Employee Engagement in 2020: The Ultimate Guide

Studies demonstrate that employee engagement is on the decline. Gallup estimates that global engagement levels are just 15%. With employee engagement being a major contributor to retention, productivity, profitability, and more, it's critical for business leaders to prioritize this as a metric of success.

Tools like pulse surveys, employee Net Promoter Scores, the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, and Gallup’s Q12 workplace survey can help businesses properly gauge their employee engagement and identify gaps that can be filled by management.

By the numbers...

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is defined by the levels of trust, transparency, and motivation employees have within a business. It is driven by many factors, including affinity, participation, access, and investment in employees. To sum it up:

Employee engagement is the level of trust your employees have in their leadership and the work ethic they bring to you in exchange.

It's tough to pin down engagement to just one attribute. But once you identify engagement within your organization and work to improve it, you'll see its value: Highly engaged employees feel heard and valued, appreciate transparency from leadership, and stay with your business longer.

Luckily, increasing engagement within your organization isn’t a fruitless pursuit. We've gathered plenty of ways to increase your employees engagement, starting with quantifying it directly. Because if you're planning to increase employee engagement, you first need to measure it.

Why should business leaders care about employee engagement?

Put simply, employee engagement affects your business reputation and its success in the long run. An engaged team has higher morale and respect for the company, which contributes to the motivation to get work done and improve the business.

By the numbers...

There's a clear disconnect between employees and leadership that leads to disengaged teams. And if there's little to no engagement, your company isn’t performing at its highest potential.

Benefits of employee engagement

Here’s what higher employee engagement can do for your business:

Boost Productivity

To engage is to participate, and isn't participation is key to a productive workday? Per Harvard Business Review (HBR), employees who report being satisfied are productive at an index level of 100. But engaged employees produce at nearly 150, with inspired employees scoring at 225 on this scale. Clearly, an employee's level of satisfaction correlates to their output, presenting a business case for keeping your team inspired.

Scale Profitability

A more productive team is a more profitable one. Gallup's 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis suggests that businesses in the 99th percentile of engagement see a 400% higher success rate than those at the 1st percentile. Top-quartile business units outperform bottom-quartile units in profitability by 21%. And a study by Korn Ferry backs that up, showing that businesses with an employee engagement and enablement plan see 4.5x more revenue growth than companies that don't.

So how does this happen? For one, these employees have an established sense of trust and personal investment in the company. This loyalty—combined with the understanding that they are valued by leadership—promotes passion and purpose that helps unlock potential. This is particularly true in workplaces with continuous learning, as employees are able to learn on the job, have a clear path for growth, and are able to apply new skills to the work they do.

Improve Customer satisfaction

When your teams are satisfied, your customers are, too. Let's think practically here: Would you rather buy a product or service from an unenthralled salesperson, or from someone who truly believes in what they're selling you? Customers are in tune with how representatives are feeling, and that affects both your business's reputation and your customer's loyalty and trust.

If that doesn't convince you, the data will. When evaluating Net Promoter Scores, Aon Hewitt's European Manager Engagement Survey 2011 found that teams with a "high-performance zone for engagement" had a 37% NPS, compared to an NPS of 27% for those "outside of high-performance zone for engagement".

Increase Retention

It's easy to conclude that a happier and more involved employee will stay at your company longer. The Corporate Leadership Council suggests lower-engaged employees are 4xfour times more likely to leave their jobs than those who have a high engagement score. And that's a major benefit in the long run.

Employees who stay longer at your business bring loyalty, leadership, and skill sharing to the table. Not only are they well-versed in the business and its customers, they also actively seek ways to improve their work and that of their peers. So your long-term employees—the ones who are engaged and feel valued—are contributing to business success, customer satisfaction, and employee retention all in one.

How is employee engagement measured?

Engagement benchmarks

Happiness

  • Do employees feel heard and valued?
  • Are they receiving adequate compensation and benefits for their work?
  • Do they have proper job security?
  • Are they satisfied with their work?
  • Do they have valuable relationships in the workplace?

Absenteeism

  • Do employees take time off at the expense of the company?
  • Are there many unexpected absences?
  • Do employees report feeling burnt out or overworked?
  • Are they feeling motivated?
  • Is attendance acknowledged and rewarded?

Turnover

  • What are your company's monthly and annual employee turnover rates?
  • What is your business's average length of employment?
  • What is the rate of dismissals vs. resignations?
  • What is the average company cost to backfill a role?

Productivity

  • Are teams and individual contributors reaching their OKRs?
  • How many interruptions does each team member experience each day?
  • How many emails are fielded each day?
  • Are employees satisfied with the tools they regularly use?
  • Do employees understand their roles and expectations?

Communication/Collaboration

  • Does your organization practice open communication?
  • Do your team leaders engage in effective feedback sessions?
  • Does your organization practice team building?
  • Are employees actively collaborating with other teams?

Profitability

  • What is your company’s average revenue per employee?
  • Do employees have a clear understanding of their personal ROI?
  • Are employees relying on high-cost tools and services to get their work done?

Diversity and Inclusion

  • How does your company score in the HRC Corporate Equality Index?
  • Do your employees feel seen in their identity?
  • Are there resources and affinity groups offered for the differing identities represented in your business?
  • Are workers treated equitably despite differences in identity?

Once you’ve established these benchmarks, it's time to chart them. And there are various tools that track these metrics over time.

Pulse surveys / Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

Pulse surveys are arguably the lowest-effort tool to measure the employee engagement benchmarks you set up. The "pulse" here refers to the overall health of the organization. By regularly checking that pulse, leaders can accurately gauge employee responses over time.

Pulse surveys are administered on a regular basis; most companies use weekly pulse surveys to measure their employee engagement. Tools like 15five help distribute these surveys and ask a few standard questions each week, like "How are you feeling this week?" "What are some pressing tasks for you?" and "Who in the organization do you most want to meet up with for coffee?"

Supervisors and other top-level leaders get immediate access to their report's pulse surveys and can use them for both proactive management and for tracking engagement. These pulse surveys can also be used to structure regular 1:1s.

For those who want to explore further, an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) can tell you how your employees are feeling about the business. That's right, your Net Promoter Score (NPS) isn't just about measuring growth.

An eNPS uses the short format of a pulse survey with the in-depth scoring of a regular NPS to gauge what your employees think about your company and whether they would recommend it as a place of employment. While an eNPS can accurately gauge an employee’s outlook on the company, it doesn't necessarily signify engagement. For this reason, any eNPS should be paired with other engagement trackers.

Utrecht Work Engagement Scale

The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) tracks vigor, dedication, and absorption as measurements of engagement in the workplace. This is calculated by a standard set of 17 questions spanning these three categories:

  • Vigor is measured by worker's level of energy and resilience, effort, and persistence.
  • Dedication is measured by worker's involvement, enthusiasm, challenge levels, and pride in work.
  • Absorption measures concentration, production, and detachment from work.

Questions range from simple, "I am proud of the work that I do", to introspective, "At my job, I always persevere, even when things do not go well". These prompts implore workers to evaluate their own behaviors and attitudes toward work and provide valuable insights to the organization's working environment.

These values are measured across questions on a scale where 0=never and 6=always, with a maximum score of 36 for vigor, 30 for dedication, and 36 for absorption, with a maximum total score of 102. As engagement initiatives are implemented over time, this score can be tracked alongside as a measurement of progress.

Gallup Q12 workplace survey

Among its breadth of workplace improvement tools, Gallup has developed Q12, a survey consisting of 12 questions that measure "the most important elements of employee engagement". These 12 questions, measured on a scale where 1=never and 5=always, evaluate the same in-depth engagement metrics as a pulse survey or UWES without necessitating constant check-ins.

Unlike other engagement surveys, Q12 comes with workplace engagement management tools that evaluate your Q12 results and provide ways to improve your employee engagement, including management resources, tools, and other means to measure engagement.

How the C-Suite can improve employee engagement

So how do you implement programs and make employee engagement work for you? It doesn’t require a full-fledged, overly expensive engagement program. It comes down to remembering two key things: your employees are human and engagement is personal.

Enterprise Social Networking

First off, your team needs to be able to connect. And when they're distributed across offices, states, or even countries, it’s important to find a platform that makes that possible. This is where Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) comes into play. These platforms offer a centralized locale for teamwide communication and collaboration, limiting silos and providing opportunities for higher team morale.

ESNs are not just limited to social networking platforms, they also come in the form of communication hubs like Flock and Microsoft Teams. These tools provide separate channels for teams, individual projects, groups, and more, allowing for workplace collaboration that doesn’t have to be all about work. Many even offer the option of private messaging, which can be an additional benefit for workplaces who run regular 1:1 meetings or participate in mentorship programs.

Affinity groups and channels

In order for an employee to feel emotionally invested in their job, they must feel safe and included. Building groups around common identities or interests, or affinities, is a simple yet meaningful way to help foster close relationships among employees and to ensure every voice is heard. Building these healthy relationships with colleagues helps establish a sense of belonging, contributing to company loyalty and a higher drive to work.

Culture

It’s more than a buzzword—culture is key to any successful organization. And it goes beyond free snacks and beanbags in the office. Culture is the product of tangible rewards and recognition, talent-driven strategy, investment in long-term growth, trust in employees, and transparency in the workplace.

Culture isn’t just a one-size-fits-all implementation. It requires an active commitment to your company values and to your employees’ needs. And as your company grows, your culture needs to scale with it.

An easy way to kick this off is by clearly defining your business’ values and mission statement. Impart this upon new employees while onboarding, display them clearly throughout your office, and be consistent in using these values in regular company communication and goals. This helps your team connect your mission to their daily work and inspire them to carry it forward.

Again: engagement is personal, so make it personal. It's easy to provide recognition and attention to employees, and sometimes a small gesture can go a long way. That can mean celebrating employees birthdays with a handwritten card and a treat or encouraging leaders to take their team out to lunch or coffee to connect on a personal level.

Employee recognition is also critical to your business’ morale. Regular praise—like 15Five's High Five function-lets team members know their work is seen and appreciated and encourages them to continue the great work they’re doing. It’s also important to have regular check-ins with your team, especially with new employees who are still finding their place in the company.

Investing in employee growth

Beyond recognition, it’s important to expand your company ethos by providing opportunities for your employees to grow. Investing in individual growth is an investment in your business’s long-term success. As your employees gain new skills and learn new strategies, they’ll apply that directly to their work and help further your success. This investment assures employees that they are valued and wanted, increasing engagement and loyalty to the company.

How do you get to that point? There are many avenues to explore in employee growth, and continuous learning is at the top of that list. Booking team-wide or organization-wide seminars and workshops is a great opportunity to engage your entire workforce at once. But there are more individual options that cater to each employee’s different needs. Continuous learning stipends are a new benefit that more and more companies are offering, providing employees with the ability to pick their own skills training and find classes that are useful to them.

But you can take this even farther by combining these learning opportunities with internal relationships. These take the form of mentorship and sponsorship, which sound alike but offer many different benefits.

Mentorship and sponsorship

Establishing internal mentorship and sponsorship programs is a great way to connect people within your organization and elevate their careers. Mentorships create valuable relationships within your company and allow the transfer of skills and strategies to newer hires as they progress through their career and often create lifelong connections among colleagues. Mentors provide career-specific advice, networking, and professional guidelines that will aid the mentee as they work in the organization.

A sponsor works as a coach or an advocate within an organization or team. They may provide general career advice, but they focus more on being a resource for the individual for personal development. These coaches can also offer a “foot in the door” and be a champion among fellow leadership, keeping the individual in mind for promotions, unique opportunities, or general input.

Mentorship and sponsorship programs are easy to enact in an organization, and can be implemented in various formats. “Blind” mentorships—in which all communication is done through private, anonymous digital interactions—provide this direct aid without any personal bias, but do not confer the level of personal relationships that in-person programs provide.

Group mentoring allows one individual to pass down their skills and expertise with multiple people at once. Skills-based mentoring is led by an exceptionally skilled employee, who provides an individual or group with the necessary tools to complete a project or task.

Determining what style of mentorship or coaching you should implement depends on your organization’s needs as well as the capacity and skill set of your mentors. It’s up to senior leadership to determine whether these programs should be optional. In fact, executives can—and often should—make the decision to be the primary mentors for an entire organization or team.

1:1s and exit interviews

Often, the best approach to improving employee engagement is simply to listen to your employees. A 1:1 can be a clear indicator of how an employee is feeling, what they’re working on, and what feedback they have for leaders and the organization itself. They help establish better rapport between individual contributors and leadership, and can offer insights that are not given otherwise.

Exit interviews, while not a new trend, are still underutilized. When an employee has left your organization, it’s important to understand why they left and what your company can do better in the future to retain employees. It’s crucial to learn why someone is leaving and why they accepted their new position in order to prevent this happening with other hires.

A new trend in the workforce is enacting "stay interviews". These have the same intent as exit interviews but are more proactive in retaining a high-quality teammate. Taking the time to ask for the kind of feedback that would be given in an exit interview helps administrators make changes that can prevent turnover before it happens. Questions like "what can this organization change to keep high-performing employees?" or "do you have all the tools and support needed to do your job well?" will give you a better glimpse at your employees pain points and how you can address them.

How Flock invests in employee engagement

Sometimes the best way to drive engagement is to talk to one another. That's where Flock channels come in handy. Here are some ways that Flock, well... flocks!

Watercooler channels

Our team at Flock is diverse, spanning three continents with individuals who have an abundance of interests, expertise, and identities. To unite our very distributed team, we use Flock, our virtual collaboration hub, to create channels based on common interests to encourage conversation and get to know each other better. From our Game of Thrones channel to Flock Pets to Music Enthusiasts, there's a home for everyone at Flock to take a break and focus on creating companywide relationships.

Planning channels

Our Flock uses channels to collaborate with other teams on a given project or task to get additional context and real-time feedback. Flock's Marketing Team in Mumbai coordinates in a Flock Channel with our Boston-based Content Team to brainstorm on SEO-driven content. We use this channel to share important documents, update everyone with meeting reminders, drop links to insightful content, and offer feedback and praise. With our Asana integration, whatever tasks are assigned to us, we get notified in the channel and discuss it right there for easy brainstorming and task completion.

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