How To Improve Employee Engagement & Why it Matters

In today’s unpredictable economic environment, measuring employee engagement, satisfaction and happiness can get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. This is unwise. By ignoring the happiness of the most important part of your business (your people), you run the risk of failing to achieve your business goals and becoming a less attractive prospect to future employees and investors. We discuss how to improve your employee engagement and why it matters.

How to improve employee engagement - Employees gathered together engaging with one another

If you're new to employee engagement and happiness, before getting into the detail here we'd recommend checking out our article explaining exactly what employee engagement and happiness are, and the all-important differences.

Employee engagement and happiness are intrinsically linked. That’s why we always say you should measure employee engagement AND happiness. Measuring employee engagement will have long-ranging effects for your organisation and your people.

Engagement is increasing globally… but is still low

The situation is particularly bad in the UK with only 10% of the workforce feeling engaged. Making us one of the least engaged countries in the world!

This is backed up by research from PLC which suggests Britain’s workforce is suffering from a “motivation crisis” that is affecting motivation, performance and ultimately profitability.

The study had some staggering findings:

  • 21% of British workers consider themselves ‘very effective’ in their current job role.

  • 28% believed they would be more productive if they had better training.

  • Workers believe they’d be 45% more productive if they loved their work.

  • Staff motivation is cutting productivity by almost 50%.

Everyone can influence workplace engagement and happiness through behaviour, work ethic, attendance and many other factors. However, it’s the business leaders and managers that have the greatest impact on happiness and the biggest responsibility to create the right culture to facilitate it.

Evidently there’s still plenty of work to be done… But where to start?

What Factors Improve Employee Engagement?

78% of engaged staff are brand advocates - likely to recommend their company's products or services.

You may want to follow in the footsteps of Silicon Valley giants such as Google and offer amazing perks like free massages, incredible food and state-of-the-art gyms. Whilst this will do wonders for your recruitment drives, it will also cost a fortune and won’t help to boost business performance long-term.

You may also think that higher pay will solve all your problems, this is also not the case…

Compelled to find the answer, we compiled our own research! We surveyed 2,500 respondents to find out What really makes people happy at work? We wanted to establish the factors that improve staff happiness and engagement most, as they are directly linked with performance.

Here are the top-five factors:

  • Feeling valued as an individual.

  • Doing a job that you enjoy.

  • Work-life balance.

  • Pay and benefits.

  • Trust in the people you work with.

On top of this, we also compiled our own research into employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS) to establish what businesses can do to create satisfied workers who will remain loyal to their businesses and advocate it to an acquaintance. The Happiness Index has been collecting eNPS data from respondents around the globe for the past four years. We used this data to form the basis of our research. The total number of responses we analysed was 11,586.

This research deduced that the top-five factors which impact most eNPS are:

  • Recognition (feeling valued).

  • Communication.

  • Job security.

  • Direction (providing clarity).

  • Leadership.

Interestingly recognition/feeling valued came out on top for both of our studies.

Now let’s assess what initiatives we can implement to ensure these factors are addressed and your people are happy, engaged and more likely to remain loyal to your business.

The Neuroscience Of Employee Engagement

Our neuroscience methodology highlights a number of areas which impact employee engagement.

These are:

  1. Meaning & Purpose - how inspired and committed people feel. Plus, how an organisation aligns with their personal values.

  2. Clarity - how requirements are communicated, how well people understand their organisational impact and more general information flow.

  3. Personal Growth - how challenged individuals feel as well as the availability of development and progression.

  4. Enablement - overall workload, the resources available to do this work, and how collaborative the environment is.

These themes sit alongside those that impact happiness. All of these areas together create a thriving workplace culture.

You can learn more about the neuroscience of employee engagement here.

5 Strategies To Increase Employee Engagement & Company Performance

1. Be More Empathetic

Empathy is a key component of progressive leadership. If you want to get the best out of your people, then you must consider their needs and try to understand their realities – even if you don’t necessarily agree with them!

Center for Creative Leadership conducted a study to discover if empathy is a vital component of effective leadership. They suggest, “Empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.”

By focussing on empathy, you will create a workforce that trusts and respects you. This will help to create an environment where your people feel inspired and committed to your organisation. True communication will also help to streamline information flow - especially as this will now be two way.

2. Provide Opportunities For Growth

No one wants to feel like their careers or stagnating, or their hard work isn’t being noticed. Career development is a vital component of employee happiness and engagement. It is also essential if you want to create a team of highly-skilled workers who will remain loyal to your business and help you achieve your goals.

By meeting with your people regularly, setting new targets and providing updates on performance – you will ensure your people grow and feel like their efforts are being noticed. This will improve the likelihood of them wanting to contribute to the future success of the business.

3. Create Roadmaps For Success

It’s really important that people understand what their impact on the organisation is. How they’re helping to achieve success and how that success aligns with their own values. While it may seem that personal roadmaps are to help individuals grow, in fact, they’re vital to ensuring that everyone in the organisation grows in the same direction.

This can also help with clarity within your organisation because it means that everyone understands what is expected of them and how they’re expected to meet their job requirements. Plus sitting down regularly with your team helps you to ensure that their workload is manageable and that you have the right resources in place to support their best work too!

4. Create A Culture That Facilitates Great Relationships

We spend a staggering amount of our lives at work. If your people have bad relationships with colleagues and senior management and don’t feel like they can trust anyone then they will understandably feel disengaged and demotivated.

The modern workforce craves collaboration and interaction, and we are therefore seeing a reduction in siloed departments and teams. To facilitate this, you must ensure you are actively creating initiatives to encourage and promote positive working relationships.

To encourage relationships and trust you can do a number of things:

  • Organise team outings.

  • Assign collaborative tasks and workshops.

  • Install breakout areas where workers from all departments can socialise, unwind and maybe even bounce creative ideas off each other.

  • Identify leaders who want to see the same positive changes as you and will actively help to empower others to forge tighter relationships.

  • Offer flexibility over work practices (Work-life balance, Trust & Feeling Valued)

You may have noticed that within our neuroscience model the relationships theme is linked to happiness. However, here’s a great example of the ways in which happiness and engagement are enmeshed. Part of being enabled to do your job well is being able to collaborate effectively with your colleagues. Collaboration is always better when relationships are stronger.

5. Listen To Your People & Understand Their Sentiment

Every member of your team will have their own thoughts, feelings and frustrations – they are human after all…. Failure to listen and fully understand their sentiment can result in people feeling misunderstood and disengaged. By establishing regular communication, you will understand staff sentiment, be more empathetic to everyone’s needs and have the necessary insight to build action plans that will improve business.

By speaking to your people regularly and creating systems where they can contact you and vent their feelings or offer creative ideas and innovations, you will create a more unified culture and bridge gaps between people of varying seniority. The most important discussions should always take place face-to-face.

Final Thoughts

By leading with openness and positivity, whilst ensuring you recognise staff contributions – you will create a workplace culture where your people are engaged, loyal and high-performing.

Improving staff engagement is not about expensive benefits. It’s about giving everyone meaningful work, ensuring they feel valued and developing their careers. These are small changes that today’s businesses simply can’t afford to overlook…

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Linked to Engagement in our neuroscience methodology... learn more

Recommended reading

Employee Engagement: What You Need To Know

What Is eNPS & How Can You Improve It?

Vivobarefoot: A B-Corp Transformation Journey

About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


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