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This content is part of the Essential Guide: A guide to HR analytics
Definition

employee engagement

Employee engagement is the emotional connection an employee experiences that results in a willingness to expend discretionary effort at work. Truly engaged employees reflect a company's respect for its workforce, which, in turn, can be seen in employees' job satisfaction and pride of ownership in their work.

Importance of employee engagement

Organizations with high levels of employee engagement are thought to be more profitable and have higher customer satisfaction ratings than organizations with low levels; they also have less absenteeism and turnover, according to ongoing studies from Gallup and other research organizations. In a competitive hiring market, engaged staff members who feel they have good work-life balance and high levels of employee satisfaction are less likely to return a headhunter's call.

On the flip side, disengaged employees can create a negative atmosphere that can be contagious and damaging to a company's reputation and, ultimately, its bottom line.

Benefits of employee engagement

A company with demonstrable employee satisfaction will find it easier to hire new workers, and studies have shown that engaged employees can boost stock prices and shareholder returns. A culture of engagement will also make onboarding easier, leading to new employees becoming productive at a faster rate.

Types of employee engagement

When it comes to activities that foster employee engagement, there are many options. Many companies focus on employee engagement from the beginning, through interactive and compelling onboarding activities that explain the culture and encourage early camaraderie.

The various strategies to support true employee engagement
The circle of employee engagement

Some employers use goal setting to aid in employee engagement, offering weekly or monthly goals to boost employee enthusiasm. Others focus on teamwork, as studies show the more friends employees have at work, the more engaged they are. Employee engagement can also be aided by concrete steps, such as career development opportunities, company-paid education options, flexible hours that can promote work-life balance and even on-site childcare.

Technology for engagement

While many different types of technology can have a positive impact on employee engagement, gamification platforms and enterprise social collaboration products often explicitly include increased employee engagement in their value propositions.

Gamification platforms offer a visual way to train, communicate vital information and create camaraderie through entertaining visuals. Many companies also offer chat groups or pages where like-minded employees can "gather" around subjects of interest, like gardening or vintage cars.

Performance management software, while not explicitly a tool of engagement, can be used, along with workforce analytics, to identify groups in need of a greater emphasis on engagement.

How to measure employee engagement

Traditionally, employee engagement has been measured through surveys, although that strategy is increasingly seen as not accurate.

Instead, some experts suggest asking simple questions to get a rough measurement of employee engagement. A "yes" answer to the following questions would indicate a company enjoys higher employee engagement:

  • Do employees arrive early?
  • Do clusters of people lunch together?
  • Are there group outings?
  • Can employees come together for a community service project or a charity?
  • Are employee turnover rates going down?
  • Do employees recommend the company to friends?

Employee engagement may also be observed with social network analytics and sentiment mining tools.

This was last updated in July 2018

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