Employee engagement. The holy grail that every company strives for. Yet this term doesn't have a universal definition that everyone agrees on. Here at Blink, we define employee engagement as a combination of two parts:
- Attitude — the commitment a worker feels toward the company
- Behavior — the effort that an employee is willing to invest in their job
Both are equally important for employee engagement. In fact, one is meaningless without the other.
But how do you build a workplace that aligns the attitude and the behavior of workers with the goals of the organization? And how can you protect your business from factors that diminish employee engagement?
By starting with the fundamental drivers of employee engagement. There are certain conditions that, if present in the workplace, can lead to happy, engaged, and more productive employees. And in this post, we'll take a look at what these are.
Key drivers of employee engagement
Workplaces are changing fast. Millennials are rising into leadership roles and Gen Z employees will soon make up 27% of the overall workforce. If you want to engage your employees, it's important to ditch traditional processes in favor of modern employee engagement techniques.
But what actually are modern engagement drivers? What does it really mean to drive employee engagement?
A driver of employee engagement is any factor that can motivate, inspire, and encourage employees to engage with your organization. These elements work to create a more positive and productive company culture and are often found to be the key motivating factors behind engaged employees.
As well as increasing employee engagement, these drivers often have the added benefit of boosting morale and positive relationships in the work environment, alongside improving productivity and strengthening the overall employee experience.
Overview of the key drivers of employee engagement
We’ll look at 16 key drivers of engagement in this guide:
- Safe, dedicated working environment
- Tools and processes
- Feeling valued and involved
- Psychological safety
- Work-life balance
- Company performance
- Multi-way feedback
- Committed coworkers
- Peer-to-peer relationships
- Shared values
Below, these key drivers are split into three major categories, along with what they each are, and exactly what you need to do to keep an eye on them.
Physical drivers of employee engagement
Physical employee engagement drivers correspond to the materialistic, tangible conditions that surround employees on a daily basis. These include:
1. Safe, dedicated working environment
58% of high-performance workers have voiced the need for a quieter workplace, and 54% say their office environment is distracting. But noise is not the only factor that creates a safe working environment, environmental conditions like temperature and lighting also impact productivity and engagement.
Unfortunately, these conditions may not always be so easy to moderate. If your workers are on the go, for example, moving between warehouses and customers or from hospitals to patient homes, the conditions of a safe working environment will be entirely different to those based in an office.
How to drive engagement through the work environment
If you want to influence your employees' willingness to engage, your working environment should take the following into account:
- Basic facilities and amenities
- Hygiene and safety
- Temperature, lighting, and sound
Ensuring employees have access to information and policies relating to your frontline safety policies is also paramount.
For these employees, digital inclusion is critical to safety and security at work. So, making all safety policies clear, accessible and inclusive of frontline employees should always be a priority if you really want to drive engagement.
Don't fall back on guesswork when making decisions related to these drivers. You can conduct an employee engagement survey or short poll to ask workers about the workplace changes that could boost their performance. In an office-based environment, these may be as simple as setting quiet hours, taking the air conditioning down a notch, or dimming the lights. For frontline employees, needs may vary from providing safe and secure access to information, to offering more intuitive systems for incident or near-miss reports, or improving communication with management.
Whichever it is, make sure to listen to your employees and create a safe working environment to help them feel engaged and secure in their jobs.
2. Tools and processes
Do your workers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs? Or do they have bottlenecks, red tape, and distractions getting in their way?
Frontline workers often cannot access the tools that are so easily available to desk-based workers, for example. And without the right digital tools, employees struggle to perform their tasks, let alone engage with the purpose and meaning behind them.
How to drive engagement through tools and processes
Employee engagement tools and processes should simplify an employee’s working life.
This means that the employee engagement training you provide, the work policies and resources available, the day-to-day employee technology you use, and everything else should be accessible and easy to use in order. This properly enables employees to do their best work.
If you're a frontline-heavy organization with dispersed teams, having mobile-first tools and easy-to-access mobile resources is an easy and intuitive way to reach all members of your workforce, even if they’re on the go.
Mental drivers of employee engagement
Mental employee engagement drivers are the psychological factors that determine how workers feel toward their organization. These include:
3. Feeling valued and involved
Feeling valued is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. It’s not enough for employers to pay their employees a competitive salary — they also need to feel that their teams value, trust, and care about them as people.
This is particularly true for the growing population of Gen Z workers, who highly value empathy from their bosses and consider it a prerequisite to engagement at work. By demonstrating genuine concern for their workers' wellbeing, alongside clear, frequent recognition of hard work, employers can create an environment that encourages employees to feel seen and appreciated.
If workers don’t feel valued by their organization, it will be difficult for them to remain engaged in meaningful work. After all, why would you put effort into something that you don’t think matters or is of any value?
As we've touched on, this can be an even bigger problem for dispersed teams with fewer physical interactions with management or their coworkers. In fact, nearly 4 in 10 (37%) frontline workers don’t feel as valued as their desk-based colleagues.
How to drive engagement through a felt sense of value and involvement
To ensure your workers feel valued and involved, you need to demonstrate that your company empathizes with them, appreciates them, and listens to their opinions. This could be through regular check-ins or Pulse Surveys encouraging them to communicate their ideas and provide more employee feedback.
Having specific programs and engagement activities in place to create more meaningful connections between the HQ, team leaders, and frontline employees can also be effective in showing that employees of all job roles are valued. Think Secure 1-1 and Group Messaging features, as well as News Feeds to keep everyone connected.
This also means providing the same recognition, rewards, and opportunities for growth and development to all of your employees, regardless of where they are located.
Digital employee recognition tools can be the perfect way to reach even the most distant teams and show your workers that their hard work really does matter.
4. Psychological safety
How comfortable do your employees feel with their work? A global survey found that only a few business leaders have been demonstrating behaviors that instill a sense of psychological safety in their workers.
When this employee engagement driver is in place, workers feel confident to put physical, emotional, and intellectual energy into their tasks. They have faith that they can carry out their responsibilities without any fear of damage to their status or career progression. Workers want to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work — being able to suggest new ideas, take risks, and even fail without the fear of blame and ridicule or damage to their progression.
For the frontline, this might look like being able to admit mistakes without fear of recrimination, having an open dialogue about mental and physical health, or even introducing new ideas that challenge the status quo.
How to drive engagement through psychological safety
The best way to build psychological safety in your workplace is to create a culture that focuses on solutions.
For example, when things go awry, don't look for someone to blame. Just solve the problem and see how it can be prevented in the future. Ask yourself, “How can we ensure this doesn't happen again?”
Notice how the question says “we,” not “you” or “I.” We want to use collaborative language that puts the responsibility on the group as a whole, instead of accusing any one individual of the mistake.
This employee engagement driver comes into the picture when workers feel they are being treated fairly.
The justified treatment makes them more likely to be engaged at work. Some smaller examples of this is when employees receive frequent recognition, appreciation, and compensation for jobs well done, but true fairness stretches much further than this.
In 2022, McKinsey reported that a huge three in four frontline workers wanted to be promoted, yet less than one in four achieved it. And this isn’t due to issues with competency.
So if you’re a leader looking to drive more engagement in a largely deskless organization, bridging that gap in fair treatment should be a big priority for your engagement initiatives.
How to drive engagement through fairness
Remember: valuing your employees isn’t the same as treating them fairly.
Fairness in the modern work environment requires equal treatment of your employees across the board. No more favoring your desk-based staff when it comes to professional growth opportunities. No more forgetting your dispersed teams when it comes to financial rewards for recognizing star performers.
Fairness has to reach further than a simple pat on the back for a job well done. Yes, every team member should feel valued. But more so, this feeling should be reinforced by company-wide policies and consistent practices of fair treatment.
This may mean striving for employee techquity, fairer recruitment practices, or ongoing career development opportunities where earned.
Another crucial driver of employee engagement is how empowered your teams are to take responsibility for their projects.
This implementation starts from the top. When workers are part of the decision-making process, they'll have a personal stake in the success of a project or change initiative.
The more control you give to the frontline staff, the more they'll own what they do and the outcome. This level of ownership will motivate them to build new skills, gain experience on tasks they've never done before, and go beyond their comfort zones.
How to drive engagement through ownership
There are many ways to put this into practice. While thoughts of an office suggestion box feels like a visit from the Ghost of Engagement Past, there are current, digital alternatives that can involve your employees in the decision-making process.
Companies can launch a digital ‘idea' box by asking workers to submit suggestions for improving the employee experience. Even better, you can gain instant insights into direct improvements workers want to make with Pulse Surveys tailored to this subject.
Shortlisted suggestions can be turned into projects. Management can then form teams to champion and carry out the suggestions, offering the employees who contributed those ideas the chance to own and deliver on them where fit.
This ownership can go a long way in driving engagement from your staff. After all, owning a project from ideation to implementation is an engaging process in itself.
Among all the drivers of employee engagement, autonomy has amazing potential to inspire workers to perform at their peak levels.
Micromanagement has no place in autonomy. Giving employees autonomy at work means that you trust them to make many big and small decisions on how they carry out their work.
When workers have the freedom to determine how they manage their time and where to apply their energy, they are more likely to feel committed to your business mission. In fact, 80% say that their loyalty towards a company increases when it offers flexible work options.
How to drive engagement through autonomy
To implement this employee engagement driver, you can start by allowing flexible schedules (where relevant) and measuring performance based on clear and concrete KPIs instead of counting the hours workers put in.
While flexible hours may not always be possible for frontline workers, there are still steps you can take to provide more autonomy and flexibility to your dispersed teams.
Empowering your frontline workers with the support of accessible, intuitive scheduling tools can also help them gain a sense of responsibility and more autonomy over their roles. Without the hassle of manual scheduling and admin, employees can easily see their shifts, ask for time off and pick up extra shifts when needed and available.
Finally, you could also provide frontline workers with their own digital device — such as a tailored mobile app — that allows them to access resources, track their progress, and stay on the same page with HQ without feeling overwhelmed or micromanaged.
Blink doesn’t track your employees, can’t access their files or photos without permission, has flexible location settings, and provides private, secure chats for staff communications. As over-monitored employees are found to feel highly stressed and assume a lack of trust from their company, tools that provide this autonomy, privacy, and sense of trust can go a long way in driving engagement.
87% of millennials rate professional development opportunities as a crucial factor in a job. Setting simple career roadmaps can engage your workforce and help attract even more talented employees in the future.
When employees are frequently being challenged at work, their drive to learn and develop makes them more alert and engaged. The result is improvement in deliverables and better productivity.
How to drive engagement through progression
This employee engagement driver can be instilled through proactive career advancement strategies. You can conduct a skills gap assessment and create learning pathways based on areas such as leadership, data analysis, project management, assembly lines, and so on.
These measures will show workers that you are committed to investing in their success, which in turn leads to a highly engaged workforce.
You have to provide strong senior leadership in order to drive engagement, particularly for frontline employees.
With dispersed teams, the employee-manager relationship becomes all the more important — and having the right leaders providing guidance and direction, but also inspiring employees to engage, is essential.
It allows frontline employees to have faith in senior leadership and trust that decisions are being made with everyone's best interests at heart. This can help motivate employees to perform at a higher level.
Without strong frontline leadership that helps employees feel connected to and involved with the organization as a whole, your employee engagement strategies are senseless, and your team’s performance will suffer as a result.
How to drive engagement through leadership
Senior leaders must take the time to understand their frontline employees and create accessible feedback channels for any questions or concerns they may have.
Frontline managers should also seek out ways to identify potential problems and provide feedback, support, and recognition in real time to ensure that those issues don’t persist.
Digital tools can be incredibly helpful here With access to frontline analytics and engagement metrics, leaders can quickly identify any areas for improvement or gaps in performance and address them accordingly.
10. Work life balance
Long shifts and unpredictable schedules are a way of life for many frontline teams.
For a dispersed workforce — take transit workers, nurses, and hospitality staff, for example — inconsistent hours and additional duties are often expected, with breaks in between slim to none. This can easily lead employees to burnout or disengagement as they juggle their jobs with other responsibilities such as their families.
While there may not be much you feel you can do to change this, the impact it can have on job satisfaction, and therefore employee retention, is too big to ignore.
Frontline workers are globally overworked and undervalued, and as an employer, it’s your responsibility to recognize this and engage in meaningful conversations about working hours, mental health and wellbeing, and job satisfaction.
Employees sense when their hard work is being taken for granted — and this can lead to disengagement.
How to drive engagement through work-life balance
It’s important to ensure that your frontline teams are getting the rest and relaxation they need in order to perform at their peak levels.
Encouraging employees to take regular breaks, providing intuitive scheduling solutions, and providing better access to employee wellbeing resources can be great ways to show appreciation for their work while also helping them maintain a better work-life balance.
It's also crucial to ensure they have access to the resources and support they need to stay healthy and productive, even when on the go. With the right tools, you can provide your dispersed teams with real-time check-ins, access to health and safety resources, and other solutions to help them stay connected and informed.
11. Company performance
Ultimately, your frontline teams want to see that their hard work is helping the company succeed. And as an employer, you can provide them with a clearer understanding of how their work contributes to the big picture.
Regularly communicating the performance and progress of the organization helps employees feel like they are part of something larger than themselves — which in turn leads to increased motivation and loyalty.
How to drive engagement through company performance
To keep up morale and alignment with the company’s goals, share the company's progress and milestones with your teams as part of your wider employee engagement strategy. You can do this in a variety of ways, ranging from regular communication to digital dashboards that provide real-time updates on company performance.
Regularly sharing such insights will help give everyone a sense of purpose and ensure they are aware of the impact their work is having on the company’s success. The more connected frontline teams feel to your business mission, the more likely they will be to remain engaged and motivated.
Social employee engagement drivers
Connecting with others is a basic human need. So no discussion of employee engagement drivers can be complete without talking about the social aspects that impact employee engagement. These are:
12. Multi-way feedback
Sooner or later, every worker would want to know how they are doing, and whether they are meeting expectations at work. In fact, 89% of HR professionals say that regular feedback positively impacts their company.
Contrary to what you may think, annual, one-sided performance reviews have long been dead. In modern organizations, feedback works both ways.
How to drive engagement through multi-way feedback
Employees need to see that their employer listens to them and takes action on their input. And they need regular, constructive feedback from peers and senior team members.
Conducting regular communication and feedback sessions can go a long way in helping workers and keeping them engaged in their jobs. This is even more important for employers with diverse or dispersed teams.
13. Committed co-workers
Dedication towards work has a contagious effect. When employees see deeply committed peers surrounding them, it makes them want to pull their weight and contribute even more. So committed team members form another important employee engagement driver.
How to drive engagement through committed coworkers
But how can you trigger this behavior in the workplace from the beginning? It starts with the recruitment process. By identifying workers who are passionate about what they do, you can sow the seed for a workplace culture focused on your organization's mission, vision, and values.
Another great approach is to encourage workers to pursue experiments and passion projects. In doing so, they'll get confident and comfortable with taking initiative in their work and be more engaged.
14. Peer-to-peer relationships
Strong relationships with peers at work also contribute to workplace engagement. In fact, research shows that employees who have a best friend at work are significantly more likely to:
- Engage customers and internal partners
- Get more done in less time
- Support a safe work environment with fewer accidents and reliability concerns
- Innovate and share ideas
- Have fun while at work.
And it's obvious why. When team members have relationships based on mutual respect and trust, it gets easier to communicate and get things done. Plus, they get a sense of enjoyment from their work.
So if your organization wants to nurture employee engagement, it needs to make sure that team members have meaningful relationships with each other.
How to drive engagement through peer-to-peer relationships
Ensuring that your workers feel welcome and comfortable at work is a no-brainer, especially in deskless or remote work environments.
Remote and on-the-go frontline employees don't get as many opportunities to socialize with peers as office-based workers. So it becomes even more important to engage them with virtual collaboration activities and social events.
Another thing you can do is implement workplace mentorship programs. These will not just help employees grow but also bring them closer to each other.
15. Shared values and company culture
A sense of shared values and a strong company culture are also essential when it comes to employee engagement.
It’s important for frontline teams to feel connected to the company’s mission, purpose, and core values if they are going to remain engaged with and inspired by their work. Creating a sense of community among dispersed teams can be difficult, but it’s necessary — especially given that so many frontline workers are isolated from one another.
A strong company culture amongst frontline employees starts with a strong employee experience. When teams are provided with the right tools, resources, and support to do their jobs well, they will feel empowered to make a difference. This helps build loyalty and fosters a culture of collaboration that encourages engagement.
How to drive engagement through shared values and company culture
To drive company culture, organizations must create strong employee experiences for workers. This includes access to intuitive digital tools, recognition for excellent performance, and offering competitive salaries and benefits where deserved.
Providing employees with opportunities to connect beyond their jobs is also key for a connected culture. By creating social spaces and offering activities such as virtual group channels and a holistic News Feed for coworker updates, you can foster a culture of community among teams separated by distance.
You should also ensure that your company’s mission, values, and culture are clearly communicated to everyone in the organization. This will help bridge the gap between dispersed teams and ensure that everyone is united by a shared purpose.
Employee recognition is ultimately the key to building long-term engagement. By recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work, you can create a powerful feedback loop that encourages them to continue striving for excellence.
How to drive engagement through employee recognition
Recognition can come in many forms, from public praise and digital badges to monetary rewards and prizes.
It’s important to be thoughtful when selecting a recognition program, as your frontline teams may have different preferences. Some might prefer instant gratification, while others might appreciate more long-term rewards such as career development opportunities or extra vacation days.
Final thoughts: key drivers of employee engagement
Globally in 2023, 77% of employees are not engaged at work. This can lead to only two outcomes: either disengaged employees either leave your business sooner than they should, or they stay for the paycheck but little else.
Both these scenarios are unacceptable for a healthy and growing business.
Your people are your most important asset. You must do all you can to assess and implement key employee engagement drivers in your company.
Once you get a sense of what areas need improvement, follow the steps we outlined above to shape your workplace culture for a bright future and start to build employee engagement strategies that work.
Now that you understand the key drivers of employee engagement, you can use an employee super-app like Blink to start improving them.
With Blink, you can quickly assess and measure employee engagement, track progress against organizational goals, and create actionable insights to drive continuous improvement. In fact, Blink users see:
- 45% increase in staff satisfaction
- 26% reduction in turnover
- 300% increase in survey responses
Our super-app is designed for the frontline, offering a suite of intuitive features that connect you with dispersed teams and drive engagement, wherever they might be.