practices for lasting employee engagement: Creating strong leadership, fostering a positive work environment, promoting trust and transparency, facilitating work processes, and celebrating successes are all essential for long-term employee engagement
  • Common challenges in employee engagement: Challenges include addressing resistance to change, dealing with disengaged or difficult employees, and aligning individual employee goals with organizational objectives

Remember, employee engagement is more than just a buzzword. It’s an essential component for organizational success that drives higher productivity, job satisfaction, and retention.

 It can foster a positive company culture, encourage innovation and adaptability, and elevate customer satisfaction.

Finally, don’t lose sight of the big picture. Employee engagement isn’t about focusing on a single employee. It’s a strategic necessity that can benefit everyone in the organization by enhancing performance and long-term competitiveness.


Engagement is not enough

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Gabe Scorgie

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