Employee engagement is a critical focus for People teams— or any other business leader. Learn what it is, why it’s important, and how to improve it in our complete guide.
Employee engagement is the difference between soaring productivity rates and a sense of stagnation. It’s fifty people applying for a single vacancy, rather than fifty vacancies and one applicant.
Yet for all its importance, companies frequently misunderstand what employee engagement is and what it looks like. That's why we’re here to help.
Whether you're looking to better understand the definition and importance of employee engagement, drive employee engagement in your organization, or simply understand examples of employee engagement, this complete guide to employee engagement has something for you.
What is employee engagement? A simple definition
Employee engagement is the ongoing process of ensuring your workforce feels satisfied with their job, aligned with your organization’s values, and supported enough to give 100% during work hours.
Research by SHRM defines the term employee engagement as relating to the level of an employee's commitment and connection to an organization, while Investopedia defines employee engagement as describing the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward their job.
At Blink, we believe true employee engagement is a combination of two equally important parts:
- Attitude - the commitment a worker feels toward the company
- Behavior - the effort that an employee is willing to invest in their job
Whichever way you look at it, maintaining employee engagement is a key factor in determining how successful an organization will be. It also provides key insights into employee satisfaction and sentiment, which can help identify areas that may need improvement.
To better illustrate what employee engagement looks like, here are some of the key attitudes and behaviors of engaged vs disengaged employees:
What is employee engagement for employers?
HR is all about people. So it makes sense that, if that is your role, you want the best for your co-workers.
Still, there’s more to it than that.
Employee engagement is important because it affects the performance of your company. Think back to a job you’ve not enjoyed in the past — did you give as much to that role as you did to the ones you loved?
Now extrapolate this out across an entire company of unhappy, unmotivated workers. In toxic environments, productivity nosedives. Depending on the type of organization you work for, this could mean a lower output rate, poor customer service, an increase in safety incidents, reduced patient satisfaction, missed deadlines, or any other number of issues.
What is employee engagement for employees?
For employees themselves, engagement isn't so much a daily activity they schedule time for. It's a natural byproduct of a strong employee experience.
Engagement is directly correlated to a positive work environment; when people feel respected, appreciated, and valued for their work, they are more likely to be an engaged employee. It's about being part of something bigger than just your job title — it’s that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment when you know you are making a difference.
Different groups of employees have different engagement expectations — and when those expectations match the day-to-day experiences of their roles, employees are more likely to be engaged.
Whether it’s your dispersed, frontline teams or your first-line managers, it’s worth getting to know what your employees expect from their engagement experience.
Why is employee engagement important?
Employee engagement efforts don’t need to be expensive, but they do need to be intentional. Issues created by poor employee engagement practices can cost your company thousands.
- Reduced productivity: people don’t work well when they’re unhappy. If teams are consistently falling short of productivity targets you know to be reasonable, there’s a good chance they’re unhappy at work
- Absenteeism: unhappy employees stay at home and use more sick days and mental health days than those employees who enjoy their jobs and work environments
- Presenteeism: Between May 2021 and November 2022 alone presenteeism rose by 18%. As the cost of presenteeism has historically been found to significantly outweigh the cost of absenteeism, this is one common challenge for engagement leaders to tackle.
- High employee turnover: if someone is disengaged, it makes them more likely to leave. Replacing employees is super expensive (think six to nine months’ salary, plus up to 213% of the total annual salary depending on the seniority of the position). Along with being a cost drain, the extra workload will put pressure on your other, potentially unhappy, employees while you find a replacement
- Employer brand damage: a stream of employees leaving your organization won’t do your reputation any good. Not only will you end up with a large list of vacancies, but you’ll also struggle to find people to fill them. With more job seekers than ever using online review sites, such as Glassdoor, to screen companies before they apply, a poor reputation for employee engagement has never been so damaging
This creates a cycle that your organization doesn’t want to slip into. Breaking it, or making sure that your company doesn’t start to slip down it, is an essential task that requires time and dedication to tracking — and improving key metrics.
3 core benefits of employee engagement
Gallup provides interesting insights on the benefits of employee engagement. Organizations with highly engaged employees experience:
As you can see in the employee engagement statistics above, there is a vast array of benefits to be gained from increased employee engagement. In the below sections, we’ve found some of the most compelling evidence for three core benefits of employee engagement:
- Greater discretionary effort
- Improved job satisfaction
- Increased employee retention
Greater discretionary effort
Improved discretionary effort offered by engaged individuals is one huge benefit of employee engagement initiatives.
Those with high engagement levels often perform above expectations and develop meaningful relationships with their peers, contributing to improved outcomes for everyone involved. These efforts are what is known as ‘Discretionary Effort’.
The discretionary effort your employees put in directly impacts the success of your business outcomes, whether it’s your overall employee output rates, your patient safety outcomes and satisfaction levels, or a direct increase to your bottom line.
Improved job satisfaction
Employee engagement has the dual benefit of improving both organizational success and job satisfaction on a personal level.
This is because engagement initiatives themselves provide employees with more development opportunities, better recognition for good work, and better prospects for career growth. When employees reap these benefits offered to them by engagement strategies, they feel like they make a real impact on the success of an organization, and that what they are doing is meaningful.
Increased employee retention
Employees are more likely to stay with the organization when they are more satisfied and engaged.
Research by the IJECM (International Journal of Economics, Commerce & Management) found that job satisfaction is a reliable and relevant predictor of employee retention. Highly engaged employees develop a greater sense of attachment to the organization and become more loyal, resulting in up to a 43% difference in employee turnover according to further employee engagement research.
How to improve employee engagement
There are a number of ways to improve employee engagement, but, at Blink, we like to think of engagement efforts as being split into three key categories:
- Delivering on the 10 key drivers of employee engagement
- Identifying the employee engagement strategies and tactics that work for your employees
- Ensuring the best employee engagement tools and software
Key drivers of employee engagement
In order to improve employee engagement, you must understand what drives it, and focus your efforts there. What core experiences and tools do you need to provide to your workforce in order to boost the overall employee experience and drive engagement?
Key drivers of employee engagement include but aren’t limited to:
- Safe, dedicated working environment
- Tools and processes
- Feeling valued and involved
- Psychological safety
- Work-life balance.
By focusing engagement efforts on enabling these core engagement drivers, you will be much more likely to see significant engagement improvements.
Employee engagement strategies and tactics
An employee engagement strategy is the plan of action you take to bring about an increase in employee engagement levels. On the other hand, tactics are the individual steps and actions that will get you there. In the context of an employee engagement strategy, this means the tactics are the specific engagement actions your teams take to implement the initiatives outlined in the strategy.
Employee engagement strategies combine a number of tactics, such as the use of team-building exercises, offering career growth opportunities, providing more effective recognition for good work and positive behavior changes, or improving your internal communication processes.
In order to effectively craft an engagement strategy, it’s important to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, and how you plan to get there.
By having a clearly defined strategy, it is much easier to measure the success or failure of any engagement tactic you try. When you identify which tactics work and which don’t, you can adjust your future strategy accordingly.
Employee engagement tools
Employee engagement tools are products and tech solutions that enable companies to measure, manage, and improve employee engagement levels.
Employee engagement software comes in many forms, from survey software used to collect employee feedback and communication platforms providing a channel for discussion between teams.Engagement analysis tools can also provide insight into how your engagement efforts are faring.
However, if your staff are juggling a number of platforms and tools for different parts of their work, it will be inconvenient and you're not likely to see great engagement results. That's why an all-through-one engagement super-app is the best choice for any business wanting to consolidate engagement efforts.
A super-app brings together all of your employee communications, engagement surveys, recognition programs, and employee rewards into one, central platform.
This will not only make your life easier but will also ensure a more consistent experience for employees while enabling you to get an aggregated view of their engagement levels with just a few clicks.
Examples of employee engagement in action
How Go North West achieved 96% monthly active engagement app users
Like many frontline organizations facing a digital inclusion gap, Go North West faced challenges when it came to digitizing processes and communications in their organization. Historically, their internal comms were split across various channels, such as emails, mail to drivers' home addresses, depot noticeboards, and unregulated social media platforms.
With so many paper-based operational processes, Go North West faced high levels of non-adherence and inefficiency. On top of this, they were also facing an industry-wise staff shortage in the wake of the Great Resignation and COVID-19, which made growth for the company more difficult to achieve.
The first solution to the engagement challenges faced by Go North West lay in using Blink’s Hub — the super-app’s central portal for accessing processes, documents, and tools. Go North West could now use this to share duties,schedule, and running boards for easy access and updating.
After this, the company had to ensure critical information such as route diversions could reach all members of staff quickly and efficiently. This was where the team used the Blink Feed — a company-wide, mobile-first communications channel, supplemented with the use of Chats to fulfill shift swaps and fills and ensure smooth service delivery.
The team at Go North West also needed to streamline how they provided drivers and other members of staff access to critical processes and resources. This was where Blink’s Digital Forms and Custom Apps stepped in to revolutionize how the organization worked.
By moving to digital processes from outdated paper-based processes, drivers were able to:
- Request annual leave with a few taps from the app, made easier with functionality such as auto-population and validation
- Access their schedules through one-click access to DAS-Web
- Submit near-miss reports via a custom app on Blink, allowing them to log incidents quickly and easily, increasing the number of submissions to drive process improvement
The outcome of this engagement tech overhaul was a resounding success. Engagement levels, retention, and digitization efforts were all improved.
What did this look like in terms of engagement? Well, alongside achieving 96% monthly active app users, Go North West also saw:
- 30,000 opens of DAS-Web per month
- 6,000 Chat messages per month
- 98,000 opens of Hub content
- 17 daily app opens per user
- 186 monthly app opens per user
What a result! Widespread success across the operation, with Go North West achieving its goal of higher engagement.
The use of Blink’s engagement super-app has enabled the team to move into a digital-first future and deliver an efficient service that allows them to better serve their employees — and customers. A win-win for everyone.
Want engagement results like these? Book a free Blink demo today.
How to measure employee engagement
Measuring employee engagement should be a continuous process.
It’s not just something you need to focus on when employee morale is down and stop as soon as it reaches manageable levels… it should be a central part of the HR or People team’s day-to-day activities.
So, before implementing any of the below, ask yourself:
- How much time should we dedicate to this a week?
- Who should be in charge of this area?
- Who can manage the on-the-ground responsibilities associated with this?
- Are there any tools (e.g. a new employee super-app) that could help us manage this workload?
In terms of exactly what to measure and how to measure it, there are two key areas you need to focus on:
- The data that already exists in your company
- Data that you actively go out and collect.
Measuring employee engagement using existing data
This is data that your HR team won’t have to set up any new processes for; it (should) already be monitored by various departments. The key here is collating it, as there’s a good chance that inter-departmental silos mean that you won’t necessarily be able to access it right away, let alone see the big picture.
We’re talking about:
- Absence rates
- Employee turnover
- Number of complaints to line managers
- Number of complaints to HR
- eNPS scores
- Customer reviews
- Customer retention
- Social media engagement
There could be a myriad of reasons why customer satisfaction has dipped, so take a look at it alongside some of the other metrics listed, over an extended period of time.
For example, do eNPS scores dip when employee turnover is highest? Do customers write poorer reviews when absence rates are particularly high? Start to compare ‘result’ metrics (like sales, turnover, customer satisfaction, and customer retention) with employee wellness to see whether you notice any patterns.
From there, measure, measure, measure! Set up dashboards with all your chosen metrics so that you can track and compare them at a glance. You can then monitor employee engagement via its direct consequences — absence rates going down and productivity going up is a sure sign that your efforts are working.
To assess your current data, an engagement analytics tool can help. It will look at the data you already have (like those mentioned above) to identify how engaged your people really are and provide real-time insights into what might need improvement.
All of the above help to paint a picture of where you are with employee engagement, but they aren’t the only weapon in your arsenal. So, once you’ve got those dashboards up and running, move onto…
Measuring employee engagement by collecting new data
What’s the best, most efficient way of understanding your employee engagement levels?
Just ask them.
Regular, anonymous employee engagement surveys are the most efficient way of doing this. You might see these referred to as “pulse” surveys, and they are so much better for measuring engagement than the traditional annual long-answer survey for the following reasons:
Response rates tend to be higher. It’s much easier to encourage employees to complete three quick “rate on a scale” questions with an optional “any further comments” box than three pages of long-answer questions that they don’t have time to do.
You can keep them focused on one single issue each time. This gives your HR team a much better chance of addressing feedback successfully and sharing what they’ve done to address their co-workers’ concerns.
They encourage constructive feedback. The issue with running an annual survey is that employees see it as their single opportunity to get everything off their chests.
It’s difficult to respond to 12 months of input from an entire company in any meaningful way, particularly if the topics covered range from disagreement with the company’s strategic direction or low staff retention to dissatisfaction with the options offered in the cafeteria.
How to use your employee engagement data
Whether you’ve noticed that your absence rates are soaring way above your industry average or carried out a highly targeted pulse survey, you need to take action from this data. Understanding exactly how to use your employee engagement data is therefore crucial.
Align key stakeholders with a plan of action
First, sit down with all relevant stakeholders and agree on a workable course of action. Involving stakeholders here keeps things grounded — it’s tempting to offer your workforce the moon on a stick when they’re unhappy, but this isn’t realistic. Avoid promising things you can’t deliver on — broken promises won’t be taken well by your employees, no matter how ambitious they are.
If, for example, your employees have stated they want better quality break rooms or equipment, it’s wise to take the time to align with the leadership suite on whether they have the resources to help with this before you promise a tech overhaul or new break room to your workforce.
Track improvements in data with KPIs
Second, it’s super important to track these improvements against realistic employee engagement KPIs. Change in organizations is gradual, so make sure your targets reflect this and avoid the temptation to try and go from 0 to 100 in three months.
If none of your employees are having regular one-to-one contact with their line managers, an example target structure could look like this:
- 3 months in: 20% of all employees having regular catch-ups
- 6 months in: 40% of employees
- 9 months in: 60% of employees
- 12 months in: 80% of employees
You could also consider how you roll this out. It’s much easier to coordinate regular catch-ups for office-based positions, so you could focus on getting a full 100% in the first three months for office-based teams as a quick win. Whilst you do this, you can sort out the infrastructure for deskless and dispersed teams to be able to do this further down the line.
Consider new tech
Finally, think about any tools that might help you meet these targets and/or address employees’ concerns.
There’s now plenty of workplace tech to help with a range of issues, like employee apps to help communication, productivity software to help meet targets, and advanced CRM features that make meeting customer needs much easier for frontline employees.
Check with your leadership team to see what sort of support they could offer here. They’ll be looking for a solid return on investment and plan before giving the green light, so make sure that if you’re making a direct request for new software, you build a solid business case about why you need it.
Communicate your plan of action
The golden rule: never assume that your workforce will notice your efforts to improve things without you communicating it.
Your workforce is busy, and meaningful change takes time — so you’re not going to make everything perfect right away. To really show your employees that you’ve taken their feedback on board, you’ll need to be explicit.
Include announcements about your planned improvements into your internal communications strategy. If you’ve conducted a pulse survey, share the results. This is a gesture of transparency that people will really appreciate—and emphasizes that you’re taking employee feedback seriously.
When announcing any improvement plans, consider:
- The channel that would work best: would more people see it via email, on a noticeboard, or via a mobile-first employee app?
- The frequency of your communication: how frequently should you update your employees on the progress you’re making towards these goals
You could also consider providing updates in person at company meetings, as this adds a welcome personal touch.
Remember the small things alongside big things
Big, organizational changes take time, but there are smaller things you can do for your workforce in the meantime.
Reworking the employee journey so there are more obvious routes for internal promotion takes time. Easier things like upgrading the coffee machine, setting up a couple of lunchtime clubs, or getting a pool table for the break room does not.
Implementing a couple of easy-to-manage changes (either that your workforce has specifically asked for, or just off your own back) emphasizes your commitment to improvement while you’re working towards the more structural stuff. It’s not a substitute, but it is a good reminder to your workforce about what you’re trying to do.
Blink. And your employee engagement strategy takes shape.
Blink is the all-through-one engagement super-app that your business needs to make sure employee engagement isn’t an extra task on your list, but part of a holistic approach to people management.
Our platform includes all the tools you need for effective employee engagement, from surveys and feedback loops to recognition programs and rewards. We also provide comprehensive reporting dashboards and insights to monitor progress, track performance, identify problem areas and create actionable plans.
When it comes to employee engagement, Blink is the perfect solution for businesses of all sizes.
No matter where you are in your engagement journey, we’re here to help you create the best possible experience for your employees and drive maximum success for your business.
Employee engagement FAQs
What is the meaning of employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional connection that an employee has to their job, their colleagues and the organization as a whole. It's more than just being satisfied with their work—it's about feeling passionate about it and believing in its purpose. Employee engagement drives meaningful conversations, encourages innovation and collaboration, helps define organizational culture, and boosts company performance.
What is the benefit of employee engagement?
There are many benefits of employee engagement for both employers and employees. For employers, higher levels of employee engagement can lead to increased productivity and performance, improved customer service, better problem-solving, reduced absenteeism and turnover rates, increased safety protocols, greater innovation and creativity, and even a stronger brand reputation in the marketplace.
For employees, engaged workers report higher job satisfaction, greater feelings of accomplishment and purpose in their work, better health outcomes, increased career opportunities, and an enhanced sense of connection to the organization. Ultimately, employee engagement is a win-win for both sides.