6 Key Points You Need to Know About Employee Engagement

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by viperk's , last updated on

employee-engagement.png When it comes to employee engagement, I'm sure you've heard enough about the "annual engagement survey" and benchmarking tools for one lifetime.

While these may be good things to do, this process is no longer keeping up with the times or providing actionable insight.

According to Gallup, the world is a broken workplace with only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers being engaged at work.

Bottom line?  If you want to generate greater passion and loyalty with your employees, employee engagement is a must.

It's no secret that engagement is the most important element in making  your workplace successful and productive which creates happy, motivated employees that don't want to leave.

And in this guide (which is quite different from what you might expect) I'm going to show you everything you need to create an irresistible organization with engaged employees.

Let's figure out your next course of action...

Table of Contents


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3 Key Elements Behind Employee Engagement 

Where and how did the concept begin?

The concept of employee engagement has been evident for decades. It actually first came to fruition in the late 1800's; when an industrial engineer - Fredick Taylor, studied how people's attitude impacted their productivity in the steel industry.  

11123538363_07bb05134a_z.jpgimage credit: Happy business people

What do you think are 3 key elements behind employee engagement?

If you said money... 

Think again.

Let's not dismiss the fact that money is needed to live and a great compensation package goes a long way to keeping an employee engaged but there is more to it.

efront let me in on a little unknown fact...

"The three core elements have everything to do with a sense of belonging. Back in 1990, Professor William Kahn held in-depth interviews with employees. He found that for an employee to feel engaged, they had to:

  • Feel that their work was meaningful and made a difference
  • Feel valued, trusted and respected
  • Feel secure and self-confident

In other words, the more an employee feels part of a community, the more likely it is that they are engaged with what they do."

But what else?

While most organizations agree talent is their most important asset, the results of Saba's 2017 Employee Engagement Survey reveal that most businesses are not in tune with employee perceptions.

But first, let's mutually agree...

What is employee engagement?

The Miller Group found an overall consensus as follows:

"Employee engagement is a desired outcome that occurs when workers feel a heightened mental and emotional connection to their jobs, their manager, their coworkers, and/or their organization and its mission. As a result, they are more dedicated and more willing to apply voluntary, discretionary effort to their work above and beyond the norm to help their organization succeed."

To sum it up...

Employees are personally involved with the success of their employers business. It is how connected they are to their work and the organization. The definition above doesn't speak of engagement equalling happiness.  But one would assume they go hand-in-hand.

Best Practices to Enhance Employee Engagement

  • Best  Culture (Inspiring, Innovative, High Integrity and Comfort)
  • Relationship with Management Which Includes Vision and Goals
  • Communication--Employees have a Voice
  • Recognition, Incentives and Personal Development
  • Over all Well-being

Why Corporate Culture Matters?

Seeking work we love can be a life long pursuit. When applying for one of your first jobs, you may not have considered the office culture. And joining a team you don't mesh with is nothing short of disastrous.

Why is corporate culture so important?

TriNet, a cloud -based professional employer organization for small to medium sized businesses could not of explained it better.

A strong and thriving culture will:

  1. establish a foundation for success
  2. attract and retain top talent for the organization
  3. promote the brand of an organization
  4. increase employee engagement
  5. drive productivity
  6. distinguish a company from competitors

But what about that touchy-feely goodness that makes you think Zappos or Facebook for the best culture?  As an employee looking at a company, are you really thinking productivity or the end goals?

According to Business Insider, Bain & Company, a management consulting firm topped number 1 as best places to work in 2017. Based on employee reviews, personal and professional development is prioritized for every team member. "Even at the entry level there are opportunities to work with senior executives at influential companies across every industry." The employees talk favorably about working for senior leaders who embrace and practice transparency.

TriNet wrote a whitepaper on Culture is a Business Issue. "An organization’s culture may be one of its strongest assets or it can be its biggest liability. The reason culture is so important is that its impact goes far beyond the talent in the organization; it has significant influence on the organization’s goalsCulture drives or impedes the success of an organization."

One might say when you get the culture right, a great brand with great customer service will follow. It is a corporate culture mindset. The difference is the people.

corporate culture mindset.png

source: Humanresourcesmba.net

What is  corporate culture?  

The set of tacit understandings and beliefs that form the foundation of how an organization works.

And when it develops organically from the beliefs and behaviors of both employees and management it is a win for all. New Talent Times suggests, although related; employee engagement isn't strictly a company culture issue. It's just as much an operational issue. 

"Deep, lasting engagement doesn’t require an overhaul of your company culture. Rather, it requires an adjustment in how leaders communicate with employees. How you announce important business objectives, how you measure success, how you show employee appreciation–everything needs to strengthen your employees’ connection with the organization and their work."


Relationship With Management / Leadership Will Net Results

Factors that drive engagement from  SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) indicate the most critical aspect to building high employee engagement is senior management's interest in employees' well-being.

According to SHRM, "the greatest influence on an employee's commitment to a firm is the company's care and concern for employees as well as challenging work and fairness at work."

Successful management is about building long-term goals and productivity for both the individual and your organization. Senior leadership is important and has its place, afterall - they are the highest level of management of an organization. 

But what about the one's in the trenches...

The one's that don't rely on threats and demands, who actually gain the trust of their team by working side by side.

The manager's...

  1. They avoid criticism, condeming or complaining.
  2. They show honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. They work to be empathetic.

Sound familiar?

It's also the three habits that the world's most influential people practice daily, from Dale Carnegie - classic book "How to Win Friends & Influence People".

employee communication.png

image source: Infographic: How Important is Communication to Your Employees

(Full infographic and share capability can be found on 15Five)

"Those that understand the humanities as well as the sciences will become the great innovators." Here's a quick clip from Walter Isaacson, author of "The Innovators", as he shares his thoughts on the traits all innovators share: This one trait all innovators share.

It really is about cultivating great leaders not just people managing people.They learn to collaborate. They make it a team sport.

The ultimate goal...

"When you lead your employees instead of just managing them, they are happier, less stressed, and even more productive. 

What else will they do?

They will become leaders themselves, and they will inspire others to take up the mantle. This is the ultimate goal of every great leader."

Orin Davis, Principal Investigator at Quality of Life Laboratory, points out that engagement "should be addressed as a strategic initiative at the upper levels of management, and a tactical issue at the lower ones... and the CEO has to lead off." 


Why Employee Engagement Programs Fall Short? 

Most employee engagement activities don't meet expectations.

You've read about "engagement". You've tried to implement it every which way.

You even googled the term over and over again.

And you found a slew of employee engagement activities and ideas your team will love and you can put into action:

employee engagement ideas.png

So why is it  some businesses massively boost their number of engaged employees, while others have not?

You might have even tried the natural solution to boost employee engagement through the philosphy of hygge. Scandinavian countries naturally enhance their working environment by filling their offices with plants, and green living walls.

Research suggests that buildings with the essential features of preferred natural settings better support human wellbeing and performance.

Gallup paints a different picture...

It comes down to two reasons why employee engagement programs fall short.

  1. An employee engagement program needs to be a manager education and development initiative, not a measurement initiative -- but many are really just the latter.
  2. Companies are not nearly selective enough about who they name as their managers, at every level.

The first reason clearly goes back to the ole' conduct the annual survey and see results. Someone coined the expression (some believe it was Einstein) that doing the same thing over and over again, you'll expect different results.

A company reviews the same annual survey results and tells its people, "Do better". End of story. This no longer works.

"If the program is all about arming managers with learning and tools to better engage their people every day, then it's on the right track."

The second reason, "Gallup research has found that only 10% of human beings are naturally wired to be great managers -- and some others, while not naturally gifted, are teachable."

Carefully choosing managers is step one in the grand scheme of things, providing those same managers with the right tools to engage their teams is quite another. Tools can improve communication and increase engagement among your workforce.

Business.com asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC to weigh in on the tools they use to increase engagement around the office. Here's their best answers:

The 10 Best Tools for Increased Employee Engagement

Let's face it though...

It goes deeper than the tools.

As human beings we have a need to be in control of our own lives. In doing so, we are highly motivated which keeps us satisfied and engaged at work and home. Nothing gets better than the perfect work-life balance.


The Truth About What Really Engages Your Employees at Work

Daniel H. Pink, author of DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, illustrates why the traditional ways of reward and punishment no longer works, pointing instead to scientific research. Pink "exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does - and how that affects every aspect of life."

RSA Animate: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

"The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table: Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money and they’re thinking about the work. Once you do that, it turns out there are three factors that the science shows lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose."

Let's talk about those 3 factors.

1. Autonomy in the workplace = the desire to be self-directed. At work, we desire to have control over our daily projects.

2. Mastery = expert in your field. You'll stop at nothing to keep improving or gain more knowledge on the topic that's important to you. You thrive on getting better.

3. Purpose = intent beyond ourselves - true meaning. You connect with your company on many levels. 

Give your employees a day to do something interesting. A prime example of a company "getting" autonomy is Google, "which has a 20 per cent time-- where engineers are free to work on anything they like. Some of the products that came out of 20 percent time are gmail and Google news."

Get out of their way.

"One day of autonomy produces things that might never have emerged."

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, "Facilitating Optimal Motivation and Psychological Well-Being Across Life's Domain," discusses how a sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on individual performance and attitude.

"According to a cluster of recent behavioral science studies, autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understanding, better grades, enhanced persistence at school and in sporting activities, higher productivity, less burnout, and greater levels of psychological well-being. Those effects carry over to the workplace."

Food for thought?

Do we alter the word "management" and morph it into a newer, existential form of self -direction?

With this new found freedom -- mastery and purpose can only follow. 


Forget the Ping Pong Table - Employee Number One Perk is...

For starters, look at the workforce.

The first quarter of 2015, millennials became the largest generation, surpassing Gen Xers in the U.S. labor force

Why should you care?

Many millennials don't stay with their company for the long term.

Gallup's 2016 How Millennials Want to Work and Live report revealed that 21% of millennials -- more than three times the number of non-millennials -- switched jobs in the last year. Gallup also found that only half of millennials strongly agree that they plan to be working at their current company in one year.

Gallup also discovered only 29% of millennials are engaged at work.

The question to contemplate is, how do we engage the group as defined "as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter", aka the millennials.

"The first step toward engaging millennials is understanding the differences in how they live and work compared with other generations. Many leaders are on the right track, having acknowledged that millennial employees differ from other workers in their needs and desires."

According to 15Five and their stats on employee engagement trends, research suggests that they are driven by open communication, a great company culture, involvement with causes, and achieving purpose and fulfillment.

They need to know their performance goals and how to prioritize their workflow. Again Gallup finds that 72% of millennials who strongly agree their manager helps set performance goals are engaged. Research also shows they love to be held accountable for their projects.

Take away - Set performance goals and have a clear path for your employees to follow.

Talent Management and HR wrote a great article on Why You Need to Adopt Employee Goal-Setting to Really Drive Performance. 

Here's how you can leverage clear goal-setting:

Step 1 - Align your expectations

Step 2 - Provide transparency into the bigger picture

Step 3 - Give your employees a sense of purpose

Step 4 - Establish a path for professional development

Step 5 - Focus your recognition

Millennials who stay longer than the norm (more than 5 years) are passionate about their work and have a strong belief in their company. Here culture can play an important factor.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have baby boomers who are living longer, staying in the work force longer or returning after their children are grown.

"Baby boomers are postponing retirement, and millennials are getting married and having children later in life -- making workplace planning and forecasting increasingly vital." 

In a nutshell, you need to take a closer look at both groups.

Companies should plan for the disruptive patterns in the work place. Baby boomers are staying longer than previous generations. Companies need to acknowledge this growing trend and plan for its future.

What do both groups want?

Survey says: Honesty at the Office is the Biggest Perk of All  


Summing It All Up -- New Rules of Employee Engagement

With so many employee engagement programs falling short, how do you get your workers to check back in?

As far as the annual survey goes you can continue them, but a simple conversation with your employees might add more value. You can take all the arbitrary ideas in the world but nothing adds more success than leading your employees rather than "managing them".

And the easiest way to do that is treat them as humans and the way you would want to be treated. As human beings we have a need to be in control of our own lives. In doing so, we are highly motivated which keeps us satisfied and engaged at work and home. 

Employee engagement is the fuel to any organization. Listening to their needs and knowing how to execute them is a game-changer.

I know I gave you some actionable insights you can run with today. Let me know if you have any other powerful motivators to add  in the comments below... 

blog author

Eric Golubitsky

Eric brings 18+ years of entrepreneurial experience. Eric founded S.M.I.L.E. Inc. in 1998, which was a Consumer Electronic Pro Top 100 home automation provider and was recognized as the #1 fastest growing company in NE Ohio by CWRU Weatherhead School of Management in 2003. As an Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" finalist in 2005, Eric's accomplishments have been recognized multiple times including the Consumer Electronics Association's national "Mark of Excellence Award." Eric is also a 5 year member of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization).