The impact of employee engagement on a company’s culture, productivity and bottom line has gained increasing recognition in recent years. An engaged workforce contributes to better employee retention, increased job satisfaction, greater workplace loyalty and a stronger talent pool for new recruits. However, employers have to actively implement and maintain systems and processes that encourage engagement in order to reap the benefits of employees who are invested in their roles and workplace.

Employee engagement refers to an employee’s level of enthusiasm and involvement in their work and organisation. Contrary to common belief, it’s not a measure of job satisfaction – whilst that does play a role, employee engagement also includes factors such as opportunity growth, work-life balance, a sense of purpose and being recognised for your value and contributions.

Employees who are truly engaged are more invested in producing high-calibre work, committed to the company’s mission and willing to go the extra mile when needed. In contrast, disengaged employees can cause a decline in productivity, morale and an organisation’s chance at long-term business success. In fact, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report in 2022, employee disengagement cost the world $7.8 trillion in terms of lost productivity. For workplace leaders and managers who want to prevent employee disengagement from disadvantaging them, it is necessary to implement strategies that help improve the connection of their employees to their work.

Levels of Employee Engagement

The engagement levels of different employees can be categorised into four categories which can help you get a feel for how engaged a certain person may be or the overall levels of employee engagement in your workplace. However, keep in mind that these categories are quite broad in their definitions and are meant to only serve as a guide- employee engagement is quite complex and relies on many different factors that can change how someone feels about their job on a day-to-day basis.

Each of the four categories is explained below.

1. Engaged

Engaged employees are truly invested in their job – they feel a sense of purpose in the work they do and feel motivated to excel and grow with it. They have both an emotional and intellectual connection with what they do and an overall positive opinion about the organisation. Their attitude and commitment also encourage other employees to stay engaged and contribute towards a strong employee culture

2. Moderately engaged

Moderately engaged employees perform well and are also invested in their job to a certain degree. They most likely feel some purpose in their job and have a positive attitude about their workplace. However, they may dislike particular aspects of the company, be in roles that don’t leverage their talents or struggle with the organisational culture. In other cases, they may be very happy with their role and workplace but lack social engagement with their co-workers – feeling as if one doesn’t belong or isn’t supported can also take away from strong employee engagement.

3. Not engaged

Unengaged employees are not invested or attached to the organisation’s mission and purpose. This does not necessarily mean they don’t perform their work duties adequately or meet the expectations of their role. However, they are unlikely to feel any emotional or intellectual investment in their role and this can be detrimental to workplace creativity and innovation, employee culture and the quality of work produced. Unengaged employees are also unlikely to go the extra mile, suggest new ideas or build bonds with their co-workers – they will usually perform to the minimum level of expectations and stop there, regardless of any capacity or ability to contribute to a higher standard.

4. Actively disengaged

Actively disengaged employees are dissatisfied with their work, role and the organisation. They do not connect with the company’s mission or goals and are unwilling to participate in the workplace culture. This disconnection from their job’s purpose can result in a struggle with their responsibilities and a lack of commitment and loyalty to the role. These types of employees can actually negatively influence the opinions of other employees, decrease productivity levels and hurt team collaboration.

Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

1. A wider purpose

Employees who feel that the work they do is linked with and contributes to an organisation’s larger aims feel a greater sense of shared purpose and team camaraderie that ultimately fosters better engagement. Studies have shown that one-way employers can help employees connect their work to a wider purpose is through ‘town hall meetings and immersive, small-group sessions’ which provide opportunities for them to step back and actually realise the role and impact of their work in furthering the organisation’s larger aims.

Understandably so, the employees who feel the greatest connection to their role feel a sense of alignment in their personal and work-life purpose. Whilst this may not be possible for every employee, it’s a good idea to make sure that the company is able to effectively communicate its values and goals in order to attract more committed and engaged talent.

2. Create time affluence

A common complaint of employees is the lack of time affluence they feel and the trend towards increasing working hours in recent decades has only exacerbated this issue. Employees who feel as if they cannot manage the amount of work in the time they have whilst also allowing for leisure and breaks to recharge can find it difficult to engage with what they’re doing. One way to foster a better sense of time affluence is to reward employees with time (e.g., extra time off, paid vacations) on top of monetary rewards. Workers who take time off when necessary can be more creative and productive, resulting in better overall employee engagement.

Another method is through making sure that employers have tools in place to prevent unnecessary time drains – e.g. email inboxes can be a great source of constant distraction and stress for some employees, even during after-work hours and vacations. Choosing to have work emails stop routing 30 minutes before the end of the workday and stay that way until the next morning is one small change that can help employees make better use of their time off and return to work with more energy and enthusiasm.

Additionally, part of time affluence is also understanding how to use the time you have to the best advantage-teaching your employees how to assign value to tasks and prioritise what’s necessary can help them manages their time better and ultimately work more effectively in fewer hours.

3. Greater flexibility

Flexibility in the different tasks employees are able to take on allows employees to explore their different interests, build diverse skill sets and remain engaged and interested in what they’re doing. Providing employees with flexibility essentially gives them room to give different roles a shot and figure out what they’re actually interested in pursuing.

One way employers can implement flexibility in a way that enables employees to branch out, particularly at a time period when they may not be sure of what their final career goals are, is to introduce a job rotation program for graduates and/or new hires. These programs would have employees move through different roles after small periods of time and give them the freedom to choose where they felt they would perform best (given they met some pre-requisites to ensure they were able to keep up with what was required).

4. Boost employees’ sense of confidence.

Employee engagement is also tied to the confidence of workers and the support they feel they have from their workplaces. People have a tendency to avoid roles or tasks in which they lack confidence, even if they have the right qualifications or experience to give them a shot. Supporting your employees to pursue roles and opportunities that spark their interest and align with their goals is a great way of fostering an engaged workforce. Increased confidence allows for better employee engagement which in turn contributes to greater productivity, efficiency and higher performance.

To help boost confidence, employers should try to respond to mistakes with encouragement instead of overly harsh criticism. If a problem is identified, employees should be provided with support to help resolve the issue and the chance to use the incident as a learning opportunity. This gives workers room to be more creative, explore different solutions and pursue innovation – all of which result in stronger employee engagement.

Employee engagement impacts several important aspects of every organisation, from operations and profitability to turnover rates and customer experiences. Having strong rates of employee engagement is hence a great asset for employers – they are invested in the organisation and care about its values, missions and goals.

Workers who care more about their roles put more effort into producing high-quality work and better business outcomes. For workplace leaders, targeting employee engagement is not only an effective way of improving their bottom line but also helps to create a more positive work environment and boost employee loyalty.