Employee engagement is more important than employee happiness. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness ebbs and flows. Keeping employees happy, then, is never the goal. Engagement is steadfast. Engagement perseveres through life’s normal ups and downs.
Leaders cannot control employees’ changing feelings or levels of happiness. However, they can take actions to improve their engagement at work. In this article we will look at why employee engagement is important and what employers can do to address it.
What does employee engagement mean?
Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction. A person can be content in their daily work but not engaged with it. Some people spend their time at work gladly. They are satisfied with their work experience, but they never enter the realm of true engagement.
Simply, put, employee engagement is about connection—an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral commitment to the work and to the organization. Engaged employees find meaning and purpose in their jobs. They care about the success of the organization, and they are invested in driving positive outcomes.
Why is employee engagement important?
The more employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work, the more likely they are to stay. An organization always benefits from a workforce that invests in its success.
Gallup’s 50-plus years of employee engagement research has proven that workplaces with engaged employees enjoy better business outcomes. The highest engaged organizations enjoy the following:
- Eighteen percent less turnover for high-turnover organizations and 43 percent less turnover for low-turnover organizations
- Ten percent increase in organizational loyalty
- Eighteen percent increase in productivity
Based on data from June 2022, the unemployment rate remains low, at 3.6 percent. And in March of this year, the United States experienced a record 4.5 million job quits. These statistics are reason enough for employers to work at engaging and retaining the employees they do have—and the new ones who will be knocking on their doors soon. With inflation closing at 8.5 percent in March, part-time or gig workers may seek full-time work, and full-time employees may choose to stay put.
What is unique about employee engagement?
In the past, a good paycheck and competitive benefits package were sufficient to keep most employees in a job. Many organizations focus on providing extra perks such as free pizza on Fridays, virtual happy hours, and quarterly employee outings. These experiences add to an employee’s satisfaction at work, which is important, but an entirely different measure from employee engagement.
The key drivers of engagement have nothing to do with office parties or even compensation. They are about purpose and meaning at work. A manager who cares about their employee’s well-being, and an environment in which an employee can use and develop their strengths for career advancement.
How do you measure engagement?
Organizations measure employee engagement differently, but some basic metrics can be used by all employers tracking their workforce engagement. These standard measures are used by Qualtrics and Academy to Innovate HR, for example.
- Turnover and retention rates
- Net promoter score/customer happiness
- Employee absenteeism
- Employee productivity/performance
Gallup’s employee engagement survey gauges to what extent employees are experiencing the drivers of engagement. These drivers include empowerment and autonomy, training and development, and supportive management. Some of the questions Gallup suggests asking employees include:
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.
- The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
- I have a best friend at work.
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
Multiple modalities get the truest picture of employee engagement at work. Use a variety of the above tactics to understand your organization’s employee engagement narrative today, and how you can improve from here.
What do I do next?
Brighter Strategies has been helping organizations hone their employee engagement strategies for decades. We work with clients to improve employee relations and strategic human resources management. We can assist in the design, administration, and analysis of employee engagement surveys, and the execution of improvements based on results. Contact us today to learn more.