• You know what employee engagement is.
  • You recognise the benefits for both the business and your employees.
  • Now, how do you actually make employee engagement happen?

Who is employee engagement for?

Employee engagement is an on-going process that should be both at the heart of your business and in every aspect of daily working practices. Employee engagement benefits both employees and their employers, as the CIPD explain:

“Employees who have good quality jobs and are managed well, will not only be happier, healthier and more fulfilled, but are also more likely to drive productivity, better products or services, and innovation. This mutual gains view of motivation and people management lies at the heart of employee engagement.”

Who is employee engagement aimed at?

Your toolbox of employee engagement methods need to address three separate types of employees:

Your engaged employees

These employees feel a strong and emotive connection to your business. They walk the talk, go the extra mile, and are passionate about what they do.

Your non-engaged employees

These are the employees who come to work and effectively ‘clock out’ all day. They do the job, but only as much as required. They have little energy and no motivation.

Your actively disengaged employees

These employees are unhappy at work, and let everyone know it. Their negativity is often highly disruptive to the other two groups.

According to Gallup, it’s the second group that should be your primary target for your employee engagement initiatives.

“The majority of the global workforce is not engaged: most employees reluctantly head to work, lacking energy and passion for their jobs. Converting this group of employees into engaged workers is the most effective strategy that any organization can implement to increase performance and sustainable long-term growth.”

Before you start…

Before starting your employee engagement initiative, it’s important to install methods to measure its impact. Indeed, a robust employee engagement process should have such measurement methods built in, to ensure that engagement is happening and being sustained.

Key principles of employee engagement activity

There is nothing more frustrating for an employee to put their time and effort into an initiative – and then never hear another word about it ever again. So, your employee engagement activity should be based on:


If employees submit an idea, show them how it progresses. If they complete a survey, share the results (or at least acknowledge their input). Share success stories and acknowledge projects that didn’t make the final cut.

Engagement at all levels

Engagement is not just a mega survey once a year, it is a continuous programme of activities at every level of your organisation. It should be endorsed and enthusiastically supported from top management, practiced by managers and enjoyed by all employees. From a micro level recognition of a job well done to the major celebration of a completed company-wide project, employee engagement can be seem in action at all levels.

Managers making it happen

Managers are the driving force of engagement, so give them the tools the opportunities and the training to do it well. As the Chartered Management Institute say:

“For the majority of employees, their most important working relationship is with their line manager. Line managers, therefore, play a key role in engaging employees. Bear in mind that to do this, they must themselves be fully engaged by their managers.”

Defined engagement goals

It’s not just about the number of engaged employees, but their level of engagement. Goals should be meaningful to the everyday workplace, so that employees can engage with them whatever their role.

Reward and Recognition

Engagement that is not fully recognised and rewarded will soon fizzle and die. Again recognition should come from all levels to all levels. Genuine peer to peer recognition has a tremendous impact and influence on employee’s self esteem and confidence too.

Know your employees

“Managers and leaders should know their people — who they are, not just what they do. Every interaction with an employee has the potential to influence his or her engagement and inspire discretionary effort. How leaders manage their employees can substantially affect engagement levels in the workplace, in turn influencing the company’s bottom line.”

Communicate your plans

Engaging with employees starts a dialogue that needs to be nurtured, maintained and continued beyond a specific project. So, your employee engagement activities require an easy route for employees to be part of those activities across the entire company.

A new study suggests that peer communication can also be useful to improve the credibility of employee engagement programs. The result showed that those with access to peer communication showed:

“Increases in pride in the company’s environmental initiatives and accomplishments, confidence in discussing its environmental record with external stakeholders, and awareness of and participation in its employee environmental programs. “

Established tools of employee engagement #1 – surveys

Employee engagement surveys are an established method of measuring both the current state of employee’s levels of engagement, and what has changed over time. However, as a business, you shouldn’t rely on just one major survey, once a year. With a flexible approach to surveys, you will have more data and more responses, to build a more holistic overview.

Advanced logic surveys

Advanced logic surveys enable your business to create surveys that are appropriate company-wide, yet are tailored to each employee according to their responses. Also known as “skip logic”, “conditional branching” or “branch logic”, these type of surveys create a path through various questions based on a respondent’s answers.

Skip logic surveys are more personalised, save participants time by not showing them inappropriate questions, and increase completion rates as a result. As an online survey creation company says,

“Surveys are like conversations, and non-applicable questions are distracting. Unnecessary questions interrupt the conversation.”


Single-question opinion polls can be used to capture employee views at a moment in time on a specific issue. Most political exit polls are like this, and have proved to be remarkably accurate in recent elections and referendums. In the age of clicking ‘Like’ on a smartphone, a single-question online “snap poll” is both natural and easy for your workforce to complete, and easy to collate results.

Pulse Surveys

These are scheduled check-ups on the ongoing health of your organisation, conducted on a regular basis. Delivered direct to each employee at the same time, they allow you to assess the status of engagement in your business over time, and detect any shifts in how employees feel more easily.

Survey Reporting

Surveys are only as effective as the analysis and action you do as a result. By tracking the response rate, you can also target non-respondents and discover why the survey is not working for them, and tweak accordingly. Analysing results enables your business to assess what areas might need more work, and you can improve your employee engagement activity accordingly.

Remember, too, to publish the results if appropriate. For employees, knowing that 65% of their peers and colleagues voted NOT to have a bonus instead of the Christmas party is important, and may result in them being more engaged with social events in the future.

Established tools of employee engagement #2 – innovation management

Employee engagement is a two-way process. Engaged employees will want to offer their ideas and be involved in new projects, so your business will require methods of capturing ideas and suggestions from across the organisation. As part of a core employee engagement process, your business will need to make the ideation process accessible, transparent and beneficial in terms of recognition and (possible) reward.

Therefore, your innovation pipeline needs to be an integral part of your employee engagement process. By enabling employees to engage with new projects beyond their normal job emit, department or geographical area, your business can tap into a much wider source of skills, knowledge and experience.

This is why virtual workplaces are so beneficial to enabling innovation across an entire organisation, as we referred to in our rejigged version of MacLeod’s definition:

“Employee engagement thrives in a virtual workplace where employees can offer more of their capability and potential.”

The key word in this context is “offer”; employees who are engaged will offer their expertise if your organisation gives them the tolls and ability to do so.

Established tools of employee engagement #3 – rewards and recognition

Creating a culture of recognition and reward helps align the power of saying thank-you with your company values. As mentioned before, when top-down recognition is combined with the capability of peer to peer recognition, the effect of a well-chosen ‘shout out’ at the right time can be immense. As a leading job board says in an article on employee retention strategies:

“Employees are incredibly motivated by achievement, not money.  Money can disengage if employees perceive unfairness.”

And finally… health and wellness

Employee engagement can have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of your employees. A study by Gallop revealed that 62% of engaged employees felt that their work has a positive benefit to their physical health as opposed to 39% of non-engaged and 22% of actively disengaged employees. In turn, 54% of disengaged respondents stated that their work has a negative effect on their health, and 51% said it had a negative effect on their well-being.

So, it makes sense to see organisation-wide fitness and wellbeing initiatives as part of the employee engagement process. Snack Nation advise that:

“Your Health and Wellness strategy should be voluntary, long term, physical, fun and competitive. It should also include access to good nutrition and mental health support…. (in addition) mood, cognition, and other factors related to mental health should be just as high priority as physical wellbeing.”

Need help implementing employee engagement?

Call us at TalkFreely – we’re happy to help.