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Employee engagement efforts aren’t all equal. Learn about the top employee engagement drivers so you can prioritize your efforts and create a happy workforce.
How engaged are your employees?
2022 has brought a lot of changes to the relationship between employees and employers. It’s the year the phrase “quiet quitting” was coined. It’s the continuation of the “Great Resignation.” Employees’ expectations have changed—probably irreversibly—and many employers are struggling to catch up.
Focusing on employee engagement is more critical now than ever. Investing in creating a highly engaged team is the best way to reduce any negative impacts of the cultural shift we’re living through.
Employee engagement is a broad term that refers to how emotionally connected your employees are to your company. Engagement manifests itself in their enthusiasm for the organization, their drive to perform, and their commitment to stay.
Engagement is more than employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees are happy with their experience at your company and in their roles. Engaged employees are generally satisfied employees, but they’re also driven to see your company succeed.
Anyone who’s led both an engaged and disengaged team knows how much of a difference levels of engagement make on peoples’ behaviors. The most significant benefits of leading an engaged team are:
When a fifth of workers plan on quitting their jobs in 2022, getting employee retention right is imperative for running a successful business.
Gallup reported that 52% of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job. That proportion is likely even higher today than it was then.
Engaged employees are much less likely to leave their jobs because they are emotionally connected to the company. Having a stable team means less time and money spent on recruiting and less knowledge loss over time. Employee retention is foundational in creating a high performance organization.
Disengaged employees have a negative impact on the people around them. Whether thor disengagement shows up in constant negativity or in passive withdrawal, they make it hard to cultivate an environment of trust and honesty. Group dynamics are harder to navigate when disengaged voices are in the room.
Engaged employees are—you guessed it—engaged. They want to see things improve, so they’ll speak up and give feedback. They’re motivated and driven, so they’ll share their ideas. Engaged employees understand if you’ve cultivated a culture of psychological safety and act accordingly.
The best part of working with an engaged team is their drive for innovation and high performance.
Instead of being satisfied with the bare minimum, engaged employees push themselves to perform the best they can. Developing this ethos as a cornerstone of your culture will elevate everyone’s efforts. Your team will set more ambitious goals, then figure out how to reach them. Engaged teams make for a more fun and fulfilling environment to work in.
Recognizing whether someone is engaged can feel more complicated in a remote setting.
In an office setting, people traditionally watch for signs like whether someone comes into work early, leaves late, and how long they’re working.
Are those the best measures of engagement? Probably not. But they’re frequently used.
Working remotely forces a different approach. You’re required to focus on things that have an actual impact.
Time spent in front of a computer does not indicate engagement or effective work getting done.
So rather than focusing on time spent, look at results. Focus on the outcomes that your employees are achieving.
How motivated are they to deliver high-quality work? Do they solicit and share feedback? How much initiative do they show? How likely are they to volunteer to take on new projects? Are they accomplishing their goals?
Measure the outputs, not the inputs. These things that will give you a clearer picture of how engaged they are.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions about someone’s engagement from their interactions in meetings. When you work remotely and your in-person interactions happen on Zoom, your impressions might not be reliable. You’ll be missing out on body language and any other nuances that just don’t come through a screen.
Written communication and documentation are essential in a remote setting. Encourage your employees to make sure their work is in writing whenever possible. Engaged employees will respond positively to this request and regularly document their efforts.
A good rule of thumb is to assume if something isn’t documented somewhere, it didn’t happen.
One-on-ones are foundational for effective management, particularly when you’re working remotely.
Remote work forces you to be more intentional about communication. You don’t have any natural encounters because you walk past someone and notice something about their body language. You can’t take a coffee break and chat with someone. You’re forced to actively and consciously set up these encounters in a remote environment.
One-on-ones create this space for you and your employees. They’re a great forum for understanding how engaged someone is. You can ask open-ended questions about their work, wellbeing, and challenges. If needed, you can also ask your team directly about their levels of motivation and engagement.
Watching your team’s habits and behaviors can give you a gut feeling about their engagement levels. But to understand what employee engagement looks like on an organizational level, you’ll need to rely on some metrics.
Here are some of the top employee engagement metrics you should keep an eye one:
Employee engagement is not static. It changes over time. There’s a lot you can do to influence engagement on both an individual and organizational basis.
It’s important to keep in mind that employee engagement shouldn’t be owned exclusively by the HR or People team. Improving employee engagement has to be a commitment across the organization. While the HR team is responsible for some of these aspects, senior and middle management also play a huge role.
The top drivers of employee engagement are:
People are looking for a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. Your whole company can work to ensure that every single employee feels like they’re making an impact in their roles.
When you have a clear business strategy that’s understood across your company, you can then help every employee understand how their role contributes to it.
Leadership plays an essential role in employee engagement.
Highly engaged employees are three times more likely to feel heard (92%) than those with low levels of engagement (30%).
There’s a strong correlation here. Whether or not your employees feel heard ultimately comes down to how your managers conduct themselves. If people speak up and think that their managers immediately dismiss their ideas and feedback, they will be much less likely to speak up again. That’s a sign that engagement is dropping.
Alternatively, when leaders are empathetic and pay close attention to the feedback that comes from their teams, they’ll cultivate a growing sense of engagement.
Limited growth opportunities are one of the top reasons employees consider leaving their current jobs.
Most employees, especially high performers, are looking for ways to grow their careers. They feel more motivated and engaged when their employers support their growth and career goals.
Career development doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of established career paths (although these can be great). You can also offer growth opportunities by building a Learning and Development program, prioritizing internal promotions over external hiring when possible, and covering coaching or mentoring costs for your employees.
Culture can be a nebulous term. Your work culture manifests itself in the ways that people interact with each other across your company. It influences everything, from how decisions get made to how often you have meetings to how you compensate people.
People want to work in an environment that supports them and a culture that matches their values. What that looks like varies for each company and person, but it’s critical.
Culture ranks higher than compensation and benefits as a key factor that attracts job applicants. Being transparent about your company values and what they look like in practice on an everyday basis is vital in helping you attract and retain top talent.
Recognition makes people feel valued and appreciated. Rather than being a “cog in the machine,” recognition makes employees feel seen and heard. Harvard Business Review found that giving recognition to high performers had the most significant impact on employee engagement.
Recognition comes in many forms. Some ways to promote a high-recognition culture are:
One of Gallup’s most controversial findings is that having a best friend at work significantly impacts how much effort someone is likely to expend at work.
Social connections matter at work. They influence productivity and engagement. It can be harder to build personal connections in a remote setting—it’s one of the biggest challenges for remote managers—but that just means it’s even more important to invest in team-building efforts. Focusing on working efficiently and getting things done isn’t bad. It just helps to create room for social interaction as well.
Find opportunities for social interaction in your team. Allow some room for small talk in video calls, organize coffees and other team-building activities, and look for ways to help your employees connect on a personal level.
Employee engagement can sound like a huge and multifaceted topic to tackle. That’s because it is. But you don’t have to start working on everything simultaneously.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get started, simple daily check-ins with Kona are a great option. They’ll help you see how engaged your teams are and will help make empathy a habit across your organization. Get started for free today!