In last week’s blog post, we explored the difference between activities that truly support employee engagement, and those that entertain and foster interpersonal relationships.   Both are important. However, many people confuse employee engagement with entertainment. A virtual mixology class or team building outing can be great ways to get your team together for some fun and bonding. However, if underlying issues exist that are impacting the team on a more fundamental level, no amount of fun activities will lead to resolution.

This week, we’re going to look at the definition of employee engagement, as well as its underlying components. With this perspective, you’ll be better able to diagnose and remedy issues within your organizations that may be impacting team performance. 

What’s the definition of employee engagement? 

It’s a question we hear a lot.  A good definition of employee engagement is the ability of an employee to be present, focused and energized at work. 

As you can see, “happiness” isn’t part of this equation, and that’s all the more evident when one considers some of the key drivers of employee engagement, which include:

  • Clear understanding of one’s role and responsibilities
  • The tools, training and resources needed to do one’s job
  • Recognition for their contributions and successes 
  • The opportunity to develop professionally and advance one’s career 
  • An environment in which employees have an authentic voice 
  • Leadership that cares about the wellbeing of employees. 
  • A sense of purpose, and contributing to the good of the community or other stakeholders 

To enable employees to show up as their best selves, willing to lean into their jobs, leaders need to consider each of these factors, and how they contribute to the employee experience.  

Often, leaders sense something is wrong, but can’t pinpoint the issue.  A comprehensive employee engagement survey will provide leaders with a clear view of where the organization stands, and where they need to focus efforts in order to right the ship.  While it might seem like surveying employees during a time of crisis and uncertainty wouldn’t be useful, the exact opposite is true. When a team is feeling pressure, it’s especially important to understand where they stand.  If you don’t have access to a survey tool, you can try ours, free

How the pillars of employee engagement work:

While there are multiple dimensions of employee engagement, these seven components hold true for almost every team, in every kind of organization.

An easy way to understand the component, how they work and why they’re important is simply to imagine a workplace in which the components are either absent or dysfunctional.

Roles & responsibilities:

Do employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities? 

Without clarity around one’s responsibilities, or the tools needed to actually do the job, it’s not too difficult to imagine the frustration that would quickly ensue for an employee. Instead of productive and satisfying work, they’d spend their time stepping on others’ toes or attempting to hack a solution they know could be easier and more efficient. 

Recognition:

Are employees consistently recognized for their contributions? 

The sincere act of recognizing a job well done is a simple but powerful act that’s easy for a manager to take – so simple, in fact, it’s often overlooked. However, when one thinks about the anger and bitterness that arises when one person takes the credit for another’s work, the power of recognition becomes clear. 

Career paths & professional development:

Does the company provide a clear path or framework for advancement? 

A clear career path is a powerful motivator for many employees, however, it’s also important that the playing field is even and fair. Favoritism, discrimination and other practices perceived to be unfair are not only demotivating for employees, they could pose legal risk for the company as well.

Freedom to have a voice, and leaders that care about them and their wellbeing:

Employees can be themselves at work, and their leaders value them as individuals. 

Creating an environment in which employees are allowed to be themselves, voice their opinions and provide feedback goes hand in hand with a leadership team that values their employees as individuals and cares about their wellbeing. Taken together, it’s easy to understand how a workplace with these characteristics would be safe, comfortable and welcoming. 

A sense of purpose:

What impact does the organization have upon the wider world, and do employees understand how they contribute? 

A strong purpose unites employees, bringing added meaning to their work and giving them the “why” that inspires them to show up.  Workplaces lacking the unifying power of purpose tend to be less profitable, and their workers less fulfilled, than those with a clear and compelling purpose. 

Employee engagement is important to business performance. Thinking about employee engagement in terms of the underlying drivers helps frame the task at hand when one decides to start improving it, and the timely adjustments especially for remote teams will help leaders adjust procedures to ensure they’re continuing to support and engage their teams, even when they’re working from home.