Employee engagement could be called the dark matter of the business world (wait, just hear us out). It’s something we’re told a lot about, something we’re sure exists and think plays an important part in our world, but it’s also something that most business owners and HR managers aren’t sure how to measure or quantify. Many people don’t even fully understand it.
Engagement is a vague concept that can be hard to pin down. Like scientists hypothesizing about dark matter, we can guess and postulate what makes up employee engagement, how it works, and how to improve it, but this can be hard when we don’t fully understand it. With this post, we want to discuss employee engagement, why it’s important, how you can try to measure it, and how you can improve it to fully understand and benefit the galaxy that is your office.
What Is Employee Engagement and Why Is It Important?
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment and connection that an employee feels toward an organization. Keep in mind, this isn’t the same as employee happiness at work or even employee satisfaction at work (though those are both part of engagement—hence the confusion). For example, have you ever had a day where you’re happy to be at work and hanging out with coworkers but not engaged in your actual work? We’re guilty of it—it happens to the best of us.
Engagement means that employees care about the company. They aren’t just showing up to do the bare minimum and get a paycheck; instead, they’re excited to work on behalf of the company and help it accomplish its goals. They go the extra mile on projects, not because of a perceived reward or because their boss asked them to, but because they want to.
How many employees show up to work with that attitude more often than not? For most companies, the answer may not be very many (85% of employees show up to work disengaged on a regular basis!).
But why is engagement important? If unengaged employees show up, get their work done, and go home without putting in the extra effort or excitement, is that really a bad thing?
Unlike the unknowable dark matter, employee engagement actually has some powerful statistics linked to it:
- Happier employees
- Greater employee satisfaction
- Higher retention (a direct result of greater happiness and satisfaction)
- 41% lower absenteeism
- 31% lower turnover
- Better quality of work and customer service
- 17% more productivity
The list goes on and on. Engaged employees are better for workplace culture, company success, and your bottom line. But understanding engagement won’t do you much good by itself; you have to know how to measure where your employees are at and then plan to improve engagement (61% of employees feel burned out at their jobs, so chances are there’s room for improvement!).
How to Measure Employee Engagement
You now understand what engagement is and why it matters. Now you just need to learn how to measure it. Like gravity is used to measure the hypothetical existence and amount of dark matter in the universe, you have tools you can use to get a sense of how engaged your workforce is, even if you can’t get an exact number.
If you’re not already doing some of these oft-talked about engagement analyses, here are some basics you can start with:
- Pulse surveys. These quick surveys are great for getting an overall feel of how your employees feel about work. Ask a few questions about how satisfied employees are, how transparent leaders are about goals and direction, and whether or not employees feel valued.
- Exit interviews. Exit interviews are perfect for learning why employees are leaving. Are multiple people leaving because they feel disconnected with their work or they feel like an unimportant cog in an uncaring machine? That’s a good sign you have an engagement problem.
- Stay interviews. On the flip side, stay interviews are meetings that help you understand why employees stay and what could cause them to leave. These can help you see which people or teams feel engaged or connected already.
- Emails. A good old-fashioned email is a simple way to test engagement. Send out a message about the company and its goals or updates and see how many employees open it. If most don’t even touch it, chances are your employees don’t feel any connection to the organization.
These are great starting points for you to see where your company is at in regards to employee engagement levels. However, they don’t tell the whole story. Employees may ignore or exaggerate in pulse surveys. They may feel guilty about telling the truth in interviews. Or they may have missed the email. So you should consider some other ways to measure engagement.
We say “modern,” but these are really just less common because they take more effort. But if you really want to see the benefits of an engaged workforce, these strategies are more than worth it:
- Look at your retention levels. Every company and industry has different turnover and retention rates. As an average, a 90% retention rate (10% turnover) is a good goal to shoot for. Is your turnover higher than that? Do you have a hard time holding onto talent? Feeling unchallenged, uninspired, and undervalued are some of the top reasons employees leave, and those are all aspects of feeling engaged at work.
- Consider absenteeism. Do your employees tend to call in sick often? Are “mental health days” a common occurrence for a high number of employees? (We’re not knocking these days—mental health is important! We’re merely drawing a correlation between excessive PTO use and a lack of engagement.) The United States had an absenteeism rate of 3.3% in 2020, so if you have a higher rate, your employees may not care about their work as much as you would like.
- Analyze publicly available employee reviews. You may have heard of services like Glassdoor or Comparably—where employees can leave honest feedback about their company for future employees to see. Some, like Glassdoor, let former employees leave reviews, while Comparably only offers current employees that ability. Either way you slice it, anonymous employee reviews are a great way to get a bead on how your organization is doing engagement-wise.
These take more work and analysis, but they are great indicators of the level of engagement in your workplace. Mixing these methods of measuring employee engagement will give you the data you need to put your experiment into practice (sorry, we’ve got dark matter on the brain).
Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement
This is where our dark matter comparison breaks apart. Unlike that mysterious material, we have multiple strategies and tools that you can use to improve employee engagement. As we mentioned before, engagement is made up of things like commitment, happiness, and satisfaction, so let’s put these aspects under a microscope.
Align Your Mission and Goals to Connect With Employees: Commitment
Your employees should feel like their work matters. They should be able to see that what they’re doing every day for eight hours is contributing to the success of the company. And the company’s goals should be something that each employee understands and cares about.
Consider revising your company’s mission statement to connect more with employees. Include meaningful social and environmental goals and improvements for a deeper, more personal connection.
Make sure you clearly explain and show how each employee’s work contributes to your organization's purpose. And, along with that, ensure that each employee has the tools and information they need to confidently contribute.
Make Work More Enjoyable: Happiness
Do you want employees to be happy at work? Make it less stressful! Offer flexible hours, days, and PTO policies. Show that you trust employees by offering more autonomy and freedom. Create boundaries that discourage after-hour emails or other stressful situations.
Recognition is a vital part of creating a culture of happiness and engagement as well. Use a recognition software to shout out employees, celebrate events like birthdays and service awards, or show your appreciation for hard work. After all, 40% of Americans would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more. That’s the perfect formula for more engagement!
Show You Care About Employees’ Success: Satisfaction
Did you know that 93% of employees will stay longer at a company that invests in their career development? Providing training and development opportunities not only trains your employees to be better and more effective workers, but it also shows that your organization cares enough about its employees to invest in their growth and success.
Employees who feel cared for and valued will be more satisfied with the time they put into the work they do.
Elevate Your Engagement Energy
It turns out that employee engagement isn’t really that similar to dark matter. While it can be a vague topic and an indicator that’s hard to pin down, you have many options for measuring and improving engagement.
Awardco offers a comprehensive yet simple recognition program that will boost engagement and happiness for any company. Try out a demo today to see for yourself!