Understanding the 14 Drivers of Employee Engagement
Long before the term ’employee engagement’ first came into existence, businesses have sought ways to motivate their employees and make them more productive. Business leaders noticed that when employees felt satisfied at work, they were more likely to perform well—meaning it was better for the bottom line.
But in 1990, Boston University professor William Kahn, in his research on organizational psychology, coined the term that has become a cornerstone in how we understand human motivation at work.
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is the emotional investment your employees have in their role, your organization, and its mission. It has become a key metric that helps organizations understand the health of their culture.
Employee engagement can be measured in different ways. Our methodology is based on one main engagement question, three engagement outcome questions, 14 questions measuring the ‘drivers’ of engagement, and 27 sub-driver questions. Based on decades of research, these drivers represent the key psychological requirements for human motivation at work, and include factors such as professional growth, working environment, and how meaningful we find our work.
Implementing effective initiatives that drive employee engagement is vital to the success of any business. When employees are engaged, they’re more likely to be productive, innovative and stay with their company. We created a list of ideas to create an inspiring and productive workplace that will help your employees thrive at work.
Why Does Employee Engagement Look Different for Each Organization?
No two businesses are the same, meaning there is never a one-size-fits-all approach to nurturing employee engagement. From the 14 key drivers we list, some will no doubt be more prevalent than others.
Once you recognize which drivers are more specific to your team, you can begin to focus your employee engagement strategy. One simple but effective way to kickstart the process is by sending out a confidential survey, which encourages your team to provide honest feedback. This will pave the way for you to take action based on how your employees respond.
Managers are the critical link between your employees and your organization. This is why empowering them to take ownership of their teams’ engagement is critical.Peakon, a Workday Company
Opportunities to Foster Better Employee Engagement at Your Organization
Based on our 14 drivers of engagement, we’ve compiled a list of suggestions and initiatives to help boost employee engagement at your organization.
1. Celebrate Individual Accomplishments
Breeding a sense of individual accomplishment is integral to boosting morale. Even when a company performs well as a whole, it’s easy for some to feel like their work goes unnoticed, particularly in larger businesses. Create a sense of accomplishment by:
- Allowing employees to take ownership over projects, or ensuring they’re solely responsible for something that may contribute to a bigger picture. This is an effective way to instil accomplishment, because it promotes an increased sense of accountability.
- Praising your employees in a public forum. This could be the completion of a successful project, new ideas or praising someone for stepping up.
- If you’re a line manager, ensure you spend time thinking about what has gone well, and discuss why with your team.
2. Encourage Employee Autonomy
Ultimately, no-one knows where and how a person is most productive, better than themselves. And as we found in our Employee Expectations 2021 Report, flexible working is a growing expectation among today’s workforce.
Showing that you trust your employees to be productive and set their own deadlines helps foster confidence—and could even lead to new, more efficient processes. To do this, organizations should:
- Offer guidance so that employees feel supported as they learn new processes and responsibilities. This may include mentoring sessions, further coaching or 1-1 meetings.
- Encourage employees to share new processes or ideas with the wider team. Lunch and learn sessions, either in person or virtually, are a great resource that enables knowledge sharing in an informal context, while also developing peer relationships.
3. Create an Environment That Enables Effective Collaboration
Where we work matters to us, and creating a positive and productive environment is about so much more than having a central office. As organizations consider hybrid or remote working cultures, finding ways to foster a working environment that helps employees work at their best will be critical.
- If employees are working remotely or on a hybrid basis, they may need help to design a space that works for them. This may include providing extra equipment, such as monitors or desks, or providing access to a coworking space.
- In the office, create more informal spaces, as well as spaces that enable better collaboration to enable employees to communicate effectively, wherever they are.
4. Encourage Freedom of Opinions
Psychological safety is a critical part of developing a high-performing team. Simply put, it means that employees feel safe enough to ask questions, share ideas, and voice concerns when something isn’t right. When employees feel that they can express their opinion without fear of judgement or reprisals, this increases their engagement, leading to higher productivity and creativity.
Building psychological safety at your organization all starts with fostering a culture of mutual trust.
5. Set Clear and Fair Goals
It’s difficult to know where you’re going without having a destination in mind—and it’s the same at work. When employees have a good understanding of what they’re expected to achieve and can judge their own performance, this enables them to fully apply themselves and do their best work.
- Set clear and realistic goals on a regular basis to help employees understand exactly what is expected of them, and how their performance will be measured.
- Be sure to review their work and provide feedback if they ask—this will help you support them and adjust deadlines as necessary.
6. Offer Growth Opportunities
We know from our own data that employees are more likely to resign a role because they’re not feeling challenged. Personal and professional growth opportunities are the ultimate driving factors behind an employee’s desire to perform at a high level and thrive in a business.
Helping your employee define their strengths and weaknesses, and laying out a professional roadmap, will empower them to learn new skills and progress in your organization. However, organizations must remember that these goals will not be static, and as your employee grows at your organization, their goals and future aspirations will too.
As we look towards the future of work and the critical skills we need in business continue to shift, hybrid and all-remote workforces may face some challenges when it comes to fostering learning opportunities for growth. Organizations may need to invest in technology to facilitate this move to digital-first learning, as well as encouraging employees to take more ownership over their own growth journeys.
When someone can see that their employer is taking steps to ensure appreciation is shown, the feeling is far more likely to be reciprocated.Peakon, a Workday Company
7. Make Sure Management Understand How to Support Their Teams
Managers are the critical link between your employees and your organization. This is why empowering them to take ownership of their teams’ engagement is critical.
As we move towards more remote or hybrid working structures, this relationship will be especially important as employees may no longer be office-based. Managers must develop strong relationships with their teams and understand each individual’s needs for support.
Holding regular catch-ups will be key to fostering this important relationship, but managers must also regularly seek to understand how their employees are feeling through engagement surveys, and take action on that insight to drive positive change at a team level.
8. Empower Your Teams to Create Meaningful Work
Everyone should be given the opportunity to deliver work they can be proud of. When employees find their work meaningful and valuable, they are more engaged, and more likely to be self-motivated.
This ties in with creating an ongoing dialogue with your employees. Listen to your team, understand what they see as meaningful work, and help them see how it contributes to your organization’s bigger picture.
Not only will employees be producing work they’re passionate about, they’ll be reassured that their opinion is valued and will be taken into consideration in the future.
- Ask employees what kind of work they want to be doing and what they are getting out of their current projects.
- Use goals as a way to focus the direction of work. For example, if someone’s goal is to be promoted, what projects can they take on to get there?
9. Ensure Organizational Fit
We all remember that feeling of wanting to fit in. When we join a new organization, it’s common to want to immerse ourselves in the company culture.
Our Organizational Fit driver is all about ensuring that the values of the individual and of the business are a good fit, on a cultural level. To achieve this, you must be sure that you’ve really nailed down your company mission and vision statements. In the past, this used to be about providing the right perks, such as weekly yoga classes, or having a list of CSR initiatives.
However, as employees increasingly become more vocal about sociocultural issues, this will involve making sure your company values are lived, and that employees can see them in action. Getting this alignment right means your employees truly see you as far more than ‘just a business’.
- Communicate your company values, and make sure these are exemplified through your actions.
- Hiring solely for cultural fit can be damaging to diversity and inclusion: offer unconscious bias training and focus on values over cultural fit.
10. Foster Strong Peer Relationships
We spend the majority of our time at work—and having strong peer relationships between employees is key to making sure morale and engagement stay high.
Team building days, regular out-of-office activities, and buddy schemes are all excellent ways to develop this. Don’t be afraid to get creative either—think bigger than stuffy conference rooms; choose something that truly inspires communication and connection.
11. Always Show Recognition
Everyone deserves to know when they’ve done a good job, which is why recognizing a job well done and making sure your employees feel valued is a key driver of employee engagement.
Giving public kudos and shoutouts for a job well done is a habit that takes minimal effort, but goes a long way in fostering a positive and productive environment.
Alternatively, when constructive feedback is required, make sure to do this in private. People react to feedback differently, but if they can see it’s there to encourage growth, the individual is far more likely to take things on board.
- Consider creating a Slack channel (or similar) that celebrates and highlights great work.
- Be specific—showing recognition for something specific is more meaningful than a general “nice job”.
12. Offer Equitable Rewards
Rewarding your employees may seem like an easy way to boost employee motivation—yet money doesn’t always ultimately increase employee satisfaction, and increasing rewards will not always be enough to keep staff motivated in the long term. As we found out in our Attrition warning report, employees leave when they can’t have open discussions about pay, rather than when they feel under-rewarded.
To foster employee engagement, organizations must have open and transparent conversations with their employees around pay. These conversations should involve an explanation of the factors that are taken into consideration when calculating pay, including things like employee performance.
Communicating this openly gives employees a sense of how much of this will be within their control, and what they need to do to get a promotion or a pay rise.
13. Communicate Strategy Clearly
When employees don’t understand their organization’s strategy, they can quickly become confused, disengaged or demotivated. A key tenet to driving understanding of company strategy is communication.
Communicating your organization’s strategy, as transparently as possible, helps employees understand the direction of the company journey, and how their work contributes to it. This way they can set their own goals in alignment with the company’s strategy, so they know what is required from them individually to best support the business’s success.
14. Keep Workloads Fair
This ‘always-on’ era we live in has had a decisively negative impact on our work-life balance—and never more so than living and working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, when employees feel overloaded, they’re more likely to feel stressed or frustrated, which could potentially cause employee burnout. Not everyone will feel comfortable flagging when they have too much on their plate, so it’s imperative that you not only create an environment that encourages people to speak up, but you actively check in and revisit processes when needed.
- Daily standups are a great way to gauge workloads. They also provide an opportunity for the team to come together, share ideas and find opportunities to synergize.
- Discuss workloads in weekly or monthly catch ups, and plan how to manage this.
The Best way to Foster Employee Engagement in Your Organization
Above all else, if you create a workplace that encourages mutual respect, transparent and regular communication and one that recognizes your staff’s achievements and hard work, employee engagement will grow naturally. When someone can see that their employer is taking steps to ensure appreciation is shown, the feeling is far more likely to be reciprocated.