What is employee engagement and how can it benefit my business?
Updated 22nd April 2022
Employee engagement is about how we as business owners create the conditions in which our staff offer up more of their capability and potential.David Macleod, Engage for Success
It may seem like a simple question. We know employee engagement is a key focus for the vast majority of HR Directors, CEOs and CHROs out there. We too have seen the hundreds of blog posts, tweets, and stylish infographics all about it. And yes, we've watched the TED talks also!
We also know about all the benefits. Both academic research and real-world findings highlight the correlation between engagement scores and boosts to productivity, job satisfaction, discretionary effort and reductions in employee turnover.
But the question remains, what exactly is employee engagement?
One thing is clear from the meetings we have with clients, the discussions we have at expos (just like our experience at the London Law Expo!) and the articles we read online. And it's that there seems to be a huge number of different definitions of exactly what engagement is. Plus there are hundreds of vastly different approaches for how to improve employee engagement that are available out there.
So, we thought we'd help straighten things out by adding our two pennies worth. Or maybe we'll just confuse you even more. But the only way to find out is to keep reading!
Beware the snake oil!
The first place to start is with this oft-overlooked consideration:
Yes while we humans are all alike in many ways, we are hugely individual. It may sound cliché. But no two of us are exactly alike, even though we may have similar wants and desires. Be wary of any "employee engagement" specialist who claims to have a one-size-fits-all approach. When it comes to defining, measuring and improving your staff engagement levels, you need to work on an individual basis.
What works for one company, might not work for the next. Our culture, life events, motivations, individual outlooks and social groups all impact how we feel about work. It's a level of impact beyond the things that sit within the influence of employers and managers.
When it comes to improving retention, increasing productivity, or enabling personal change, there are no shortcuts. The best we can do is to apply some evidence-based rules of thumb in our approach. Take the insight, then measure and adapt as required.
What is employee engagement often mistaken for?
Next up, let's have a quick look at some of the things that employee engagement is not:
- Employee engagement isn't the same as employee happiness
- Yes, an employee may well be happy, but that does not mean they care about your company
- Employee engagement is not the same as employee attendance
- Yes, an employee may be reliable and always on time, but that does not mean they are being productive
- Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction
- Yes, an employee may be very satisfied with their remuneration. But that doesn't mean they won't accept a call from a recruiter on a tough Thursday afternoon.
What we thought it was...
The traditionalists out there will define employee engagement quite simply as the level of enthusiasm and connection employees have with the organisation they work for. In many ways, it's a solid definition. However, it's a little light in helping us understand the levels and complexities involved within engagement.
A more detailed but still somewhat lacking definition from the founder of "Engage for Success", David Macleod states:
"Employee engagement is about how we as business owners create the conditions in which our staff offer up more of their capability and potential. It is based on trust, integrity, two-way commitment and communication between an organisation and its members."
David's definition goes into some more detail about the metrics and characteristics that go into engagement (and mentions some absolutely key mechanics such as trust and communication). But, as good as it is, some key areas are still absent.
What is employee engagement according to the research?
Dr Christina Kirsch based in Sydney, Australia, studied the key markers for engagement across a multi-industry sample of more than 2000.
She outlines 5 key scales of engagement in the workplace:
- Emotional engagement
- Rational identification
- Team orientation
- Job fit
Performance on each of these scales is defined by a host of metrics. They often differ from person to person. So, it's important you look at your workforce, then measure performance against each of these metrics. Finally, you'll be able to adjust your engagement strategy accordingly.
This is a multi-faceted approach to what employee engagement. It mirrors the thinking of the CIPD, who similarly break things down into numerous parts. This helps to measure engagement against similar things with slightly different names: Motivation, commitment, job satisfaction, wellbeing and performance.
What is employee engagement according to Weekly10?
These latter two definitions are more aligned to the approach we here at Weekly10 take toward cracking the employee engagement conundrum for our global client base. We treat every company uniquely. We understand that not only are businesses themselves unique characters, but also the people within will vary wildly.
Our data-driven approach targets key elements of the scales and components of engagement. We target areas including communication, recognition, visibility through exposure and performance management. We do this in order to track, analyse and improve engagement and thus a host of business-relevant KPIs. These include things like affective commitment, productivity, staff retention, and discretionary effort.
Interested in knowing more about employee engagement or fancy a no-obligation demo of the Weekly10 platform? Why not get in touch today.