What is employee engagement?

We know that engaged employees lead to higher performing, more resilient organizations. This ideal state is what many organizations aspire to, but what exactly is employee engagement?

Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It's a measure of how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organization, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there. Importantly, employee engagement is an outcome that depends on the actions of an organization, particularly the actions driven by leadership, managers, and people teams.

Many organizations seek out higher levels of engagement to improve things like performance, retention and innovation. Using an employee engagement survey is a great way to understand what impacts the engagement of your employees and help drive action over time.

Why engagement matters for people at work

People who are highly engaged at work not only provide greater value to the organization, but they experience better quality of life at work. Culture Amp Strategist Fresia Jackson explains how to recognize the behaviors of engaged employees. People who are engaged feel energized by their work and actually maintain positive mental health. They do more good deeds at work, like helping a new hire get acclimated (without being asked). People also work in a state of flow when they feel engaged; time passes and they’re absorbed in their work. As Jackson says, “These behaviors bring to life employee engagement survey results, because they’re what we see day to day.”

Why engagement matters at the organizational level

When organizations use surveys to understand the drivers of employee engagement at their organization, they’re able to take more effective action on what’s important. Jeff Ehrenberg, VP of People at HotelTonight, says that with employee engagement metrics, their people team is able to answer strategic questions for the business in a way that informs leadership with data. With typically lean people teams, it’s important to use employee feedback platforms to focus on things that have the biggest impact.

With an employee engagement survey, you can do the following:

  • Get a baseline: Understand your organization’s engagement performance in the context of industry benchmarks and your own historical data.
  • Drill down and assess: Take a closer look at the key drivers of engagement at your organization. Slice and dice the data by your demographic variables to determine where employees are having a different experience.
  • Test assumptions: Determine what truly drives engagement for your employees. Back up your conclusions with verifiable data.
  • Prioritize your efforts: Identify opportunities for improvement and allocate resources with confidence.
  • Implement a survey strategy: Establish a survey strategy based on broad engagement survey results. Identify key issues that need to be monitored regularly with shorter but more frequent pulse surveys. Investigate important issues that require deeper inquiries.

Understanding engagement takes more than one question

Employee engagement is more than just job satisfaction or feeling happy at work. Because of its complexity, engagement is best understood through a series of questions rather than a single question. Culture Amp’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Jason McPherson says, “In general, statisticians agree that well-constructed, multiple-item indicators are more reliable and tend to provide better external validity than single-question metrics.” In other words, asking a handful of questions on a specific topic will give you a more reliable and clear picture of what’s going on rather than just asking, “how satisfied are you at work?”

The Employee Net Promoter score (eNPS) was long regarded as the go-to metric for measuring employee engagement. The eNPS typically consists of a single question about whether someone would recommend their company as a great place to work. While this is valuable information, recommendation on its own doesn’t capture everything about engagement.

It’s important to get a holistic view of what different factors influence engagement so action planning is based on the whole picture and relevant data. Since engagement encompasses connection, motivation and commitment, an engagement survey should ask questions that provide data on these factors. For this reason, Culture Amp’s surveys use five questions to understand engagement that encompass pride, recommendation (Net Promoter Style), present and future commitment, and motivation.

Employee Engagement at your organization

Take the first step to understanding employee engagement at your company by connecting with a Culture Amp People Geek to explore our Engagement Survey.

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