Articles

Navigating Employee Engagement: How to Engage Employees in Meaningful Ways

A headshot of Kennedy Lukey

by Kennedy Lukey

Employee engagement can be difficult to navigate, especially when considering the current demands of today’s workforce. Increasingly, employees are pushing for more flexibility, greater work-life balance, and have become unsatisfied with meaningless work and employers who aren’t willing to take a stand. As employee attitudes and preferences continue to evolve, it’s important for brands to develop and grow purposeful employee engagement strategies that address the needs of their employees in relevant and meaningful ways.

In this article, we provide the info you need to take your employee engagement initiatives to the next level with helpful context, actionable strategies, and measurement advice. Read on to learn more about:

  • What employee engagement is (and isn’t)
  • What engaged employees look like
  • The importance of employee engagement
  • Two effective employee engagement solutions
  • How to measure employee engagement

What Is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization and the achievement of its goals. It’s what occurs when employees are deeply invested in the success of the organization and embody its core values and mission.

Employee engagement is the art and science of engaging people in authentic and recognized connections to strategy, roles, performance, organization, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.

David Zinger

Employee engagement is no longer about well-designed co-working spaces with contemporary fixtures, ping pong tables, and free not-so-great coffee. True employee engagement goes beyond surface-level offerings and works to build a real connection between the employee and the organization.

What Employee Engagement Isn’t

Although it’s likely that engaged employees are also satisfied with and happy at work, employee satisfaction and happiness are not the same as employee engagement. 

Employee Satisfaction: Employee satisfaction is the level that someone is content with their job, whether that be their role and responsibilities, their people leader, or something less directly related like, “I’m just grateful to have a job”. Someone who is satisfied with work shows up each day, completes their tasks on time, and checks out. While “satisfied” is enough to get the job done, it’s not enough to produce exceptional results or foster employee loyalty. Satisfied employees might show up every day, but it’s not likely that they’re going above and beyond or feel considerably passionate about the work they’re doing.

Employee Happiness: Ping pong tables and free coffee might be enough to keep your employees happy, at least temporarily, but it’s not enough to create employee engagement. Happy employees should be a goal for organizations, but it’s important to remember that, like any emotion, happiness is a fleeting feeling and difficult to measure and benchmark between employees. Happy employees also don’t guarantee better performance in the same way that engaged employees do.

What Does an Engaged Employee Look Like?

There are three general characteristics of an engaged employee: involved, enthusiastic, and committed. We took it upon ourselves to add a fourth: empowered. 

  1. Involved: Engaged employees are highly involved in their organizations. Beyond their own responsibilities, they understand what’s happening throughout the company at a high level, and are often deeply interconnected with other teams. They might even take on extra tasks like running committees or organizing employee events. 
  2. Enthusiastic: Not to be confused with happy or satisfied employees, engaged employees are enthusiastic about the work they’re doing and excited to make a difference. Engaged employees may experience the regular ups and downs of everyday life, but remain passionate and eager about upcoming projects and collaborations.
  3. Committed: Engaged employees are not only committed to their organization and leaders, but to the core values and mission of the company as a whole. This level of dedication means they have a real stake in your brand and are willing to go above and beyond. It’s also unlikely that these folks will be tempted with competing job offers.
  4. Empowered: Empowered employees are engaged employees. When organizations activate their employees in meaningful ways and provide them with the direction and autonomy they need to do great things, they become empowered to make a difference in ways that impact the entire organization and its stakeholders. 
A pair of employees working together while laughing.

Getting the best out of your employees starts with giving them your best. If you want to enable a workforce of passionate and loyal employees, you need to make sure you’re recognizing them for their contributions and providing them with what they need to be successful. We’ll chat more about this later on. 

Why Is Employee Engagement So Important?

Employee performance has a direct impact on the success (or failure) of an organization. Companies that invest in employee engagement programs will continue to outperform competitors that neglect to realize the importance of fostering an engaged team.

While there are many reasons why employee engagement is so important, we’ve decided to focus on four key areas:

  1. Productivity
  2. Retention
  3. Customer Satisfaction
  4. Profitability 

Productivity

Engaged employees are 18% more productive than their unengaged counterparts. This is thanks to a few factors working together simultaneously. Typically, engaged employees are healthier, experience less stress and anxiety, and miss less work, which all play a direct role in overall productivity.

Additionally, engaged employees are often given more autonomy and trust from their employer, which allows them to work when, how, and where works best for them, leading to more efficient outputs.

Lastly, employers who prioritize employee engagement often invest in the proper training, development, and resources that employees require in order to improve their performance and productivity on an ongoing basis.

Retention

In April of this year, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in search of new opportunities that align more closely with their personal and professional values. As employees continue to demand more from corporations, employers are struggling to fill positions. Many are already calling this the Great Resignation. 

So, what does this mean for organizations? Well, beyond offering more competitive wages and better treatment, it means that companies need to invest more heavily in purpose-driven employee engagement strategies. 

When employees are thoughtfully engaged by their employers, they are far more likely to be committed and loyal to the organization. Research has found that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organization and that organizations with top-performing employee engagement practices experienced 43% less turnover.

Customer Satisfaction

According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, 92% of executives believe that organizations with highly engaged employees have happy customers. Additionally, research shows that those in the top quartile for employee engagement saw a 10% increase in overall customer loyalty and engagement.

Focusing on employee engagement has a direct impact on customer engagement, which in turn, has a direct impact on your brand’s reputation and bottom line.

Related: How Customer Engagement Impacts Brands (And How to Improve Yours)

Profitability

Not surprisingly, organizations with engaged employees see 23% higher profitability. This is a result of: 

  • Organizations having to spend less time and money recruiting and training new employees because of higher retention rates
  • Satisfied and engaged customers spending more money, buying more frequently, and continuing to choose your brand over competitors
  • Increased productivity leading to quicker and better results, allowing organizations to accomplish more in a shorter time frame
Employees who believe that engagement is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.

Anne Mulcahy

According to Gallup research conducted in 2020, only 36% of employees consider themselves engaged, meaning that essentially two-thirds of workers are highly likely to move jobs, or are checked out from their current job. 

In the next section, we’ll show you how you can boost employee engagement and unlock more value.

How Can You Boost Employee Engagement?

Earlier on, we mentioned the four characteristics of an engaged employee: involved, enthusiastic, committed, and empowered. In order for organizations to tap into these defining traits, they have to provide their employees with the proper tools, support, and agency. 

Below, we’ve highlighted four effective ways that employers can engage employees in meaningful ways. 

Direction

The first way senior leaders in an organization can improve employee engagement is by setting a clear direction for their teams and the organization as a whole. This requires leadership to craft and communicate a vision for the future, and articulate the path to get there.

Direction goes beyond creating a 5-year vision and regular OKRs. Deep engagement requires purpose. Research has found that companies that are purpose-driven are more successful. Building a work culture around purpose takes more than hanging a mural in the lobby, and requires action. Purpose is personal, at the end of the day, so leadership needs to support their people in living the purpose of the organization.

Giving employees a clear direction for the future empowers them with the knowledge and reassurance they need to be successful in their positions.

Co-creation

Secondly, co-creation is a critical part of engagement activities. Co-creation in the context of employee engagement means that across the organization, folks are getting the opportunity to contribute to initiatives that inspire them and improve the organization.

This could mean giving frontline employees the chance to share feedback from customers across the organization or allowing factory workers to collaborate with head office on new products or policies. Or it could mean employee-run teams tackling diversity, equity and inclusion challenges using Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

Providing employees with the opportunity to co-create and contribute encourages them to really get involved and connect with people outside of their core teams.

Learn More: What Is Co-Creation?

A group of employees sitting around a screen.

Career Progression

A strategic approach to career progression is important for employee engagement as well. People leaders should be working with their reports to understand their aspirations, and there should be clear progressions through the company.

Organizations can empower their people to form ERGs as a way to connect, make an impact, and build their networks, helping them progress through the organization. Additionally, whether it’s taking action on social issues or standing up for greater inclusion and belonging, employees are increasingly agents for social change, and they want their workplace to support them. 

Showing a commitment to your employees’ development and career progression, as well as their passions, gives them the confidence they need to fully commit to your organization over the long term.

Social Impact

Empowering people to do good and create positive change in their local communities improves the employee experience and connects your workforce around meaning, impact, and hope.

Organizations can run employee giving and matching campaigns in support of causes that are important to team members, or regularly host volunteer opportunities to give back to the communities where they operate. Engaging with your employees through social impact is a great way to foster enthusiasm and ignite passion.

As employee standards and expectations continue to shift beyond the individual and towards the greater good, organizations that engage with their employees in prosocial behaviour will not only see higher engagement rates but will be more trusted by their employees as a result. More and more, employees are looking to their employers to do the right thing.

Edelman’s 2020 and 2021 Trust Barometer reports reveal that people’s trust is directly tied to an institution’s dedication to doing the right thing to improve society. Businesses that are genuine and committed to building a better world stand to earn and retain the trust of their audiences. 

Employee Engagement Solutions

It can be challenging to find a single solution that helps support each of the four key ways to boost employee engagement, but there are some platforms out there that do a pretty good job of covering each. Here, we cover two software solutions for meaningful employee engagement:

The Chaordix Community Platform

The Chaordix Community Platform allows People and Human Resource teams to align employees around the vision and purpose of the organization. It connects senior leaders with folks across the company in a social way that feels much more personal than email.

The Chaordix Community Platform

In addition to being a great communication tool, the Chaordix Platform allows teams to launch co-creation challenges and host employee resource groups. Admins can craft briefs and then allow employees to submit their best ideas and get feedback and support from across the organization. Photo sharing, polls, and discussion forums empower ERGs to create rich connections.

For workplaces that fail to foster this sense of connection and belonging, employee engagement suffers by up to 30%.

Spark by Benevity

Spark, Benevity’s Employee Engagement Solution, allows organizations to highlight volunteer opportunities, facilitate employee giving and employer matching, and encourage prosocial behaviour using gamification. This single destination is flexible so companies can highlight causes that are important to their purpose while also providing broad choice so people can take action on the issues that matter to them – no matter where they are in the world – for greater impact and meaningful engagement. 

Benevity's Spark Platform

Benevity has found that companies who use their tools to engage their employees in giving and volunteering reduce turnover by 57% and see an average of 22% in program participation in the first year. 

How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?

Depending on the program or solution you have in place, how you measure employee engagement might look slightly different.

With the Chaordix Community Platform, our reporting dashboard allows you to measure and track user participation including logins, activity stats like submissions, comments and much more. Using Groups, administrators are able to segment members by departments and track engagement on a team-by-team basis. This gives organizations the ability to better understand individual participation as well as monitor which teams are the most active (or most inactive). 

With Spark, employers are able to track employees’ volunteer hours and gain insight into participation rates. Similar to Chaordix, reporting in Spark allows employers to view top participants on an individual, department, and store level. Being able to compare these various subsets allowed organizations to continuously improve their engagement programs. 

Additionally, out-of-the-box and ad-hoc reports provide guided analysis into how employees are engaging with the program on a granular level.

If you haven’t decided on an employee engagement solution quite yet, there are a few other ways you can measure engagement at your organization. 

Surveys

  • Employee Engagement Surveys: A well-designed employee engagement survey can help people leaders better understand engagement at an organizational level. These surveys can be filtered by teams to help identify any gaps in employee engagement efforts or recognize the most engaged team members. It is important to make sure these surveys are comprehensive and ask the right questions.
  • Pulse Surveys: Pulse surveys are great for collecting real-time feedback from your employees on specific topics. These surveys can be especially useful during times of uncertainty such as an ownership change or navigating a back-to-office plan. They’re also a great way to show your employees that you really care about them and value their feedback. 
  • Lifecycle Surveys: Lastly, lifecycle surveys can be conducted at specific points during an employee's time at your organization. New hires can be asked about their onboarding experience, long-time employees can be asked what makes them stay, and employees moving on to their next adventure can be asked about their experience at the organization and why they’ve chosen to move on.

With so many ways to measure employee engagement, it’s important to pick a solution that works best for you. Larger organizations might find success in electronically distributed surveys and smaller organizations might be able to schedule one-on-ones and casual conversations. What’s important is that whatever approach you choose keeps the best interests of your employees in mind.

Start Engaging

As workforce expectations continue to evolve, it is important for organizations to invest in systems and strategies that continue to prioritize the well-being of their employees. With engaged employees offering better and faster results, happier customers, and higher profitability, the brands that encourage and support employee engagement will continue to outperform their competitors in significant ways.

If you’re ready to start engaging your employees in more meaningful ways, visit our employee engagement page or check out our friends at Benevity.


This website is not optimized for Internet Explorer.

For the best experience, please use a newer browser such as Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.