bored man staring at computer
PHOTO: Julien-Pier Belanger

In recent years, employee engagement has emerged as a popular organizational concept.

Large corporations, including Microsoft, are starting to pour significant amounts of time and money into educating people, through webcasts (registration required) and other vehicles, on the importance of employee engagement.

The concept is quickly evolving from a simple focus on job motivation to a complete understanding of how a truly engaged employee has a direct impact on productivity. For any company that’s looking to be more effective and productive, increasing employee engagement should be a primary focus.

Let’s start to explore this topic by first agreeing on what employee engagement is. I define employee engagement as the level of commitment and involvement employees have toward an organization and its mission, values and beliefs.

The concept of employee engagement has naturally evolved from past research on high involvement, empowerment, job motivation, organizational commitment and trust. It’s about creating an environment that motivates employees to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job for themselves and the company.

Understanding Employee Engagement

An engaged employee is conscious of the business context. Being engaged makes it easier for employees to work together with colleagues to improve their job performance, for the larger benefit of the organization as a whole. True employee engagement comes about when enough people within a company not only care about doing a good job, but also care about what the organization is trying to achieve and how it goes about doing it.

Key factors that contribute to employee engagement include the following:

  • Giving employees autonomy to act in support of organizational goals.
  • Aligning employees toward strategy.
  • Creating a continuing culture of engagement.

An organization will recognize it has reached a high level of employee engagement when a significant percentage of its employees care about the company and are concerned with achieving their own organizational goals. This caring attitude and behavior only develops when people are consistently satisfied with their jobs and when they believe the organization supports them. Research from Gallup indicates the average level of U.S. employment engagement hovers between 30 and 40 percent.

Related Article: Despite Billions in Workplace Tech Spending, Employee Engagement Is Still a Problem

The Importance of Employee Engagement

All companies should want their employees to be engaged. Many studies have proved not only that employee engagement is linked to productivity, but also that it can be directly tied to greater customer satisfaction, which, in turn, drives an organization’s financial success.

Employee understanding and knowledge of an organization’s capabilities and current productivity levels have a major positive impact on engagement. When employees have a clear understanding of these concepts, they are more engaged because they can definitively see how their individual efforts directly impact the organization’s success.

High levels of employee engagement depend on several conditions in the workplace, including culture, reinforcement policies, meaningful metrics and organizational performance. Let’s take a closer look at each of those.

  • Culture. A strong and defined organizational culture helps connect and align a company’s processes to its business decisions. Culture can play a big role in who is hired, and it can be hard to drive engagement if you hire an employee who isn’t aligned with a company’s culture.
  • Policies. Policies that are continually reinforced act as facilitators for employees to achieve their personal goals, and ultimately the organization’s goals.
  • Metrics. The most engaged organizations are the ones that show and share performance metrics. Data-driven organizations tend to have the most engagement because they give employees a measurable metric they can use to gauge personal job performance.
  • Performance. It is well known that organizational performance drives personal job satisfaction and a greater sense of belonging.

Related Article: What Do Employees Need in a Digital Workplace?

Driving a Culture of Engagement and Productivity

A recent analysis from Dale Carnegie and Gallup identifies the following steps as key drivers of high levels of employee engagement:

  1. Have a clear internal communication strategy.
  2. Execute the communication strategy effectively.
  3. Promote and enable better business transparency.
  4. Communicate organizational strategies and plans.
  5. Encourage open communication and recognition.
  6. Recognize and reward employee’s efforts.
  7. Practice social leadership.

The most influential driver of employee engagement is open and transparent communication from top to bottom. An organization that wants to achieve that degree of communication must implement the right tools and technologies.

Related Article: The Manager's Guide to Transparency in the Workplace

Technologies That Enable Communication and Engagement

Many of the key engagement drivers rely on the use of up-to-date technology. Therefore, many organizations are moving toward embracing new communication and collaboration technologies.

Chat and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Slack have become popular in the past few years. Companies often specifically deploy them with the goal of replacing email as the primary means of communication.

Microsurvey applications, which offer quick and efficient ways to take the pulse of your workforce by conducting employee surveys, are another type of tech tool companies can use to improve employee engagement. Options in this category include Tinypulse and Officevibe, both of which allow you to measure engagement and track your organization’s performance. Real-time recognition also plays a big role in employee engagement. Social networking platforms are good venues for honoring employees’ achievements with badges and rewards.

The tools, tactics and drivers discussed here can greatly increase your organization’s ability to collaborate, communicate, be transparent, recognize employee achievements and gather feedback.

If your company is actively working toward building a culture of employee engagement and is using emerging technologies to drive engagement, you will surely see a positive impact on bottom-line metrics.