Employee engagement is increasingly being recognised as a critical factor that contributes to the growth of an organization. Employees are an invaluable part of an organisation, playing an important role in its success. Recognising this, the article highlights what employee engagement means, why it is important, and ways to increase employee engagement for a more productive workplace.
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What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is defined as the “simultaneous investment of an individual’s physical, cognitive, and emotional energy in active, full work performance”. Physical engagement is the amount of physical energy put in by employees towards their individual roles. The cognitive aspect is the employees’ beliefs about the organisation, its leader and goals. The emotional aspect is how employees’ feel about the organisation and their emotional commitment to these organisational goals. Highly engaged employees are emotionally attached to the organisation and its goals, and are willing to invest time and effort for its success.
Why is employee engagement important?
Implementing an employee engagement strategy can have two-fold benefits, at an organisational as well as at an individual level.
Employee engagement is interwoven with important organisational outcomes. Highly engaged employees are closely associated with higher profitability, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and better employee retention rates. Three behaviours of engaged employees which promotes the organisation success are:
- They advocate for the organisation to co-workers and refer potential employees and customers
- They want to stay at this workplace and desire to be a part of it, in spite of other opportunities
- They give in extra time, effort and initiative which contributes to success.
In this way, a successful employee engagement strategy can greatly benefit and organization’s overall growth.
Research suggests that on an average, individuals spend 1/3 of their lives at work. Consequently, work plays an important role in employee well-being. Engaged employees are also more likely to experience higher psychological well-being as well as personal accomplishment and less likely to experience burnout. A successful employee engagement strategy also improves job satisfaction for employees.
7 ways to improve employee engagement to drive employee productivity
Given these benefits, investing in employee engagement is crucial. This article lists a few employee engagement strategies that will benefit your organisation:
1. Making employee well-being a priority
Making employee well-being a priority is an organisational decision that can make employees feel more supported and valued, and consequently improve employee engagement. Employee well-being is defined as “that part of an employee’s overall well-being that they perceive to be determined by work and can be influenced by workplace interventions”. Some ways of improving employee well-being include promoting work-life balance and offering wellness programmes
Employees are more engaged when they feel that their personal and professional lives are in balance. Flexibility focusing on giving employees more control over when they work, where they work, or both, encouraging employees to take regular breaks and leading by example are some ways of promoting work-life balance. Doing this allows employees to engage with life outside and is closely related to lower job stress, higher job satisfaction and improved employee mental health. On the contrary, studies have found that when the employees are burnt out, employee engagement and productivity deteriorates, along with high turnover rates.
Similarly, corporate wellness programmes and wellness initiatives designed to encourage employee physical and emotional well-being can be very helpful. This can include providing employees with access to gym memberships, yoga classes, and mental health resources. Digital mental health solutions such as Wysa have become increasingly popular because of their accessibility and effectiveness. Wysa can support employees through access to an extensive toolkit for mental health concerns along with access to trained mental health professionals through chat-based services. Studies have shown such apps to be helpful in improving outcomes related to work stress and well-being.
2. Communicate feedback frequently and effectively
Providing meaningful feedback is an important leadership role. It allows employees to know that their work is visible, valued and impactful. When employees recognise that the organisation is invested in their work, they are more likely to feel engaged with it as well.
The way this feedback is delivered is critical. Keeping the feedback specific, using a constructive tone, and focusing on employee’s strengths while offering suggestions for improvement can be very useful. If possible, concrete examples can provide greater clarity. Keeping a channel of communication open, and encouraging employees to provide their perspective on this feedback can also make employees feel involved, and build a culture of openness and trust. One way to do this can be through an employee engagement survey. This can not only help in measuring employee engagement but also can help the company understand where they need to improve and what challenges need to be addressed.
Following up with employees regarding their progress after this feedback also allows them to know that the organisation is invested in their growth. It is important to avoid a harsh tone and criticism that might, in fact, be demotivating.
3. Encourage team-building activities
Social cohesiveness at the workplace builds a sense of organisational belonging for the employees. Team building activities are one way of improving this cohesiveness by promoting teamwork, communication and collaboration.
Creating team activities catering to various interests can be helpful. One way of doing this might be to conduct survey amongst the employees to seek their input and ideas. Be open to activities ranging from physical activities to puzzles to art. This can engage employees and encourage others to participate in some way as well. It might also help to get employee feedback after the activities to understand what can be done differently and can be continued.
4. Recognizing and rewarding your employees
Employee recognition and rewarding is a powerful tool that can boost motivation and confidence. Recognising and rewarding employee’s hard work makes them feel acknowledged and lets them know that their efforts are impactful. It also encourages them to continue and sustain their performance. Effective recognition is always timely, specific and public. Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition is helpful as well – it contributes towards building a positive and trusting work environment. Financial incentives can play an important role in sustaining this motivation too.
5. Providing the right resources and trainings
Proving employees with the right resources can help make work more enjoyable and improve overall work engagement. When employees have access to the right tools, they are better equipped to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and engagement. For instance, with work-from-home becoming the new norm, this could look like providing stable internet connection and ergonomic work setups.
Offering training is another important aspect. Fulfilling training needs of employees to meet the requirement of the present job is closely linked with employee engagement. These trainings equip employees to perform tasks with greater efficiency, also increasing their sense of confidence and self-efficacy.
6. Create a psychologically safe environment for your team
Studies indicate a close relationship between work environment and employee engagement. A healthy work environment is one that fosters positivity, trust and respect. One important way of building this is organisational support and care. When employees perceive support from their organisation, through feedback, open communication and opportunities for growth, they are more likely to feel connected and engaged. This also means navigating through existing or potential conflicts in a healthy and trusting manner.
Prioritising employee well-being is another way of creating a healthy work environment. Employee wellness programmes such as those provided by Wysa, can be very effective. An organisational climate of care and concern for employees is closely linked with employees who care for their organisation. A third factor for creating a safe environment is focused on the nature of work itself. Managing work pressure and giving employees sufficient autonomy over their work is an important aspect of a healthy workspace.
On the contrary, unhealthy work environments affect engagement by leading to detrimental stress, burnout, and even anxiety and depression among employees. Organisational injustices deeply impact well-being, and consequently engagement with the workplace.
⚠️If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is at hand. Please visit this list of helplines and resources for different countries.
7. Fostering a sense of purpose and growth
Employees’ sense of meaningfulness attached to work influences employee engagement. When employees perceive their work to be making a meaningful contribution to the organisation, they are more likely to feel connected with the organisation. One way of ensuring this is to communicate the company’s mission and goals clearly, which helps employees to understand how they fit into the bigger picture.
Simultaneously, outlining future possibilities for growth within the organisation allows employees to know that their present work is tied to organisational and personal future advancement as well. This can be done by providing employees with opportunities to take on new responsibilities, lead projects, and make a difference in the organisation.
Overall, it is the combination of organisational, social, job and personal resources which collectively improve employee engagement. If you would like to focus on improving employee engagement at your organisation, it might be helpful to start by identifying what the engagement levels look like in the present, mapping where you would like to move towards in the future and reflecting on the above suggestions as possible strategies for bringing about this shift.
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