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Employee Engagement: What You Need to Know

When it comes to employee engagement, we have a lot of opinions. We’ve put together this guide to give you a good overview of what we mean by employee engagement, why we think it’s so important, how to measure it and more. Let’s dive right in…

Employee engagement - Happy workers sat around laptops engaged and celebratory

1. What is Employee Engagement?


When HR professionals talk about employee engagement, sometimes they’re talking about culture and sometimes they’re talking about productivity. What we mean by engagement is how connected people feel to their work. 


2. Why is Employee Engagement Important?


Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%. (Gallop)


It’s hard to understate the importance of employee engagement. Engaged employees are not only likely to perform better, but they’re also more likely to stay at your organisation. This is particularly important as we reflect on “The Great Resignation”. 


At The Happiness Index we believe that your biggest asset as an organisation is your people. Attracting and retaining key talent is likely an important part of your people strategy. In 2018 Facebook did a study into their employee engagement data and found that those who remained loyal to their organisations found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers. Employee engagement is all about helping ensure your people are enjoying their work. 


3. What Are The Drivers of Employee Engagement?


There are different drivers of employee engagement. In our neuroscience model, there are two brain types which influence employee engagement and they are reflective and emotional. These can then be broken down further into behavioural drivers which we call neuroscience themes. 


These are:


  1. Meaning & Purpose - Your organisation’s values and commitments and those of the individuals on your team will impact on employee engagement. Providing inspiration is also a key element to aligning the meaning and purpose of your organisation and your team. 

  2. Clarity - Ensuring that everyone has clarity on their role requirements and the impact they’re making on their organisation is key for employee engagement. Information flow between employees, managers and leadership teams is also important to give full clarity to everyone. 

  3. Personal Growth - We’re all wired to search for new challenges and development, although the speed and direction of this will look different to everyone. A big part of employee engagement is ensuring that everyone at your organisation has a good idea of what career progression looks like for them in your organisation. 

  4. Enablement - Everyone on your team will need access to the appropriate resources and people to complete their work to be fully engaged. They also need a workload that is reasonable and keeps them interested. 


Depending on your team and the ways they think, feel and behave, these different factors will play different roles and look different. For example, for some people role clarity is key, and they prefer to have clearly defined areas of responsibility, while others like to be able to get involved in different projects. 


Everyone will have different priorities. For some it may be that they’re particularly driven and so need clear progression opportunities to remain engaged. Others may be in a stage of life where they need to prioritise home-life, and require support managing their workload. This will be a key factor in how engaged they are. 


Don’t forget that we’re all human, and we’re not all going to be equally engaged all the time! This is perfectly natural and why it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to measurement (more on this later!)


Keen to dive deeper into the neuroscience we use? We’ve got you covered with our in-depth guide to the methodology behind our platform.


4. Who is Responsible For Employee Engagement?


Ultimately, everyone within your organisation can be involved in improving employee engagement. In fact, it’s better for your employee engagement programme if they are! Let’s have a look at how different individuals may contribute…


  1. Individuals - we always encourage everyone to be involved in their own engagement. Not only are you most aware of when you’re disengaging, but you also might have a good idea of what you need to get back to where you were. For this to be feasible, your organisation needs to have robust two-way feedback mechanisms in place. This will allow individuals the freedom to ask to work on projects that interest and challenge them, personalise their personal development plans, and collaborate with teams on work that they’re excited about. 

  2. Managers - managers know their direct reports best. This means they’ll be able to react quickly when people are disengaging (or in the worst-case scenario “quietly quitting”). Empowering your managers to respond with agility to their team’s needs will help to avoid small setbacks in engagement becoming major issues. Involving managers in strategic level thinking when it comes to the drivers of engagement, such as internal comms and developing vision and values can also prove invaluable. 

  3. HR Teams - as an HR professional, it can sometimes feel like employee engagement falls entirely to you. At The Happiness Index, we encourage our customers to think about their HR teams as coordinators and project managers when it comes to employee engagement programmes. Ensuring that data is appropriately captured and distributed and that action plans and roadmaps are created and adhered to are key ways that HR teams can facilitate excellence in employee engagement. 

  4. Leadership Teams - it goes without saying that leadership teams play a key role in employee engagement. Not only will many people model their behaviour after their leaders, but having leadership buy-in is key when it comes to ensuring you have adequate resources and budgets for a successful program. 


Involving everyone in your programme will help create a more successful strategy that can move the dial on your employee engagement scores. 


5. How Can You Measure Employee Engagement?


The problem with measuring employee engagement is that it looks different for everyone. You can’t simply ask people “how engaged are you?” as this will provide different answers across the board. 


This means that measuring employee engagement using free tools such as Google Forms and Survey Monkey, while popular, isn’t going to give you accurate results. And that’s without even trying to get actionable insights. 


Here are 6 tips for measuring your employee engagement:


  1. Measure all 4 key drivers of employee engagement - To really understand how engaged your team are, you need to understand how you’re performing against each of the four drivers of engagement, individually as well as together. This will allow you to gain meaningful and actionable insight. 

  2. Make use of benchmarking & trending tools - When embarking on a programme of measuring employee engagement it’s important to understand where you’re starting and where you’re aiming to get to. Whether you’re benchmarking internally or against other organisations of your size or industry, putting numbers into context is key when measuring. 

  3. Ensure you have two-way feedback - You need to be listening to your team, gathering further context and then sharing your findings. This will help you build a culture of listening within your organisation and improve the quality and accuracy of the data you collect. 

  4. Listen throughout the employee lifecycle - To get a true picture of your employee engagement, you need to measure from the day people join your team until the day they leave. Being able to understand exactly how engagement changes over the course of an individual’s employment will help you to gain a holistic picture of your employees’ engagement.

  5.  Implement always-on listening - As well as understanding employee engagement at key points during your employees’ lifecycle you’ll also want to understand fluctuations in engagement. We already discussed that people can’t be engaged all the time, so understanding seasonal changes that are unique to your organisation is key. Plus, by collecting data not only when you ask for it but when your team wants to give it you’ll get more accurate data AND be able to react with more agility. 

  6. Take action off the back of your data. - Simply measuring isn’t enough. If you’re asking your team about their engagement but aren’t making changes from this feedback, your team will become less engaged. You need to ensure that you’re building action plans and roadmaps into your employee engagement strategy, and communicating these clearly to your team. 


The secret to our success is that our suite of surveys measures all 4 key drivers of employee engagement across the entire employee lifecycle. We break down data silos meaning you can accurately assess the levels of employee engagement across all contact points. 


Plus, the powerful analytics and reporting features in our platform use AI and machine learning to help you to easily understand your results. We allow you to segment your data easily and quickly without compromising anonymity. 


Not only this but we also provide all our customers with 24/7 access to a wide range of resources and information. This will help you to understand what you’re measuring, why, and what you can do with the data you’ve received. 


Not a data expert? Not a problem! Check out our free eBook which will take you through the process of understanding your data step by step. 


6. How Can You Improve Employee Engagement?


How you improve your employee engagement will depend entirely on your team and their individual needs. That’s why it’s so important to gather data and feedback on what your team wants and needs. Generic advice will lead to generic solutions which won’t provide the results you are looking for. 


That said, once you’ve measured your employee engagement using the tips above, there are a couple of tips to help you create a robust strategy which will lead to a successful employee engagement programme. 


  1. Identify quick wins - when our customers measure their employee engagement they often find there are quick wins available. Perhaps some of your team weren’t aware of certain benefits or programmes available to them? Improving communication around these might provide a quick and easy boost to your engagement scores. 

  2. Focus on specific weaknesses - if an initial survey has identified a specific weakness - perhaps a particularly unengaged team or department, or a key driver which is trailing behind - this might be an area for your team to focus on. We’ve created neuroscience surveys that dive deeper into specific areas which will give more insight. 

  3. Ensure you have all four key drivers covered - neglecting one of the key drivers of engagement is sure to sabotage any attempts to improve employee engagement. Even if it looks like you don’t have a particular problem in one area. By covering all four you’ll be creating a holistic strategy that supports everyone in your organisation. 

  4. Be willing to change direction - sometimes something you felt sure would work doesn’t pan out. Sometimes something works for a while and then stops being effective. Always be willing to adapt your strategy and program based on the feedback you’re collecting and your team’s wants and needs! You don’t want to be wasting time, effort and resources. 

  5. Add Employee Happiness into the mix - It’s tempting to look at employee engagement in isolation, but to build a truly great organisational culture where everyone not only survives but thrives, it’s vital to think about employee engagement AND happiness together. 


If you need more insight into creating an employee engagement and happiness strategy, why not download our free eBook? This comprehensive guide will help you through the whole process!

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Elle Whitehead-Smith

"Elle is happiest when given plenty of puddings, popular novels and, particularly, perfect grammar."

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