Businesses that invest in improving employee engagement may be more likely to experience increased productivity and reduced turnover. But traditional engagement tactics, like surveys or focus groups, may have limited impact in dynamic work environments. Many companies find that engaging a workforce today requires innovative approaches to data analysis and leaders who provide frequent, individual attention to their team members.

What is employee engagement?

Many people think engagement pertains to employee happiness and/or job satisfaction. While those sentiments are important, engagement also means motivating people to do their best work sustainably.

Levels of employee engagement

There are generally four recognized levels of engagement:

  • Fully engaged – Employees who appear highly committed and willing to perform to the best of their abilities for the organization.
  • Engaged – Employees who seem to feel favorably about their jobs and are relatively committed to their employer.
  • Not engaged – Employees who seem somewhat satisfied with their job, but may do just enough to get by.
  • Actively disengaged – Employees who likely have poor work experiences and may pose risks to the company.

Where does employee engagement occur?

While some initiatives at the broader organizational level may influence the employee experience, engagement typically happens locally where people work. This distinction is essential to understanding and improving the extent to which employees feel connected to their jobs.

Why is employee engagement important?

If employers focus on increasing engagement, their workforce may be more inclined to perform their best and stay with the organization longer. Often, there is a direct correlation between engagement and other important business metrics, such as customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity and workplace safety.

How to measure employee engagement

Many organizations measure employee engagement by conducting annual surveys and tracking percentage point increases year-over-year. However, this approach is sometimes ineffective because employee sentiments about work change frequently. A better method for capturing engagement data proceeds as follows:

  1. Measure in the right direction
    Traditional engagement measurements, e.g., measuring from the top down based on organizational charts, overlook team dynamics. Instead, employers should evaluate engagement directly between managers and their direct reports.
  2. Ask the right questions
    Lengthy pulse surveys can fatigue employees and may not produce the desired results. Best practice is to ask questions narrowly tailored to the information sought. StandOut® powered by ADP®, for instance, relies on just eight statements to help uncover the specific factors that contribute to employee engagement and performance.
  3. Evaluate more often
    Regularly measuring employee engagement – weekly, monthly or quarterly – provides insight that can help leaders manage in the moment. They can better understand what’s really happening with their team members and address challenges as quickly as possible.
  4. Track for the right reasons
    Measuring engagement should be done not just to reach a milestone, i.e., 90% engagement, but also to better understand how teams are experiencing work. The feedback gathered can then be used to drive performance.

Employee engagement strategies

After using research-based questions to establish a realistic engagement baseline, employers should act on their findings to move the needle forward. One tactic often found to be effective is to encourage frequent, one-on-one conversations between managers and direct reports. These discussions may discuss an employee’s near-term assignments and any needs the employee may have from management. When that happens, employees tend to feel more supported and aligned with the organization’s future.

Other strategies for improving engagement may include:

  • Recognizing employees for outstanding achievements, leadership, milestones, etc.
  • Creating training and learning programs that support employee development
  • Allowing employees to partake in strategic planning and key business decisions
  • Accommodating employees’ personal lives by encouraging work-life balance
  • Supporting all aspects of employee wellness, including physical, mental and financial wellness
  • Adjusting management techniques to motivate employees with different learning styles
  • Ensuring that employees have a clear understanding of their job expectations
  • Focusing on strengths so that employees have confidence in their expertise
  • Providing opportunities for advancement within the organization

Employee engagement software solutions

Implementing employee engagement strategies is often easier with technology, like StandOut powered by ADP. Our user-friendly platform helps build engaged, high-performing employees and improves local team connectivity using:

  • Strengths-based assessments
  • Frequent team check-ins
  • Personalized coaching for leaders

Frequently asked questions about employee engagement

What are the three C's of employee engagement?

There are three basic elements of employee engagement:

  1. Connection – Employee satisfaction and assimilation to an organization
  2. Comfort – Bonds between employees, their managerial team and the organization
  3. Culture – Workplace norms, expectations and values

What is the difference between engagement and retention?

Engagement vs. retention – although the two go hand in hand, they are different. Engagement is often defined as the emotions or experiences employees need to contribute extraordinary contributions to their employer. Retention is how employers keep the employees they most desire to work for them.

Does employee engagement lead to employee retention?

Engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization. Those who are not engaged or actively disengaged tend to be flight risks.

Who is responsible for employee engagement?

Engagement doesn’t follow a hierarchical organizational chart. It occurs at the local level, which is why engagement should be managed by team leaders. They are typically best suited to assess employee sentiment data immediately, share it with their direct reports and act on it.

How can managers improve employee engagement?

Businesses that have the most success improving engagement encourage team leaders to have frequent check-ins with each of their team members. By asking a series of short, research-based questions during check-ins, managers can quickly understand what drives performance and provide any support that employees may need.

What are examples of employee engagement programs used by companies?

Standout powered by ADP is one example of how employers can easily measure engagement. It helps team leaders ask the right questions of the right team members at the right time so they can better trust the results. The software also provides personalized coaching insights to address the factors that matter most in building engagement within teams.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing the employee engagement definition and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.