What is employee engagement?

By Gabe Scorgie

4 min read

What is employee engagement?
Illustration by Kevin Yu

The workplace has changed dramatically in recent years, and so too have the expectations of employees. Think of how offices were a few years ago — it was all about showing up on time, doing your job, and going home at the end of the day.

Today, employees expect more than just an income from their work. They want meaningful engagement with their jobs, colleagues, and organizations.

Employee engagement is defined by Forbes as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. It can be seen as the cornerstone of any successful business; when employees feel connected to their work, they are more productive and willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them.

It has also been associated with increased productivity, creativity, customer satisfaction, employee retention, and sales.

Drivers of engagement

Organizations rarely succeed without committed and enthusiastic employees. And keeping employees motivated and energized at work requires more than just a big paycheck.

Most individuals want to be part of something bigger than themselves and feel a sense of purpose in the work they do. Apart from happiness and satisfaction, they also need to feel a connection with their company and the individuals around them.

Creating a work environment that fosters engagement requires a combination of factors. By understanding what drives employee engagement and actively working to provide those opportunities, organizations can create a more motivated and committed workforce. Some drivers of engagement are:

Value and purpose

While a good salary is still an important factor, many employees also want to be part of something bigger and understand their place in the larger scheme of things.

From onboarding to regular one-on-one meetings, showing employees the value and purpose of their work and how their efforts contribute to the organization’s goals goes a long way in keeping them engaged.

Meaningful work

Although it's closely related to purpose, meaningful work is ultimately about providing employees with tasks that are aligned with their individual interests and goals.

Employees need to enjoy what they do and feel like their efforts are making a difference, not just within the organization, but also in their own lives.

For example, an employee who may lack a sense of purpose can still become engaged if given meaningful work that helps them grow professionally, develop their skills, and advance their careers.

Feedback and recognition

Nothing boosts morale more than being appreciated for a job well done. Regular feedback and recognition in the form of verbal appreciation or rewards are great ways to keep employees motivated.

It could be something as simple as praising them publicly or rewarding them with a bonus when they exceed expectations. Apart from feeling valued, it also gives employees a sense of accomplishment that encourages them to strive for more.

Career growth opportunities

A culture of continuous learning and development, whether through training programs or mentorship initiatives, lures the best talent to the organization and keeps them hooked for long.

Providing training and development programs that help them grow both professionally and personally not only increases employee engagement but also helps in developing a competitive edge for the organization.

Is engagement enough?

Jobs are no longer just a source of income. Employees are looking for meaningful and rewarding experiences from their work, and employers have taken note of this.

Many organizations have implemented employee engagement programs with the goal of increasing job satisfaction and productivity within the workplace. These programs may include employee engagement ideas like team-building activities, recognition programs, free work lunches, and even flexible work schedules.

While they can be extremely effective in keeping employees engaged and motivated, focusing only on engagement and not on the complete picture of employee experience will run employees into the wall of frustration.

Most employees face this wall when they are not given enough tools and resources to do their job or when they don’t feel like their work is being valued.

Introducing the Engagement Gap

While employers may think they are providing a great work experience for their employees, research has found that there is often an “engagement gap” where employees and employers aren’t really on the same page.

Only 33% of employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup. That’s roughly the same level as two decades ago. Even worse, more than one-third of employees around the world are unhappy with their jobs, which is just likely to increase if the engagement gap is not addressed.

The real problem starts when they are not given the opportunity to contribute when they want to, either due to a lack of focus, resources, or proper guidance.

Final thoughts

Rethinking the approach to providing a great work experience is essential for any organization that wants to remain competitive and successful in today’s market.

At the heart of this new approach should be employee success, which goes beyond engagement and focuses on enabling employees to do their best work and celebrating their successes. It is not enough for employers to build an engaging workplace; they must also empower employees with the resources, support, and guidance needed to succeed.

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