Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Are you feeling like a full-time employee’s job performance is declining? Do you sense an increasing level of detachment among workers? Help rectify these problems by increasing employee engagement.

Employee engagement is essential for maintaining a positive and productive work atmosphere. Engaged employees keep each other motivated, boosting the success of individual teams and the organization as a whole.

While employee engagement often leads to employee satisfaction, you shouldn’t confuse the two. Employee satisfaction is a broad term used to describe how satisfied the employee is with their job and the organization. On the other hand, employee engagement refers to how connected an employee feels to the organization.

Employees who are engaged tend to feel better about their work. In addition, employees who feel valued and heard by their organizations tend to have better performance.

This article shows you some easy ways to improve employee engagement. First, let’s understand what employee engagement is and look at how it’s measured.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to how connected employees feel to their organization and coworkers. It measures how people feel about their workplace environment and links directly to job satisfaction, employee morale, and ultimately business results.

Common types of employee engagement

The more engaged your employee is with your organization, the more passion and drive they’re likely to bring to the job. Engaged employees are personally invested in the organization’s goals.

Employee engagement can take several forms, including:


Here, the employee feels connected to the values and goals of the organization. Cognitively engaged employees are less likely to submit casual, half-done work or get distracted while working.

This type of engagement stems from how the employee thinks of the organization and how connected they see their work to overall business goals.


An emotionally engaged employee feels connected to their team members and superiors. This emotional connection helps employees enjoy their work more and maintain a better work-life balance. A happy employee is generally more motivated and enthusiastic about their job than a disengaged employee who dislikes everyone in the office.

This type of engagement stems from how the employee feels about the organization, whether a sense of belonging exists.


An employee who’s physically engaged—meaning they’re invested in their work as shown through their attitude and activities—exhibits better work commitment. Full-time employees can be physically engaged and remote simultaneously.

Most physically engaged employees like taking steps for personal and professional development. You can identify this type of employee engagement when the employee puts in discretionary effort outside of their regular role and voluntarily signs up for skill improvement programs.

This type of engagement stems from how proactive the employee is to maximize growth opportunities at work.

Why is employee engagement important?

When workplace engagement exists at a high level, the employee feels like part of a team striving toward a common goal. When this feeling and effort occurs across the workforce, the organization can reach new heights.

An engaged employee advocates for the business and its products or services with genuine care and has a better attitude toward clients and customers. This ensures customer satisfaction. In addition, engaged employees tend to display a greater sense of accountability for their work and demonstrate high performance.

The level of employee engagement, and thus employee performance, at an organization directly relate to its business outcomes.

Some other benefits of employee engagement are:

  • Engaged employees have a better working experience and increased job satisfaction
  • Employee engagement increases an employee’s trust in the organization
  • Workplace engagement lowers employee turnover because employees tend to stay longer
  • Employees who are engaged with the company contribute more to its success and are personally invested in the company’s goals
  • Engaged employees display lower absenteeism because they’re more inclined to work well and take their work more seriously

You can develop an employee engagement program that delivers these perks that not only benefit workers but are also vital for the success of your business.

What are the 12 elements of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is essential, but achieving it isn’t as simple as it might seem. A study conducted by Gallup in the first half of 2021 showed only 36% of U.S. employees were engaged in their workplace.

This clearly highlights the need to take more active steps to help employees feel more engaged. Keep these 12 elements in mind when improving your employee engagement strategy. Employees like to:

  1. Know what’s expected of them and their work
  2. Receive the equipment, tools, and materials required for them to work effectively
  3. Have the opportunity to take on tasks they’re confident about doing
  4. Receive recognition and praise when they do good work
  5. Have supervisors who care for their personal needs
  6. Have their personal development encouraged at work
  7. Be involved in the mission or purpose of their company
  8. Have their opinions heard and considered at work
  9. Be surrounded by colleagues who are committed to doing quality work
  10. Have a good friend at work
  11. Have their long-term progress recognized
  12. Be given opportunities to learn and grow at work

Managers need to take actions to enhance these elements to improve engagement and reduce employee burnout. Employee engagement initiatives could give a significant boost to employee performance.

How to measure employee engagement

The first step to improving employee engagement at your organization is recognizing where it currently stands. Reflecting on the aspects of work that satisfy your employees and understanding where you can improve allows you to boost engagement.

Consider a couple of ways to measure employee engagement:

Set up one-on-one meetings

You can meet with employees virtually or in person. Visual meetings rather than phone calls are particularly helpful because they let you read the employee’s nonverbal cues and body language. Make your employees feel seen, heard, and supported during the meeting. Eliminate distractions and give them your complete focus.

Especially for new hires, it’s crucial to assess employee engagement through one-on-one meetings to ensure that their onboarding process is proceeding comfortably. Because these meetings are more personal, you can ask reflective questions about what they think of the culture, growth opportunities, and employee experiences at the company.

Ask them to name what they like about working at the organization and what work areas could use improvement. The key is to make your employee feel that they’re being heard and understood. Note their talking points and you’ll find areas you can focus on to improve employee engagement.

Use surveys

Use short, regular surveys—also called employee pulse surveys—to assess employees’ well-being. These surveys take a few minutes to fill out and are very effective in gaining real-time employee feedback about a specific topic. These short employee surveys have a better response than other methods and may also drive employee engagement.

Remember to ask simple and easy-to-answer questions that are meaningful. For example, you might ask:

  • Do you feel inspired to do your best work?
  • Do you have enough opportunities for personal growth in your current team?
  • Do you feel burned out at work?
  • Does the leadership team make you feel seen and heard?

These employee engagement surveys are easy to conduct because they don’t require the logistics of one-on-one meetings.

Once you’ve identified the aspects of work that leave employees dissatisfied, make an action plan and assign someone to improve those areas. The survey is meaningless or even counterproductive if you fail to act on the feedback.

How to improve employee engagement

Once you’ve identified the aspects of workplace culture that could use improvement, prioritize efforts in those areas. The feedback you receive from your employees is personalized to your organization and progress in these areas will give you the best results.

In addition, your employees will appreciate the effort taken by you and your company to hear them out and implement their feedback to improve the work experience.

Until you’re able to gain specific feedback from your team, here are some strategies that will give you a head start in increasing employee engagement.

  • Give employees individual attention. Using just one way of managing and leading won’t work for every employee. Make sure each individual feels seen, heard, and connected to the organization, possibly by working in smaller teams with greater autonomy. You could also conduct an employee personality assessment or another form of check-in to better understand the needs of the employee and assign tasks and teams they’ll enjoy.
  • Provide training and coaching. An employee is incentivized to work better when they feel like they’re learning and growing on the job. This is because the employee feels that the company is investing in their personal development. For example, you can conduct small training modules for job-related or soft skills. Employees who learn and grow at a company tend to stay longer, so this is a good way to boost employee retention.
  • Give recognition. Craving approval and validation is a part of human nature. Recognizing your employee’s achievements loudly and proudly lets them feel like their hard work is appreciated. Employee recognition also motivates them to continue giving their all.
  • Empower your employees. Show employees that the organization believes in what they have to offer. Include employees in important discussions and encourage them to come up with ideas for the organization’s growth and share their opinions about the company’s business ventures. Amplifying employee voices can help workers feel more engaged with your organization.

Boost employee engagement with the right help

Workplace engagement is essential for maintaining a healthy work environment where individuals push each other to achieve greater success. Employee engagement programs can play a key role in transforming the work culture at your organization. Companies that have an engaged workforce tend to make larger profits as well.

Consider hiring an employee engagement specialist through Upwork to help you boost employee engagement. These professionals can work with you to discover ways to keep employees engaged and retain them as high-performing workers for longer periods.


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Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why It’s Important
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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