Employee engagement is a top concern across all industries — and very much a concern of its time. Researchers have known for a while now that engaged employees result in a range of benefits, from increased productivity to lower turnover rates and even fewer workplace safety incidents. Now, in a post-pandemic world, both employers and workers on the front lines are seeing the difference engagement makes, both in terms of retention and overall employee happiness.
Here, we offer up 12+ tips for improving your own employees’ engagement, plus the steps you can take to mitigate some common challenges.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Different from job satisfaction, employee engagement is the level of commitment someone displays in their job, as evidenced by how hard they work, their enthusiasm and their suggestions for improvement. Engaged employees are aligned with their organization’s mission and strive every day to fulfill that mission by making positive contributions to their team.
When engagement is high, it is reflected in the company culture. Morale is high, productivity is up and business goals are met. However, when engagement is low, it creates a drag on operations, since the majority of employees are not energized about their work and therefore do not hold themselves or others to a high standard.
So how can you measure such an intangible concept? Regular engagement surveys can take the temperature of your workforce, so to speak, which helps leadership determine where and how to provide more support. Survey results shed light on employees’ challenges, priorities, opinions, frustrations and overall enthusiasm on the job. Armed with these insights, leadership and management can begin researching practical solutions for increasing employee engagement.
Why Is Employee Engagement Important?
For organizations in any industry, high levels of employee engagement can result in:
- Improved productivity and performance
- Higher employee and customer loyalty
- A positive company culture
- Better industry reputation
- An ability to attract talented job candidates
The numbers bear this out — Gallup’s annual Q12 survey* found some stark differences between companies with the highest and lowest levels of engagement.
|Lowest Engagement||Highest Engagement|
|81% more absenteeism||10% higher customer loyalty/engagement|
|18% more turnover in companies with more than 40% annualized turnover||14% higher productivity|
|43% more turnover in companies with 40% or less annualized turnover||18% more sales|
|28% more employee theft||23% higher profitability|
|64% more on-the-job accidents||66% greater reported employee wellbeing|
|58% more falls and fatalities||13% more organizational participation|
|41% more quality defects|
*Gallup polled 14,705 Americans working both full-time and part-time jobs in 2022 to generate these results, which are median percent differences across companies in Gallup’s database.
And that’s not all. According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report, disengaged employees cost their employers up to $7.8 trillion worldwide, whether through lost productivity, lower product quality, lower market value, lost customers or the constant churn of replacing employees.
Factors that can impact employee engagement include:
- Changes in leadership
- Toxic workplace attitudes
- Job market instability
- Poor communication channels
- Inadequate training
- Lack of professional development opportunities
Notice that all of these elements are centered around people and their relationships in the workplace. If any of these circumstances exist in your organization, you have an opportunity to implement changes — people-centric changes — that will lead to overall organizational success.
12+ Ideas for Improving Employee Engagement
While increasing employee engagement may seem like a job for leadership or Human Resources, all members of an organization are responsible for galvanizing a holistic, positive change in workplace culture. Here is how those responsibilities break down:
- Empower their workforce
- Act deliberately and thoughtfully
- Define and communicate a clear organizational mission
- Invest in emotionally intelligent managers
- Develop and maintain a training program that focuses on people first
- Provide managers with the resources to build agile, talented and effective teams
- Be able to identify job candidates with the appropriate skills
- Be able to identify employees ready for advancement
- Utilize team members appropriately
- Communicate and enable opportunities for professional development
- Prioritize fostering engagement
- Model mutual respect and good communication
- Keep the organization’s mission top-of-mind in all managerial decisions
- Provide opportunities for employees to give feedback and problem-solve
- Maintain high expectations and standards for management and leadership
- Communicate early and often when they encounter workplace problems
- Uphold company values and support others doing the same
- Look for and highlight opportunities for improvement
- Respond honestly and fairly to engagement surveys
By paying attention to what their employees want, organizations can start to implement appropriate changes, whether that looks like a re-org, a new training program or a re-examination of employee benefits. If deployed well, these changes would ideally result in organic employee sentiments such as:
- I feel excited about coming to work.
- I am proud of working here.
- I know what is expected of me at work.
- I enjoy working with my team.
- I would recommend this workplace to my friends.
- I appreciate my relationship with my supervisor/manager.
- My supervisor/manager recognizes a job well done.
- I feel like my supervisor is invested in my success.
- I feel like I can bring constructive feedback to my supervisor/manager.
- My skills are being utilized well in my position.
- I am confident in my ability to fulfill my job successfully.
- I am satisfied with the professional development opportunities available to me.
- I find my work meaningful.
- I feel that leadership is invested in and contributing to my work initiatives.
To hear statements like these at your organization, you’ll need to take a holistic approach to increasing employee engagement. No need to take on everything at once — tackle two or three issues at a time, and consider reaching out to a workplace improvement partner who can guide the process.
Here are 12 actions to consider that will help boost employee engagement:
- Assess your onboarding process end-to-end. The onboarding process gives new hires their true first impression of a new workplace. Ensure your process sets new employees’ expectations appropriately, gives them a frank overview of their responsibilities and honestly addresses common questions and concerns.
- Make sure everyone is in the right role. Disengagement can result from team members simply being in the wrong role. Poll your employees and reassess everyone’s skill sets to make sure their time and efforts are optimized.
- Perform an audit of available resources. Do employees have access to the right tools and resources to get their jobs done? Is there anything you could provide your employees that would make their jobs easier or more efficient?
- Implement the proper training. Make sure your employee training program serves the jobs in question. Also consider adopting a train-the-trainer model; teaching others is often the best way to learn, and utilizing other employees to train new hires takes the pressure off managers and equips employees to train new team members.
- Encourage innovation. The people who do the actual work often have the best ideas for improvements. Establish a formal process for suggesting improvements and take new ideas seriously. Acknowledging creative innovation can also encourage other team members to share their own ideas.
- Regularly evaluate processes to root out inefficiencies. If your ultimate goal is to establish a lean work environment, identifying and eradicating waste should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Clearly define what waste looks like for your team, and encourage them to speak up when they see it.
- Give recognition for a job well done. Praise and recognition are major drivers for employee engagement, since positive validation encourages most people to continue generating quality work. Establish a formal employee recognition program that accounts for things like on-the-job performance, innovation, problem-solving and supporting others.
- Invest in professional development. Providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling shows employees that you care about their long-term professional viability and boosts loyalty and retention.
- Don’t keep engagement a secret. Employees should know that their organization is invested in keeping them around by listening to their needs and implementing meaningful improvements. Make “engagement checks” a regular part of staff meetings, and encourage employees to speak up when they feel their engagement slipping.
- Prioritize employee wellbeing. A commitment to wellbeing extends beyond the workplace. Maintain a safe environment, offer scheduling flexibility for family and personal obligations and meet for regular one-on-ones so employees can express confidential needs, struggles or concerns.
- Check in often. Remember that your workforce is not a monolith. Giving individualized attention can go a long way in making employees feel valued in the workplace. Sometimes, it takes proactivity on a manager’s part to let employees know their thoughts and input matter.
- Conduct regular engagement surveys. In addition to individual check-ins and group discussions about engagement, leadership and management should deploy quarterly surveys that cover multiple aspects of the employee experience. The results will generate valuable metrics that will help to track the efficacy of changes and training over time.
If assessing and improving your engagement levels sounds daunting, you don’t need to go it alone. The master trainers at TWI Institute specialize in introducing and implementing people-focused training programs in organizations of all sizes. Proven methodologies like Standardized Work, kaizen, train-the-trainer programs and kata (incremental changes) provide the foundation for workplace coaching and training that results in a safer, more productive and overall more engaged operation.
For more information on our training programs designed for leadership, managers and frontline workers, reach out at the link below.
Employee Engagement FAQs
Q: How can I measure employee engagement?
Regular engagement surveys provide insight into employees’ challenges, priorities, opinions, frustrations and overall enthusiasm on the job. The results will generate valuable metrics that will help to track the efficacy of changes and training over time. Armed with these insights, leadership and management can begin researching practical solutions for increasing employee engagement.
Q: Are employee engagement programs expensive?
Disengaged employees cost their employers up to $7.8 trillion worldwide as a result of lost productivity, lower product quality, lower market value or the constant churn of replacing employees. Workplace training programs may be a significant financial investment, but the alternative is far more costly in the long term.
Q: How does training help employee engagement?
Training that focuses on people first communicates to employees that their organization cares about them and their success. Make sure your employee training program serves the jobs in question, and consider adopting a train-the-trainer model. Teaching others engages all of one’s expertise and is often the best way to learn or solidify a new concept. Effective training can result in a safer, more productive and overall more engaged operation.