Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement

Creating an employee engagement strategy can seem daunting, so we’ve also outlined effective steps that employers can take to revitalize engagement.

employee engagement

Employee engagement isn’t a new concept. It’s been around since the 1990s, when psychologist William Kahn first published his research on workplace behaviour. However, in many workplaces it is still overlooked. As businesses deal with pressures such as fluctuating exchange rates and an increasing number of competitors, many leaders feel they don’t have time to prioritise employee engagement strategies.

This approach is short-sighted. Employee engagement is not only related to a business’s performance – it’s integral to it. Engagement is at the core of issues such as employee retention and employee motivation, and affects the mood of an organisation at every level.

This is just one of the reasons why 85% of HR leaders say that employee experience is the most important HR capability. High employee engagement rates are, simply, better for business.

Employee engagement definition

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is about ensuring that employees are fulfilled in the role – in Kahn’s words, able to harness their “full selves” at work. Engaged employees put energy into their jobs, and are energized by them in turn.

Kahn identified three drivers of employee engagement:

  1. Meaningful work: the employee feels that it is worth investing their energy into what they are doing
  2. Safety: the employee does not fear negative consequences of being their ‘full self’ at work
  3. Availability: the employee has the mental and physical energy and focus to engage

Engaged employees are happier and more fulfilled, and their work is more likely to be productive and innovative.

Rather than being static, engagement fluctuates over time. A disengaged employee can become an engaged employee – and vice versa.

Measuring employee engagement

Before taking steps to improve employee engagement, it’s important to reflect on the current situation. This should be done at a company-wide level, to check for significant variances between departments.

How to measure employee engagement?

Measuring employee engagement is more complex than measuring factors such as employee retention. It’s an art, not a science. There’s not a simple formula that can show how a business is doing.

However, you can quickly set up various policies that will help indicate engagement levels.

Ask questions, get answers

Asking questions can be either through surveys, or several focus groups. Surveys have the advantage of being anonymized, so employees are potentially more likely to be open about their feelings. Focus groups enable you to start dialogues and ask follow-up questions. Every business leader will need to decide for themselves which format of questioning is right for their team.

employee engagement
  1. Ensure that it’s clear that the survey or focus group is a priority for the organization, and that employees are given dedicated time to complete it carefully, or to prepare for their discussion.

  2. Above all, act on the received information. Surveying employees without taking action on the answers received risks decreasing engagement and trust.

  3. This shouldn’t be a one-off task, but a continual process. Initiate regular check-ins, while also ensuring that occasions such as exit interviews are used as opportunities to gather information about workplace engagement. A positive employee engagement model is both proactive and responsive.

  4. Key topics to keep in mind when constructing questions for surveys or focus groups are:
    -Employee happiness and satisfaction

    -Alignment with and commitment to larger organizational goals

    -Future expectations: do employees see themselves growing with your company?

Benefits of employee engagement 

The time it takes to measure employee engagement is time well-spent, because it isn’t something businesses can afford to ignore. Staff engagement is essential for maintaining a good employee retention rate, and for creating dynamic and resilient workplaces. Let’s look at how it affects performance, productivity, and employee retention.

  • Impact on productivity and performance: Disengaged employees are more likely to miss targets, fail to care about them or forget them altogether. They cost US organizations $450-550 billion, every year.
  • Impact on retention: If employees aren’t engaged, they won’t stay with a company. This has been confirmed by studies: a positive employee engagement model means that staff perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave their workplace.

If employee retention is a particular challenge, find out more about strategies for improving it with our employee retention guide.

Employee engagement strategy

The drivers of employee engagement are multiple, and certain ones may play a larger or smaller role depending on individual employees. Here are 5 steps to focus on when developing an employee engagement strategy that fits each workplace:

Clear goals, clear roles

Positive teamwork and effective management

Recognition and feedback

Staff and skills development

Value-driven actions

Clear goals, clear roles

To be engaged, employees need to know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Being able to see how their personal priorities fit into the bigger picture is a key driver of engagement and motivation.

TIP: Schedule regular reflective sessions with employees where time is dedicated to reviewing their goals, and checking for any potential obstacles. If they feel on track, they’ll be more engaged.

Clarifying personal and wider targets will help with maintaining a sense of purpose, which is key to engagement. However, also make sure that employees have a strong sense of their own role in the organization, and that this fits with their main duties. Research shows that the majority of employees function better when their responsibilities are clearly defined, but this focus can get lost in the rush of everyday tasks.

TIP: If difficulty defining goals is arising from a lack of clarity higher up in an organization, consider options like a business coach, in order to get an external perspective of the roles and help define priorities.

Positive teamwork and effective management

Start at the beginning: make people feel part of things from their first day, and they’re likely to become loyal team players. Engagement is statistically highest in an employee’s first year with an organization, so use the chance to make a good impression. However, don’t let employees who’ve been there longer feel neglected.


  1. Organize regular reviews and check-ins, and use engagement measurement techniques to gauge the general feeling.
  2. Team-building events can be useful opportunities to boost relationships between new and old team members.
  3. If there are issues with collaboration within departments, take proactive steps to develop collaboration skills – for example through flexible coaching solutions – before they damage workplace engagement.

Supportive, effective management is also essential for maintaining an enthusiastic and productive team.

In fact, 70% of the variance in team engagement can be explained by the quality of the manager. A disengaged manager can have a damaging impact on a business – but, conversely, an engaged and engaging manager can create a superstar team.

TIP: Managers should be given the necessary support to enable them both to engage others, and to be fully engaged themselves. Offer opportunities for them to advance their own leadership skills, whether through or internal training.

“A conversation, not a monologue.”

Recognition and feedback

In a recent survey, 69% of employees say they’d work harder if they were better appreciated.

Everyone likes to feel that their work is recognized. Employees who are aware of the value they bring to an organization and consistently receive recognition for their work are, according to one study, five times more likely to stay at their company. They know they’re appreciated, and this helps them stay motivated to keep achieving in their role.

TIP: As well as checking in with employees to discuss their goals and estimate their employment, don’t forget to tell them what they’re doing right. Recognize both potential and concrete results.

Feedback and evaluation require an open dialogue, and being approachable is important. One of the best ways to increase engagement is to have a proactive feedback policy.

TIP: Don’t restrict gathering feedback to surveys and exit interviews; ensure that staff have specific channels they can use to make their views heard.

If staff know that their views are taken on board, and that they can communicate honestly, they’re more likely to try to find positive solutions during rocky periods, rather than becoming disengaged.

Staff and skills development 

If employees don’t see the chance of a future with their company, disengagement is inevitable. That’s also why it’s so widespread – in one survey, only 21% of employees said that they saw possibilities for personal advancement at their organization.

Work with staff to explore options for future career growth, and stay alert to opportunities for role development.

TIP: Talent management tools can help match employees to future roles within the company, while showing staff that leaders are keen to make full use of people’s potential – raising employee motivation.

TIP: If people show potential but are lacking specific skills, this needn’t be a barrier to their career progression. Investing in personalised digital coaching is a way to support employees to develop their capability, increasing their confidence, motivation and engagement.

Leadership coaching explained by CoachHub Behavioural Scientist Rosie

Value-driven actions

Whether employees feel respected at work will greatly affect how committed they are to the organization’s goals and how much of their personal energy they are willing to give tasks.

Things to focus on include making sure that compassion and flexibility are key to management approaches, and that employees are satisfied with their tasks and appropriately incentivized. Increasingly, this isn’t only about wages or benefits – work-life balance is key.

83% of millennials ranked work-life balance as the most important factor when evaluating a potential position.

Flexible and remote working options can be big draws for talent. Some employees are far more engaged if allowed to follow their own schedule.

Other things to consider are compassionate leave, sick leave and holiday allowance. If employees know they can take time off when they need it, they’re more likely to be consistently engaged, and willing to put in extra effort to hit targets.

Staff engagement: commitment that lasts

Building a cohesive employee engagement strategy isn’t something that can be done overnight, but it’s one of the most rewarding actions you can make as a business leader. Spend time and energy on engaging staff, and their performance and commitment will reflect the investment.

For businesses ready to make staff engagement a priority, CoachHub’s Digital Coaching has helped hundreds of teams develop skills, increase alignment, and improve motivation. Find out more about the flexible digital coaching we provide, or request a demo through our website.

Call us on +44 (0) 20 3608 3083, email us (mail@coachhub.com) or contact us below for a demo.

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