Understanding Employee Engagement


August 2021

Understanding Employee Engagement

Stacey is happy in her job. She loves the company, especially the free massages and snacks at the coffee bar in the office. But making Stacey happy does not mean she is engaged to work productively on behalf of the company.

Ahmet noted in his employee satisfaction survey that he is extremely satisfied in his job. He shows up for work on time and works to the last minute every day without complaint. But he is not that satisfied that he would go the extra mile for the company’s success. Ahmet is not engaged.

So, what does an engaged employee look like?

What is employee engagement?

Engaged employees are emotionally committed to the company and its goals. It is the discretionary effort employees put into their work and the passion they feel towards the greater good of the organisation. Engaged employees genuinely care about the success of the business. They return greater benefits to the whole company than happy or satisfied staff alone.

Tabetha loves her job. She is happy and satisfied, and she genuinely cares about the success of the company. She offers top-notch service, connecting with customers and taking responsibility for all their queries. Her customers are satisfied because they sense this is not just a job to her. She genuinely wants to deliver the best service because she cares. Thanks to Tabetha, her customers are telling their partners, friends, family, anyone out there, on LinkedIn, Facebook, over dinner or on a plane. Tabetha’s company gets referrals and repeat customers, leading to increased sales and larger profits.

Tabetha is an engaged employee. And she personally helps her company to grow.

How does HR reinforce employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the outcome of a company’s employee experience, which starts before an employee’s appointment and ends after an employee’s exit. HR is well-positioned to create the experience journey in its entirety and ensure employee engagement.

Many organisations have HR engagement programs that are disconnected from the employee experience. HR can make the experience journey transformative by designing policies and practices that foster employee engagement.

Onboarding: cultural fit

Onboarding is the crucial starting point for employee engagement. Yet, a staggering 76% of organisations are failing here, according to research by Kronos and Human Capital Institute. Onboarding introduces a new employee to the personality of the company, shaped by the organisation’s values and beliefs, and ensures it is a cultural fit for employer and employee.

Constantly encouraging communication

Gone are the days of solely relying on annual reviews. Engaged employees get frequent formal and informal feedback that makes them feel valued and supported. Equally important is that employees have a voice too and know they are being heard.

Therefore, targeted communication is key to keeping HR on top of challenges and successes of employee engagement. Some examples of formal communication are recruitment and onboarding, performance reviews, KPIs or goal setting, and training. Informal communication examples are coaching or mentoring, discussions about career development and incentive programs.

Employee surveys are a good way of staying in touch with employees. Keep these short, regular and meaningful.

Rewarding performance

Humans are advanced beings, but at our core we are still rather basic. We are more positive and generally do better when we feel an emotional connection with what we’re busy with and that what we’re doing is making a difference.

This emotional side is what lies at the centre of employee engagement. We can influence engagement with a rewards program, creating a positive emotional link between the employee and the organisation.

Help employees understand their worth

The paycheck at the end of the month is important, but not the sole cause for committed employees anymore. Fair pay, raises, bonuses and promotions are all part of valuing employees, but they also need other forms of affirmation. Don’t assume money is the best way to show employees that they are valued. Recognise their achievements in front of their peers.

Have continuous honest discussions with employees, give them up-to-date feedback on what they are doing well and where they need more support. Also, a pay rise or bonus is great, but don’t pass up the opportunity to reap the benefits you get from clearly communicating the reason behind the raise to boost employee loyalty, morale and satisfaction. Say it loud and clear so that there is no doubt about the employee’s worth and the company’s appreciation of it.

How HRMS can boost employee engagement

Digital networks make it easier for people to connect. With a Human Resources Management System (HRMS), internal communications between employees, management and HR are instant, direct and effortless. The benefits of the system are endless and simplifies processes, collaboration, communication, defining and measuring KPIs, and more. Additionally, an HRMS can empower employees, which can be a major engagement driver.

Accessibility for employees

A well-designed HRMS empowers employees with self-service tools that they can access on the go, from home or while traveling, any time, anywhere. An employee can book training – and attend it – on a handheld device while commuting in and out of the office. Team members and managers stay connected regardless of whether they share the same physical space or not.

Online collaboration tools


Millennials and Generation Z employees don’t know a world without social media. They are the workforce of the future. HRMS sutilise social collaboration tools and connect employees in an organisation through surveys, recognition of team members, interdepartmental collaboration, polls, and more. Increasingly these tools are the simplest way to achieve employee engagement.

Real-time feedback

A good HRMS offers organisations the tools to measure and give feedback on work performance, but also on employee engagement surveys. In a system, employees can get regular performance and peer reviews to help each member of the team to adjust in mid-stride for greater success. Humans are designed to thrive on immediate gratification. Your organisation’s employee engagement just got better.

Improved onboarding

The onboarding experience defines the employee experience from the word “Go”. Research shows that a staggering 70% of employees are more likely to be around for at least three years if they had a well-structured onboarding program. A clever HRMS can enhance onboarding by simplifying paperwork, giving access to training for new staff, connecting them with other people in the organisation that they will work with. The list of possibilities is endless.

Workplace transparency

A sensible HRMS make company information readily available to the workforce, creating a self-empowered environment and a sense of transparency that engages employees. People can book meetings, update documents that are accessible to all involved in a project and help users to easily access information they need to do their job.

Employee training


Employees can book and attend training on the HRMS from any device, anywhere, any time. Strong feelings of empowerment equal greater employee engagement.

How to measure employee engagement

HR can put gauges in place to measure how well strategies work to achieve loyalty and commitment from the workforce.

Employee recognition

Extensive studies in employee engagement showed one characteristic behaviour in engaged workers: giving and receiving recognition. Companies that implemented recognition programs have seen great results. For example, General Motors achieved a 97% activation rate when it launched its recognition program. An HRMS simplifies the launch of such programs and how people engage with it.

Exit interviews

Exit interviews are a great way to assess how the organisation scored on engagement and where it can improve. Good questions for an exit interview are:

  • How is your relationship with your manager?
  • What did you dislike about your job?
  • What makes your day at work great?
  • Why do you want to leave?
  • What would make you want to stay?
  • What would you change about your role?

However, these questions should not be reserved solely for exit interviews. Employers should regularly ask these questions from existing employees – and listen to the feedback.


Focus groups

Focus groups are a great tool to keep your finger on the pulse on employee engagement. Gather small groups of workers to talk about specific workplace concerns, challenges and successes.

Employee retention

Study the organisation’s retention rates to gauge employee engagement levels. Harvard Business Review published research that found a direct correlation between retention and engagement.

Productivity metrics

If you can regularly measure the productivity levels of employees, you can identify whether you are on the right track to retain employees for the longer haul. This includes KPIs and how employees shape up. But with metrics you can measure much more. For example, how many hours of work occur outside of normal hours, a discretionary effort indicator. Look at collaboration with colleagues and customers outside the normal scope of work.


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