Why Employee Engagement Matters Now, More Than Ever

Employee engagement is critical to the wellbeing of your workforce and company. Learn what employee engagement really means and how your company can improve.

Across the United States and around the world, people are sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s far from “business as usual,” yet many employees are managing to stay productive and positive through it all. It’s a testament to people’s resilience—and to businesses’ effective employee engagement strategies.

Now more than ever, employee engagement is critical to ensuring the wellbeing of your workforce and company. But what does employee engagement really mean and how can you improve yours? Let’s start with the basics.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a measure of employees’ dedication to your company. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” Engaged employees have an emotional commitment to the company and are willing to go the extra mile to help it succeed (technically known as “discretionary effort”).

What about job satisfaction?

Job satisfaction can often be confused with employee engagement. Job satisfaction is the level of happiness employees feel about their position in the company. It’s great if an employee has a high degree of job satisfaction, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to increased productivity or better business outcomes. In fact, some employees might be very happy contributing very little to the company while collecting a fat paycheck!

According to the HR Technologist, the factors that affect job satisfaction and employee engagement are different: Job satisfaction is driven by competitive compensation, comprehensive benefits, a good work-life balance, and professional recognition. On the other hand, employee engagement is primarily driven by inspiring leadership, career development, internal communication, and a culture of diversity.

Why is employee engagement important?

The bottom line is employee engagement drives your firm’s literal bottom line. In fact, organizations in the top quartile of engagement had 21% higher profitability compared with those in the bottom. However, the same study also found that only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% of employees in the United States fall into the “engaged” sector.

Having an engaged workforce will help you:

  •  Improve profitability
  • Generate new ideas and innovations
  • Reduce turnover
  • Increase retention
  • Improve productivity
  • Boost customer satisfaction
  • Make work a happier and healthier place for all

What if employees aren’t engaged?

It can take a long time for you or your human resources team to figure out an employee engagement program that resonates with everyone—from new hires and millennials to seasoned staffers and executives. Want a little extra help? Ask your staff for their input by sending out an employee engagement survey quarterly. If you’re able to measure employee engagement, you’ll be better able to figure out what needs to be adjusted.

What can you do to improve employee engagement during a pandemic?

With employees juggling health concerns, child care responsibilities, and more, it’s easy to see how some workers are having trouble being fully present and engaged in their work. In fact, an employee survey of more than 500 working moms revealed that 81% of respondents said their ability to engage effectively at work has been negatively impacted by the crisis. Both women and men have been feeling the stress and anxiety of trying to juggle it all.

So, what can you do to help? If your staff is currently working from home, it can be hard to imagine what you can do to improve employee engagement from afar. But you can. Take a look at these employee engagement ideas:

  • Check in—A recent Harvard Business Review article recommends that you nominate one person to be responsible for regularly checking in on employees’ wellbeing over the next three to six months. This way, any concerns, fears, and other issues related to working during a pandemic are caught before they escalate. Making your employees feel heard and providing assistance when needed can go a long way toward engaging your workforce.
  • Select the right technology—What does your staff need to be able to effectively communicate while away from the office? Help alleviate frustration and facilitate relationship building by having the right instant messaging, video conferencing, and remote technology in place.
  • Schedule a happy hour—Many employees are missing the social aspects of working in an office. So, think about recreating that employee experience virtually with a festive Zoom happy hour, game night, or group fitness class.

What are some key employee engagement strategies?

Pandemic or no pandemic, some employee engagement initiatives are highly effective in any climate. Here’s a list of the top three:

1. Manage well—When it comes to employee engagement, having good leaders matters a lot. In fact, research finds that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to their manager. So how do you inspire your leaders to excel? Consider sending your top managers to leadership training so they can gain the skills they need to motivate, recognize, and empower their staff members.

Plus, investing in your employees’ continuing education has been proven to improve engagement and retention. According to LinkedIn, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.

2. Help employees find deeper meaning—A key component of employee engagement is helping workers connect with their job on a deeper level. You don’t want your employees to just punch a clock, do the bare minimum, and collect a paycheck. It’s better for them—and for the company—if they can find greater purpose.

According to the BetterUP Labs “Meaning and Purpose at Work” report, employees who find their work highly meaningful stay at their jobs for an average of 7.4 months longer than employees who don’t. Plus, employees doing meaningful work put in an extra hour per week and take two fewer days of paid leave per year! Here are a few ways to help instill greater meaning:

  • Allow them to excel —Have a one-on-one conversation with employees about the company goals and their personal goals, and then see how they can be aligned for success. Even better, start the discussion during the onboarding process.
  • Show them the results (and recognize them for their contributions)—Toiling away in obscurity isn’t fun for anyone. Let your employees know that their contributions matter to the company’s bottom line and that you appreciate their hard work. Seeing the results can help employees realize that what they do makes a real difference and deepen their connection to the company.
  • Connect to the greater good —If employees know that their work is making the world a better place, it can help deepen their connection to their day-to-day jobs.

3. Improve your company culture—It’s difficult to quantify company culture, but everyone knows it’s important. According to a Deloitte study, 82% of respondents said that culture is a potential competitive advantage. However, only 28% said they understood their culture well and only 19% said they had the “right culture.”

Deloitte defines culture as “the way things work around here.” Simply put, it encompasses all the values, actions, and incentives that make an impact on employees’ daily lives. Typically, the tone is set by senior leaders and trickles down throughout the organization. Ideally, your company culture will drive higher levels of engagement. So how do you improve your culture? Well, start by taking a step back and ask yourself:

  • What are the values that make our company special?
  • How do we want employees to feel when they work here?
  •  How can we change our performance management or compensation processes to reflect our company culture?
  • Are we experiencing any toxic behaviors like fraud or extreme negativity? Is there an underlying reason why it’s happening?
  • What can we do to attract, engage, and retain exceptional workers?
  • How do benefits amplify our company culture? (Think tangibles like salary, 401(k) plan, and health plans as well as intangibles like flexibility and creative opportunity)

Betterment can help

Leadership, meaningful work, and company culture are integral to employee engagement. However, another driver of employee engagement and satisfaction is competitive compensation and benefits.

Looking to upgrade your employee benefits package? Betterment can help you offer a better 401(k) at a fraction of the cost of most providers. As your full-service 401(k) partner, we:

  • Get your plan up and running fast—and assist with the ongoing administration
  • Select and monitor your investments (We assume the risk and responsibility as a 3(38) investment manager.)
  • Offer your employees personalized guidance to help them save for long- and short-term goals ranging from retirement to debt reduction

Want more information? Talk to Betterment today.