What is Employee Engagement and How Do We Get it?

Benefit Trends Executive Health November 1, 2019

The term employee engagement is often thrown around in the context of benefits… and productivity… and overall business success. It’s identified as something every employer wants to obtain within their workforce, and rightfully so. But, do we even know what employee engagement really looks like? Further, do we know how to create it?

The search for one all-encompassing definition of engagement is ongoing, with the notion that maybe if we can define it, we can understand how to build it. There’s a lot of articles on the subject, as well as claims that engagement equates to happiness, passion, commitment, enthusiasm and so on. So, what distinguishes an engaged employee from an unengaged one?

A Few Definitions of Employee Engagement

Forbes provides an interesting take on defining engagement by first identifying what it’s not. According to their definition, engagement does not mean happiness or satisfaction because a happy employee may work without complaint, but that doesn’t mean they are motivated to go the extra mile. They claim that engagement does entail the use of a key term: discretionary effort.[1] The engaged employee is one that is eager to go beyond what is asked of them. They enjoy what they do every day. Engagement can be different for every business and even from employee to employee. Below are just a few of the many definitions of employee engagement:

  1. Forbes: “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”[2]
  2. Investopedia: “A business management concept that describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward his/her job. Engaged employees care about their work and about the performance of the company and feel that their efforts make a difference.”[3]
  3. Workforce Performance Solutions: “The illusive force that motivates employees to higher (or lower) levels of performance.”[4]
  4. Limeade: “The strength of the emotional connection employees have with their work, team, company, and higher purpose.”[5]

Now that we have a concept of what engagement might be, what causes it?

The Relationship Between Engagement and Culture

As noted by Forbes, having satisfied employees is not enough to generate engagement. The Workplace Well-Being 2015 report outlines 10 factors that drive employee engagement:[6]

  1. Teamwork
  2. Manager Effectiveness
  3. Trust in Senior Leaders
  4. Trust with Coworkers
  5. Retention
  6. Alignment with Goals
  7. Feeling Valued
  8. Individual Contribution
  9. Job Satisfaction
  10. Benefits

You’ll quickly notice that many of these influencers are directly related to workplace culture. Organizations must foster an atmosphere that supports common values, encourages utilization of benefits and creates an open line of communication between employees and management. Data supports the notion that organizational support is necessary to improving well-being and engagement.[7]

Some Key Engagement Facts

Report collaborations by Limeade and Quantum Workplace in 2015 and 2016 suggest that employee engagement is actually most correlated with overall wellbeing. According to the 2016 Well-Being & Engagement Report, employees associated with high wellbeing enjoy their work more, are more loyal to their organizations, are more likely to recommend their organization as a place to work and are less likely to leave for a new job.[8] Employee engagement affects the bottom line, too. Organizations with engaged workers experience 6% increases in net profit margins and higher shareholder returns.[9]

How Engagement Relates to Benefits

Benefits offerings are a huge part of employee engagement. However, it’s not going to be just any combination of benefits that will drive your engagement strategy. Benefits must align with the values of the employee and of the organization. According to one benefits study, “it’s the right combination of tangible benefits and the total employee experience that creates the trust that keeps employees motivated and engaged.”[10]

In the 2015 Limeade and Quantum study, there was a strong correlation between health and wellness benefits and engagement. Over 75% of employees identified as engaged claimed to be content with their health and wellness benefits. As satisfaction with benefits declined, so did engagement.[11] The report was quick to note that “Just because an organization offers health and well-being benefits doesn’t mean employees will be more engaged. Clearly communicating what benefits are available to employees – and the value of those benefits – is just as important as the benefits program itself in terms of employee engagement.” Employees who received clear communication of their benefits were found to be 20% more engaged.[12]

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#157ac8e97f37[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#157ac8e97f37

[3] https://decision-wise.com/7-definitions-of-employee-engagement/

[4] https://decision-wise.com/7-definitions-of-employee-engagement/

[5] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/QW-LimeadeWellBeingEngagementReport-final.pdf

[6] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Workplace-Well-Being_FINAL.pdf

[7] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/QW-LimeadeWellBeingEngagementReport-final.pdf

[8] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/QW-LimeadeWellBeingEngagementReport-final.pdf

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#157ac8e97f37

[10] https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2019/10/25/if-you-want-to-improve-employee-engagement-benefits-need-to-have-valueand-reflect-values/#1477f889101c

[11] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Workplace-Well-Being_FINAL.pdf

[12] https://www.limeade.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Workplace-Well-Being_FINAL.pdf

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