The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement: What It Is, Why It Matters, & How to Improve It

Learn about employee engagement, why it's important, and how to improve your team's engagement with unique ideas and activities.

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the importance of employee engagement

Are your employees happy?

According to research, 65% of employees are happy with their job. While that’s a majority of the workforce, it is concerning that the remaining 35% don’t feel the same way. Happy employees tend to perform better at work; they’re more productive and engaged in their responsibilities, while disengaged employees can drag down company profits by 15% or more.

While no workforce is immune to the occasional dissatisfied worker, it becomes a serious issue if the problem spreads to the majority of a department or — even worse — the entire company. Retaining key employees may become nearly impossible, resulting in lots of time (and money) spent hiring and training new workers.

When your workers are disengaged, you will likely deal with more HR complaints, and team members may be unwilling to collaborate with one another. If you are noticing these and other common signs of dissatisfaction, it’s time to nip the problem in the bud. While it may take some time to right the ship, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

Here's How to Improve Employee Engagement Starting Today15 Employee Engagement Survey Questions for Assessing Engagement Levels20 Exciting and Unique Employee Engagement Ideas and Activities

What is employee engagement? 🤔

Employee engagement measures the satisfaction people receive from their roles. Engaged employees feel a sense of pride in their work; they believe they’re contributing to the company's mission and success. They generally feel high levels of motivation to perform well in their position and will make additional efforts to ensure they handle their responsibilities properly.

An engaged employee collaborates well with their team members. They’ll take action when they see areas for improvement that could benefit the company. Engaged workers are eager to assume new responsibilities and are often the first to volunteer to help with major projects. When you have an engaged employee, you know you can trust them to get things done. 

The following are some of the ways employees show engagement:

  • Producing high-grade, quality work on the regular 
  • Providing suggestions to improve company processes 
  • Going the extra mile to ensure new workers assimilate into the organization 
  • Voicing their opinion on new company initiatives 
  • Participating in company-sponsored events outside of work 

Usually, it’s quite easy to identify engaged workers. Look for the people who shine in their departments. They’re typically the go-to individuals other employees seek out when they need help. While they may not always make the right decisions, they quickly correct their mistakes.

The levels of employee engagement  4️⃣

The 4 levels of employee engagement

There are four different levels of employee engagement.

1. Highly engaged employees 😀

Highly engaged employees believe in your organization — and it shows. They're the ones who will consistently drive positive business outcomes and advocate for your brand. Highly engaged employees are your biggest supporters.

2. Moderately engaged employees 🙂

Moderately engaged employees enjoy their work and have a favorable view of the organization. However, they may see opportunities for improvement that the company can benefit from. Pay attention to their suggestions — you may be able to turn them into highly engaged workers with the right actions.

3. A barely engaged employee 😐

A barely engaged employee typically feels indifferent about the workplace. They're in it for the paycheck, and they'll probably leave if they find a better opportunity. Once an employee slips into this category, it can be tricky to refocus their attention on your organization without making significant changes.

4. Fully disengaged employees  🥱

Fully disengaged employees dislike where they work. Their performance is typically poor, and their work may be unreliable. In the worst cases, their negative opinion of the organization can spill onto other team members, so improving their employee morale is critical before it becomes a wider issue.

Changes in employee engagement in a distributed workforce 🧑‍💻

Over the past few years, more employers have adopted remote or hybrid work policies. Working from home is much more commonplace than it used to be. While remote work can be a tremendous benefit for employees who want to save time commuting and have more flexibility in their day, it does have the potential for disengagement in the workplace. 

Recent research shows that workers in hybrid arrangements, where they spend approximately 60 to 80% of their time working remotely, are the most likely to have high levels of employee engagement.

Other statistics point to the potential for problems, however — especially when workers don't communicate with one another when working remotely. Cross-team collaboration can decline as much as 25%, which can significantly derail company-wide objectives.

The importance of engaged employees 👨‍👩‍👧

Employee engagement isn’t simply nice to have — it’s vital for any organization. Engaged employees make for a more productive team and are more likely to add tangible and intangible value to your organization.

Some of the benefits of employee engagement include: 

Greater profitability 💸

Engaged employees add to a company’s bottom line in several significant ways. Perhaps the most important is that they’re more likely to identify areas where the company can improve.

For example, they may find ways to streamline specific business processes or increase customer satisfaction. Depending on their role, they might discover new techniques to enhance a product or service or reduce company expenses.

Higher employee retention 🤝

Engaged workers are more likely to stay with a company for the long term. Employee retention is critical since hiring new employees is time-consuming and costly. When an employee leaves, you’ll need to find a replacement, which means posting the job description, interviewing prospective candidates, and training onboarded workers.

Most new employees will go through an initial adjustment period while they learn their new responsibilities and become familiar with current organizational processes. This adjustment period can last anywhere from a few weeks to months before a new hire is fully up to speed.

During that time, new employees are more likely to make mistakes, which managers or other employees will have to correct. For this reason, it's a good idea to take steps to minimize employee turnover.

Less employee conflict 🫂

When employees genuinely enjoy their jobs, they’re more likely to have positive relationships with their coworkers and managers. Solid workplace relationships mean that team members will collaborate well together. You’ll see fewer (if any) arguments between employees, and the workplace will be an enjoyable place to be.

Ongoing employee conflict can quickly drag down a workplace, making workers uncomfortable and unhappy. People don’t tend to stick around long if the workplace is toxic — they’ll leave for other opportunities in a better atmosphere. 

More productivity 🧑‍💻

When you have an engaged team, everything seems to work as it should. Your employees will consistently take care of their responsibilities and meet their deadlines. Your workers may ask for extra responsibilities or seek to build their skills to be ready for a promotion when the opportunity arises.

A productive workforce operating on all four cylinders can be just the ticket you need to scale your organization or reach a new market.

Happier customers 😀

All companies aim to please their clients; if your customers aren’t happy, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Without a steady stream of clients, sales decline, and you may find it harder to sustain your business.

Engaged employees care about your company’s customers, and they’ll go the extra mile to ensure their needs are met. You’ll see higher customer retention levels, improved client reviews, and less post-sale friction.

Fewer employee absences 🤒

While all workers take time off to recharge and spend time with their families, a high rate of absences is a concern — especially if call-outs are unplanned. If certain employees frequently call out sick or take time off with little notice, it shows employee disengagement.

Engaged employees are happy to show up every day. If they need to take a day or two off to recover from an illness, they’ll let you know — and probably provide a doctor’s note, too. However, they won’t call out just because the morning traffic looks bad or they simply don’t want to go to work.

Healthier employees 🤸

Your workers spend the majority of their waking hours at the workplace. Sometimes they may see their colleagues more often than family or friends. If employees don’t get along with one another, it can quickly lead to poor relationships that can impact the worker’s mental health.

Job dissatisfaction can also affect an employee’s physical health. Workers with poor engagement levels may eat unhealthily, fail to exercise, and abuse medications or alcohol.

Fewer workplace injuries 🤕

Some workers are responsible for handling hazardous machinery or equipment or performing tasks that require careful attention. Disengaged employees may not take the same precautions that an engaged worker would, which can increase the risk of workplace injury.

Workplace injuries can be serious to both the employee and the employer. Employees who are severely hurt at work may need to take time off, which lessens overall productivity. It can also lead to legal problems for the organization.

Who is responsible for employee engagement?

An adequate employee engagement strategy starts at the top, with executive leaders and management. Executives and HR professionals are responsible for maintaining employee engagement and demonstrating the company's values and mission.

The right employee engagement initiatives can reduce worker dissatisfaction and ensure that everyone works together to meet the organization's goals.

How to measure employee engagement 📏

There are various ways to measure employee engagement, including the following: 

  • Annual employee engagement surveys
  • Pulse surveys
  • Employee onboarding surveys
  • Exit questionnaires
  • One-on-one discussions

No matter what type of measurement tool you use, be careful to establish your objectives for the survey. Clear-cut goals provide direction for which questions to ask and help you adequately measure the results.

How to improve employee engagement 📈

An engaged workplace is crucial to an organization. If you see signs that employees are disengaging from their responsibilities, it’s time to take action quickly before the problem worsens. Here are a few strategies that can help:

1. Strengthen your leadership team 💪

High employee engagement levels start with strong leaders. A good leader knows how to motivate their team members, and they'll proactively identify problems before they result in widespread organizational issues.

Leaders often earn their position due to their experience and technical expertise, but they may need training to become effective, well-respected managers. You can consider enrolling your managers in a leadership workshop that helps them develop the self-awareness and open-mindedness required to lead their workers.

Best event idea for the leadership team: Mindful Leadership Workshop 

Mindful Leadership Workshop

2. Improve communication and emotional connection ❤️

Poor communication is at the heart of many misunderstandings. When people lack proper communication skills, it can result in deteriorating relationships, unnecessary drama, and arguments.

Problems with communication can also make it harder to develop strong relationships in the workplace. New hires may find it challenging to get to know their teammates, and existing workers might have lower levels of employee satisfaction.

Everyone can usually benefit from a communication skills refresher. This type of workshop can help employees better connect with one another on a conversational level and work through roadblocks that can hinder the organization's success.

Best event idea for honing communication skills: Communication Skills Workshop

Communication Skills Workshop

3. Focus on company culture 💡

Your company culture should directly reflect the company's mission and values. For instance, if innovation is one of your company values, it should permeate through every department. Employees should feel inspired to bring new ideas to improve processes or products.

If your company's values are unclear, it can confuse your workers, who may not understand what you expect. Sometimes, company culture can vary across different departments. For instance, your marketing team may value creativity while your accounting team may prize accuracy.

When your employees identify with the company culture, they're more likely to behave in ways that support it. Consider reinforcing your culture through team meetings or a workplace event.

Best event idea for improving company culture: Culture Club: Workplace Community

Culture Club: Workplace Community

4. Provide career development and growth opportunities 💼

Most people don't want to stay in the same role forever. Career advancement is important to workers, and they'll typically need to build their skills to achieve their goals. You can offer your employees career development benefits, like tuition reimbursement or a stipend toward courses that can improve specific skills.

People who are interested in management roles may benefit from early leadership training or public speaking courses. When employees feel there is room to grow in their company, they're more likely to stay engaged at work.

Best event idea for professional development opportunities: Think Faster

Think Faster

5. Give recognition and rewards 🏆

Your employees have certain responsibilities you expect them to handle — these come as part and parcel of their job. However, when you witness a worker going above and beyond the standard work requirements, rewarding them for their efforts is essential. Recognizing their extra work ensures that employees feel valued.

For example, if you have a short deadline you need to meet for a client, you could probably use a few extra hands on deck. Employees who volunteer to stay later or work a few hours on the weekend give up valuable time they would probably rather spend in other ways, like with their family and friends.

When you praise your workers for their efforts, you demonstrate your gratitude, making them more likely to step up again when you need their help.

Best event idea for employee recognition: Workplace Gratitude

Workplace Gratitude

6. Encourage work-life balance ⚖️

As the saying goes, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. While work remains a prominent factor in most adults' lives, it's unhealthy to spend so much time working that you have little opportunity for other activities.

Long hours spent working in the evening and on the weekend can lead to employee burnout, eventually resulting in employee dissatisfaction and potential health problems.

It's best to encourage a strong work-life balance in the workplace. When workers feel they can leave at the end of their shift without needing to log in at night to check emails or work on projects, they get to spend time with family and friends and develop hobbies that they enjoy.

Companies with a solid work-life balance typically have highly engaged employees.

Best event idea for a healthy work-life balance: Mindfulness Class

Mindfulness Class

7. Promote autonomy and empowerment 🦸

No one likes to feel that the boss is constantly breathing down their neck, making sure they tick all the boxes on every task they perform. Another issue is lack of direction — if employees aren't sure what objectives they're expected to achieve, it can be challenging for them to know what to work toward.

Managers can inspire employees by putting them in charge of specific projects or objectives they need to achieve. Often, a challenge can be just the boost a worker needs to increase employee engagement.

Best event idea for empowering employees: Culture Club: Self-Doubt to Confidence

Culture Club: Self-Doubt to Confidence

8. Value diversity, equity, and inclusion 🌎

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has become increasingly important over the past few years. More companies are waking up to the fact that their workers come from diverse backgrounds and need support to feel included in the workplace.

Senior leaders can encourage DE&I initiatives through their hiring practices, workplace culture, and diversity and inclusion activities. Hiring workers from varying backgrounds often leads to a more inclusive workplace and can result in better business outcomes.

Managers can improve the employee experience by implementing strategies that encourage fair workplace practices and mentorship opportunities.

Best event idea for diversity, equity, and inclusion: Diversity & Inclusion Workshop

Diversity & Inclusion Workshop

9. Aim for job satisfaction 😀

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in employee engagement. When employees feel motivated and passionate about their work, companies are more likely to reap the benefits of an engaged workforce.

Satisfied employees are less likely to leave the organization for other opportunities. They enjoy their job — why look for another? A company with happy employees will see reduced employee turnover and higher engagement rates. Those benefits can spill over into other areas, like customer satisfaction and higher profits.

10. Update your work environment and technology 🖥️

Workers who feel they have the tools and software to perform their jobs are more likely to demonstrate higher engagement levels. It's important to replace outdated computers and ensure the office is fully stocked with all the materials your workers need to handle their responsibilities.

Employees who work outside the office should have access to the equipment they need to perform their roles. For instance, if you have a sales team that regularly travels to visit clients, providing them with a company credit card prevents them from having to use their own funds while working on business needs.

The future of your employee engagement strategy

Nearly every business could benefit from improving employee engagement; higher worker engagement levels typically lead to greater profitability and employee satisfaction. Your organization will surely reap the benefits with the right strategies in place. Turn to Confetti for helpful ideas to keep employees engaged and satisfied.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to a worker's motivation and job satisfaction levels. Highly engaged employees typically enjoy their jobs and perform them well. Less engaged employees are at risk of leaving their roles and may spread negativity in the workplace.

What is an engaged employee?

Engaged employees enjoy their job and want to contribute to the organization's success. Their work is usually of high caliber, and they have high team engagement levels.

Why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement is essential for several reasons. A highly engaged workforce typically has less employee turnover and increased profitability. Workers express higher levels of job satisfaction, and employees may be healthier and have fewer workplace accidents.

How do you improve employee engagement?

Improving employee engagement starts by identifying areas where you can improve the workplace. Some employers find that surveys seeking employee feedback help them to learn where there are areas for improvement. Once you identify those areas, you can implement tools, like employee engagement games,  to improve employee engagement.

How do you measure employee engagement?

Measuring employee engagement requires data from employee engagement and pulse surveys. Once senior leaders receive the survey results, they can analyze them to determine how employees feel about the workplace. It's best practice to regularly administer surveys to stay on top of changes in employee engagement.

How do learning and development contribute to employee engagement? 

Learning and development allow employees to build their skills, which may lead to a future promotion. Professional development opportunities can also increase employee productivity and lead to a highly skilled workforce.

Which conditions adversely influence employee engagement? 

A few conditions that can negatively impact employee engagement include unsupportive management, lack of team building activities, poor work-life balance, and disinterest in the employee's well-being. Other factors include few DE&I initiatives and a lack of professional development opportunities.

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