What is employee engagement?


In today’s knowledge-based economy, more and more businesses drive innovation and set themselves apart thanks to their people’s skills and experience. That makes having engaged and committed employees vital to business success.

The disruption caused by the pandemic and the longer-term trends it is speeding up means that having an engaged workforce has never been more critical. As we move forward, it remains vital for employers to understand just how engaged their people are and what they can do to increase employee engagement and drive high job satisfaction levels.

But what exactly is employee engagement, and how can you measure and increase it? To help businesses, we’re going to explain employee engagement through a series of introductory blog posts that give insight into:

What exactly is employee engagement – and how can you tell if your people are engaged?

Like many business terms, there are a large number of definitions of employee engagement.

  • Engage for Success define employee engagement as “A workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own wellbeing.”
  • At Tivian, we look at engagement in relation to how people think, feel, and act at work. Those who show rational and emotional commitment to their employer (extrinsic and intrinsic motivation) and act in their employer’s best interests, expending discretionary effort, can be considered engaged.

Essentially engagement is a two-way relationship between an employer and employees. The employer is responsible for creating the right conditions for a positive employee experience. Positive employee experiences enable workers to give more of their capability and potential – something we all want to do. There is also a proven link between strong employee engagement and high levels of employee wellbeing.

Outlining the business benefits of employee engagement

We all want to do good work. If we do work we enjoy in a positive environment, we are more likely to be happier and give 100%. Multiple studies back this up, demonstrating the positive business outcomes of employee engagement, as well as the benefits for individual employees in their working lives:
– Engage for Success:

  • Organisations in the top quartile of engagement demonstrated revenue growth 2.5 times greater than those in the bottom quartile
  • Companies with high levels of engagement show a labour turnover rate that is 40% lower than companies with low levels of engagement
  • Companies with top quartile engagement scores average 12% higher customer advocacy

– Gallup – organisations with highly engaged employees see 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees.

Business benefits from high levels of employee engagement include:

  • Greater productivity
  • Greater retention
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Greater innovation
  • Improved performance (especially in customer-facing roles where it drives greater customer satisfaction)
  • Higher quality
  • Safer workplaces (fewer accidents)
  • Happier staff – better wellbeing, greater motivation, and lower stress levels

Our next blog looks at how you can measure engagement and show how it impacts these business metrics.

9 areas that impact your employee engagement

The benefits of greater employee engagement are clear and proven, leading to high performance from your people and organisation. There are clear links between engaged employees and critical business metrics such as higher retention, lower employee turnover, and greater productivity. According to Gallup, most staff are disengaged – just 35% of US workers class themselves as engaged. Bear in mind that these figures are pre-pandemic, so they are likely to have worsened over the last few months through a combination of remote working, redundancies, and worries for the future.

Organisations now need to focus even more on their employee engagement strategies. How can they do that? Many aspects of the employee experience contribute to employee engagement and motivation, for instance:

1. Communication – is it regular and delivering a clear, consistent message? Do employees have the opportunity to speak up?
2. Line management – according to Gallup, 70% of the variance in engagement scores is down to the manager. Are your line managers getting the support and training they need to engage their teams?
3. Leadership – Is the company vision clear and compelling? Are leaders creating an environment of openness and trust?
4. Meaningful work – do employees see the bigger picture and how their work supports organisational goals?
5. Development opportunities – are there signposted progression plans and opportunities for growth?
6. Wellbeing – do employees feel looked after, physically and mentally, particularly in the current situation?
7. Access to resources – are the proper training and tools available to help and support employees to carry out their roles effectively?
8. Culture – does the overall company culture support your values and reward the right behaviours?
9. Team dynamics – do teams balance the skills, personality, and experience they require to move forward?

Transforming your engagement strategy – where to start

While you may already have a general idea of engagement levels within your business, this may well vary between teams, departments, and locations. Therefore, the first step in improving engagement is to measure where you are now, as this enables you to then put in place plans to fix any issues.

It is best to start by listening to your people, collecting their feedback, and then acting on it. The next blog in our series will provide insight into how to achieve this, focusing on measuring employee engagement in your business.