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What is Employee Engagement? Definition, Drivers, Strategies, Measures and Technologies

Employee engagement is defined as the emotional investment employees make in their organizations. It is the passion, involvement, and motivation they bring to work, which they use to guide their work. Engaged employees identify with the goals of the organization and align their own goals with the organization’s goals. The focus on employee engagement is on the rise globally. And it is not an issue relegated only to the HR team of an organization. It is a business concern that requires serious consideration. In this piece, we discuss what employee engagement means, why it is critical to the bottom line of an organization, and effective technology-enabled employee engagement strategies.

Table of Contents Section I: An Introduction to Employee Engagement


I. What is Employee Engagement? II. Why is Employee Engagement Important for Business? III. Who Is Responsible for Employee Engagement? IV. At What Point Does Employee Engagement Begin? Section II: What Are the Drivers of Employee Engagement? I. Seamless Onboarding II. Strong Work Culture III. Productivity and Time Management Tools IV. Learning and Development Opportunities V. Leadership and Succession Planning VI. Workplace Wellness Initiatives VII. Flexibility VIII. Rewards and Recognition Section III: How is Employee Engagement Measured? I. Pulse Surveys II. Sentiment Analysis III. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) IV. One-on-one Meetings (monthly) V. Stay/Exit Interviews Section IV: What is the Future of Employee Engagement?

Section I: An Introduction to Employee Engagement Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, describes employee engagement in the simplest of terms: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.�

I. What is Employee Engagement?


Employee traits based on the three types of engagement in an organization

The concept of employee engagement was first introduced in 1990 by Dr. William Kahn. He suggested that people are involved in their work at three levels – physically, cognitively, and emotionally. However, employees may be engaged at fewer levels, or even disengaged or actively disengaged. We spoke to Jim McCoy, Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager at Scout Exchange, who shared some of the character traits engaged employees exhibit: “Highly engaged employees are typically high energy people that have close relationships with their colleagues, including their direct manager or supervisor. They have a clear sense of commitment to their organization. They are excited to take on new challenges, embrace change, and welcome solving tough problems. They also tend to be curious by nature, continually learning, and regularly seeking new ways to broaden their existing skill sets. They effectively are ambassadors for the organization,


continually looking for ways to promote the organization and further the organizational mission.” As opposed to engaged employees, disengaged employees simply put in their specified hours at work and leave. They do not involve themselves in activities beyond their standard jobs, and they value the job just enough to ensure that they get their paycheck at the end of the month. A level above disengaged employees are actively disengaged, employees. Such employees are not only unproductive, they also undermine the work engaged employees do. Their negative attitude may create a toxic workplace and they essentially become a burden on the business.

II. Why is Employee Engagement Important for Business? A Gallup study states that “the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.” In addition, employees appreciate a work culture that enables engagement. This means organizations that prioritize engagement are more likely to attract and retain talent.

III. Who Is Responsible for Employee Engagement? The onus of planning engagement activities and executing them is not on HR alone anymore. HR plays an active role in executing employee engagement strategies, but the planning and execution requires involvement from leaders and managers in the organization as well. The success of an employee engagement program depends on employees’ receptivity to it. Employee engagement, then, is an organization-wide collaborative function.

IV. At What Point Does Employee Engagement Begin? Engagement begins at the beginning of the employee lifecycle, from recruitment, and continues through onboarding, career planning, learning and development, leadership and succession, and retirement or exit from the organization. However, it must be stated that employee engagement is a two-way street. Even if organizations follow the best practices in employee engagement, there is a certain personality that employees must either possess or inculcate in themselves to be a good cultural fit for the organization. Individuals who display optimism, hard work, and positivity are more likely to be engaged in their work than those who don’t. Also Read: 3 Ways AI is Impacting Company Culture and Ideas for AI-based Hiring

Section II: What Are the Drivers of Employee Engagement?


The 8 factors that drive employee engagement Engagement initiatives in the following areas, spanning the entire employee lifecycle, can prevent the attrition of high-value and high-potential employees.

I. Seamless Onboarding Employee engagement truly begins when the employee is recruited and begins the onboarding process. However, even before being hired, a candidate at the very least gets a glimpse of the communication culture of the organization. Once hired, the onboarding process gives employees an idea of whether they want to continue in the organization for the long term. One way to ensure employee engagement during onboarding is to give employees enough time to master their job before they hit the floor. This means that when they do, they will be ready to take on the job with confidence and build a lasting career in the organization. In a unique initiative, in 2017, L’Oréal built an employee onboarding app that is only devoted to helping new recruits understand and embrace their company culture. By introducing gamification and delivering key information in small, retainable chunks, L’Oréal has made it clear that engagement begins at the start of the employee lifecycle. Also Read: Why a Technology-Enabled Onboarding Process is Critical to Business Success

II. Positive Work Culture Work culture is a broad term, but very specific factors contribute to keeping employees engaged. 1. Transparency: Engaged employees are employees who care about the organization. Employees tend to care when organizations: • • • •

Share company goals and values with employees. Tell employees exactly what is expected of them and how to achieve it. Give them regular updates about the progress of the company and where it stands in the global marketplace. Communicate how employees’ effort benefits the organization and contributes to the bigger picture.

All these steps create a sense of belonging and naturally encourage employees to do more to drive better results. 2. Openness: An open work culture is important to make employees feel respected and cared for. In an open work culture, employees should be able to:


• • • •

Receive important communication regularly through a unified channel from the organization, their managers, and colleagues. Freely communicate with their managers about any task/issue. Provide anonymous feedback about issues they are having with their managers. Report workplace misconduct anonymously.

3. Autonomy: Micro-management is rarely well-received by employees. They need a certain degree of autonomy to be productive. An organization can ensure employees have a certain degree of autonomy by answering these questions: • • •

Do employees have the freedom to decide how they go about their daily tasks? Do they have the freedom to plan their career path in the organization? Are they included in taking critical decisions that may affect them directly?

4. Respectful Treatment:Employees rate respectful treatment and empathy even higher than compensation when it comes to job satisfaction and engagement. When treated with the same level of respect as a company’s most loyal customers, employees will be more invested in achieving business outcomes. Also Read: 5 Ways Technology Can Help Build a Strong Company Culture

III. Access to Productivity and Time Management Tools A slew of unplanned activities, meetings, and workplace distractions can reduce the overall productive time in a day for an employee. Time management is an inherent skill, but in a dynamic work environment, even the most efficient employees need time management tools. Supporting time management can directly result in improved productivity. Time management and collaboration tools such as Slack, Wunderlist, and Trello help break down and time deadline-oriented tasks. Even with frequent interruptions, to some extent, these tools can improve employee output.

IV. Learning and Development Opportunities Organizations that provide structured learning and development opportunities to their employees notice higher levels of engagement. This visible interest in employee growth elicits a feeling of reciprocation from employees – they are more likely to be interested in the organization’s growth. In a generation that is on the go, this learning is mainly delivered through learning experience platforms via mobile phone in easily consumable bites. Additionally, gamifying the learning


process can get even less engaged employees to participate and open up greater opportunities for themselves. Also Read: 4 Ways AI Can Help Redesign Employee Engagement

V. Effective Leadership and Succession Planning Employees are more likely to demonstrate the traits of engagement when they are made aware of the growth opportunities that lie in store for them. Closely tied to learning and development, leadership and succession planning is a key driver of engagement, especially among the millennial and younger workforce. In this area, HR teams and leaders of the organizations work together to identify key positions to be filled and the available talent to fill these positions. Applying technology to an organization’s succession planning strategy can make it a more streamlined process. AI-powered analytics solutions can help identify potential talent, link them with the skills and qualifications required for a certain leadership position, and enable HR to tailor learning and development plans for that talent. This level of personalization can significantly improve engagement levels.

VI. Workplace Wellness Initiatives Stress is a more common problem in the workplace than is visible. Combined with the physical inactivity of most office jobs, a cocktail of health issues emerges that can easily be attributed to the workplace. Workplace wellness initiatives can go a long way in showing employees that employers care. Organizations are now investing in wearable technologies to help employees stay fit. These include fitness bands and smart footwear. Some of these wearables are even equipped to monitor blood pressure and general health. Given the sensitive nature of this data, HR teams need to adhere to strict compliance rules when receiving and using this data. In addition, employees need to be able to opt out of workplace wellness programs if they are uncomfortable sharing their health data with their employers.

VII. Flexibility In a study conducted in 2014, 13 percent of those surveyed said they had quit a job due to lack of flexibility. In 2018, this number was 31 percent. The arrival of the gig economy and the increasing demand for workplace flexibility has made it one of the most important drivers of employee engagement. Any organization that allows employees to enjoy a certain amount of flexibility in where they work is more likely to experience higher levels of engagement. There are two reasons for this: •

Organizations show that they trust employees to do their job no matter where they are.


Employees tend to perform better without the stress of commuting and when they are in their own comfortable space.

Collaboration tools like Slack and Skype enable seamless conversations not only within organizations but also across remote teams. With the advent of unified HCM platforms, all the benefits that are offered to in-house employees can be offered to mobile workers as well.

VIII. Rewards and Recognition Employees appreciate meaningful recognition for their work. Regular feedback and checking in on employees are positive drivers of engagement. This feedback should be designed to communicate how the employees’ efforts are helping the organization. Through employee recognition platforms, leaders can give a shout out to a specific employee or group of employees to recognize their achievements. These platforms allow for instant recognition among peers and senior leaders – delivering said recognition and rewards when they are due, not months later during the performance appraisal. These platforms even allow employees to choose their own rewards, when eligible. Also Read: Employee Engagement Trade Secrets Revealed: An Interview with Joelle Kaufman of Dynamic Signal

Section III: How is Employee Engagement Measured?


5 useful tools to measure employee engagement Measuring employee engagement is done in two parts. First, the data is collected through various channels. Then, this data is analyzed against key metrics that quantify the engagement levels of the organization as a whole. The following tools and methodologies can be used to measure employee engagement:

I. Pulse Surveys


While surveys are the most common way of measuring employee engagement, they should be supplemented with measurable data that can be verified independently. For instance, if a survey asks, “Do you think that having X number of meetings in a day hampers your productivity?”, it should be supplemented with data on how many meetings occur in a day, how much time employees spend unfocused before and after the meeting, and what their productive output for the day is. This data along with the survey responses can then be used to identify what the actual effect of having a certain number of meetings every day is. Experts now recommend ditching annual surveys and administering pulse surveys instead. Pulse surveys offer insights frequently into the state of engagement in an organization. This means there need be fewer instances of overhauling employee engagement strategy and more instances of merely tweaking it. However, frequent surveys can cause feedback fatigue if employees have to take time out often to answer them. To prevent this fatigue, pulse surveys can now be administered through AI-powered chatbots are being used effectively. As they can be answered instantly and even on the go, these surveys are more likely to yield honest responses from employees.

II. Sentiment Analysis Sentiment analysis, a method of extracting information from subjective data, can help identify the general sentiment found in the language employees use in their online conversations. By combing through email and chat data, sentiment analytics enable the identification of toxic workplace behaviors in a single team, for example, or across teams. All the data collected is kept anonymous. Sentiment analysis can provide real insights into whether employees honestly answer surveys.

III. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) eNPS is a metric used to measure employee loyalty by asking how willing employees are to promote the organization as a place to work. For eNPS to be an effective measure of employee engagement, it must: • • •

Be administered at regular intervals – monthly or quarterly. Collect anonymous responses. Be combined with data received from surveys and other sources.

IV. One-on-one Meetings (monthly) No technology can replace the human touch of one-on-one meetings. Employees feel heard when they are given the opportunity to have a real conversation to express their thoughts. Anonymous


feedback can help voice the larger issues. For more specific, personal issues, one-on-one meetings are a great way for managers to identify the general mood of employees.

V. Stay/Exit Interviews Sometimes it is difficult to get employees to stay in a company. But conducting an exit interview can give HR teams a valuable trove of information. This information can then be used to enhance the engagement levels of existing employees. These interviews often reveal how important it is to continuously engage with employees to prevent such instances, starting from the onboarding process and setting the tone in that crucial first 90-day period to define a culture that even new employees can feel engaged in. Once data is obtained from these methods, employee engagement analytics can come to your aid to offer actionable insights. Analytics platforms empowered with predictive technologies can provide insights that can help develop solid employee engagement strategies or simply modify existing strategies to meet engagement goals, improve engagement, and even sustain engagement. Also Read: How Technology is Changing Engagement at Work

Section IV: What is the Future of Employee Engagement? We live in an interesting time. In an earlier generation, people might have been reprimanded for not being motivated to work and not giving their 100 percent (and a little more to their jobs). Now, organizations have realized that employee engagement is something they can encourage and control. As Jim says, “Moving forward, employee engagement will continue to become more fluid. Instead of one-time annual surveys, we’ll see organizations adopting more ongoing and holistic strategies that allow for two-way conversations and real-time feedback. Additionally, we’ll see more and more companies recognize the importance of providing high-quality continuous learning and career development opportunities for their employees.” Employee engagement is a challenging metric for organizations. Following a technologyenabled, data-driven approach to implement and measure employee engagement can elevate the level of happiness and satisfaction employees experience on the job. And as the popular saying goes, happy employees make happy customers.

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What is Employee Engagement?  

The focus on employee engagement is on the rise globally. And it is not an issue relegated only to the HR team of an organization. It is a b...

What is Employee Engagement?  

The focus on employee engagement is on the rise globally. And it is not an issue relegated only to the HR team of an organization. It is a b...

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