To create strategies and actions to improve employee engagement, it’s key to understand the factors that impact an individual's dedication, motivation, and enthusiasm for their job and organization. What makes people want to get up, go to work, and give their best? What makes an employee dedicated and committed?
After working with organizations for over 25 years, recognizing that every organization is unique, there are some universal factors that influence employee engagement levels in every company.
What influences employee engagement in the workplace?
“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.” - Joanne Ciulla (Author and Educator)
Exceptional leadership plays a fundamental role in shaping employee engagement. Key characteristics of powerful leaders include adaptability, vision, empathy, decisiveness, and integrity. Leaders who lead by example, communicate transparently, and foster trust have a profound impact on employee engagement.
Effective communication is the foundation of employee engagement. Employees need to be well-informed about the organization's objectives, strategies, and expectations. Communication should be multi-directional, candid, and respectful. Communication provides employees with the necessary information they need to do their jobs. It eliminates inefficiencies. It gives employees a space to share their thoughts and ideas and be heard.
Recognition and Appreciation:
“Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.” - Tom Rath
Feeling appreciated and valued is a potent driver of employee engagement. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions boosts morale, motivation, and increases productivity.
Opportunities for Growth:
Providing avenues for skill development and career progression is pivotal in influencing engagement. Employees who perceive opportunities for personal and professional growth within the organization are more likely to stay engaged.
Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. - Dolly Parton
Value and honor your employees' lives. Organizations that support flexible work arrangements, offer wellness programs, and respect employees' personal time to have more engaged teams, and, we’d argue, more interesting people.
A Healthy Work Environment:
Last year, the Surgeon General proclaimed that toxic workplaces are a health hazard. Workplace culture and the physical environment are powerful influencers of engagement as well as people’s physical and mental well-being. A positive, inclusive, and respectful workplace culture fosters engagement.
This is an increasingly important factor that influences employee engagement. What defines a meaningful job? Though there’s no set answer or definition, it’s clear that when employees perceive the significance and impact of their work, they are more likely to be engaged. This can take on many different colors: the ability to be creative at work, the feeling their presence matters, understanding how their job influences the final product, making sure products are available for consumers. Every job matters because every job is necessary in an organization (or it would be cut)! Meaningful work, connecting an employees’ tasks with the organization goals, vision, and mission, can help your employees recognize their value.
Autonomy and Empowerment:
Give your employees the tools they need to get the job done and get out of the way. When employees have a sense of ownership and control over their work, making decisions within their areas of responsibility, their engagement tends to be higher.
Fair Compensation and Benefits:
This is basic. Competitive and equitable compensation packages are essential, first and foremost, for living. Without a foundation of fair compensation and benefits, everything else goes by the wayside. Employees should feel that their contributions are fairly rewarded. People should have access to good healthcare (mental and physical), retirement plans, childcare assistance, and more.
Alignment with Company Values:
When employees' personal values align with the organization's mission and values, engagement is more likely. Companies that effectively communicate and uphold their core values can positively influence engagement. This is a top-down responsibility with organization leaders walking the talk.
Community and Belonging:
People, on average, spend almost 38 hours/week at work, which translates to 1/3 of their lives. Belonging is a basic human need, providing a sense of community and connection. It grounds us in the world. Belonging means being free to be yourself and express who you are. Strong relationships with colleagues significantly impact a sense of community and, in turn, engagement.
Both solicit and give regular feedback. When asking for feedback, actively listen, or use more formal tools like an employee engagement survey. Then act on feedback received. Coach managers to give constructive feedback, establish clear goals, and support employee development. All of this contributes to higher engagement.
Engagement is influenced by various factors: leadership, communication, recognition, growth opportunities, work-life balance, work environment, meaningful work, autonomy, fair compensation, alignment with values, peer relationships, and feedback. Consider these elements when crafting strategies to increase employee engagement.
"Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business. – Ian Hutchinson