Employee engagement: fundamental for the modern workplace

In this guide

Get a clear employee engagement definition and find out how to measure employee engagement. Discover why the topic is important for every organisation, and how having motivated staff positively impacts a business.

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


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 energised 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 anonymised, 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.

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 organisational goals

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

Some tips:

1. Ensure that it’s clear that the survey or focus group is a priority for the organisation, 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.

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 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 organisations $450-550 billion, every year.

Accordingly, a high level of engagement is crucial for best performance. Businesses units in the top quartile of engagement see 21% higher profitability. Improving staff engagement means that the business gets the benefits of motivated employees, while also enjoying the increase in productivity that engagement provides.

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

Employee engagement strategy

TIP: 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.

A 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 organisation, 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. 

If difficulty defining goals is arising from a lack of clarity higher up in an organisation, 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 organisation, so use the chance to make a good impression. However, don’t let employees who’ve been there longer feel neglected.

  1. Organise 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.

A 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 leadership coaching or internal training.

Recognition and feedback

“A conversation, not a monologue.”

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 recognised. Employees who are aware of the value they bring to an organisation 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.

A 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.

A 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 organisation.

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

Some tips:

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.

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.

Value-driven actions

Whether employees feel respected at work will greatly affect how committed they are to the organisation’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 incentivised. 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.


Rosie Evans

Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub.io

Rosie is a behavioural scientist at CoachHub, where she applies insights from positive psychology, neuroscience and behavioural science directly into digital coaching programmes and an approach that drives individual and organisational transformation. She works as part of the in-house research and development team, the Coaching Lab, and contributes to the advancement of the science of coaching and behaviour change; in addition to working both internally with in-house researchers and with world-class external academic teams to design and execute groundbreaking studies.

Call us on +1-646-971-9522, email us (mail@coachhub.com) or contact us below for a demo.

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