The Top Drivers of Employee Engagement, Explained

July 29, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Employee engagement can be a tough thing to understand. At the heart of the matter is the fact that employees are different from one another, making it difficult to create policies and programs that work for everyone on an organizational level.

Despite this, there are a few drivers of employee engagement that you must understand if you hope to make your organization stick out from all of the rest.

To help understand these key drivers, we’ve decided to dig into the top factors and explain them as simply as possible.

Let’s get started.

Drivers of Employee Engagement: Leadership and Trust

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is trust in leadership. If staff members do not trust that upper and middle management will do the right thing, they cannot fully engage with their work because they are worried about the decisions being made on a company level.

So, how are you supposed instill this trust?

To start, you should always allow employees of different levels to add their insight into the decisions being made.

Just because someone isn’t in a senior management role, doesn’t mean that they do not care about what’s happening or that they do not have valuable ideas.

Another factor is honesty.

Drivers of Employee Engagement

In order for your staff members to fully engage, management has to be honest from the start. Humans are remarkably good at telling whether or not someone is being false or fake with them even if the person being fake thinks they’re covering it well. Your staff will see through dishonesty, and – when they do – it will be incredibly hard to get their trust back in the long run.

By being open, honest, and caring, you help staff members understand their value at the company, allowing them to take pride in their work, which is a huge driver for employee engagement across the board.

Drivers of Employee Engagement: Fulfillment and Meaningful Work

This is one of the hardest drivers of employee engagement to fully figure out.

Sure, creating meaningful and open relationships with staff members can be tricky, too, but those happen organically most of the time if management wants it to.

As for fulfillment, this doesn’t happen organically. You cannot simply switch something in a policy and have employees suddenly be fulfilled unless you allow them to swap roles when they want to or something like that.

There are ways to do this, though, which we’ll get into in a second. First, you have to understand how to gain insights into your staff member’s motivations, wants, and goals.

Like we said up top, everyone is different and wants different things when it comes to their professional careers. This means that organizations will have to take care to understand each and every employee if they ever hope to fully engage them on a deeper level.

Drivers of Employee Engagement

The best way to do this is to utilize surveys.

Not typical surveys that simply ask how engaged someone is or something like that, either. We mean surveys that look to understand employees. Ask them what their dream job is, what their favorite task is at work, what is their least favorite task, what role would they want at the company if they could switch, what skills are they trying to develop, and things like this.

All of these questions are trying to paint a picture of the employee’s motivations and developmental needs.

Once you have all of this data, you can make a personalized plan to help engage them more. For example, if someone wants to work a more creative role, allow them to work on projects that are more creative.

We always suggest that one way to make this all possible is to offer a skills market inside your company. You could have an internal project board that lists upcoming tasks, goals, and projects so that your staff members can sign up for different things based on their wants and goals.

This allows people to work on things they truly care about without having to leave the organization. This also helps save costs, too, because you are working more internally and not levying the power of an outside agency or onboarding new hires for every project.

In short, it’s a win-win when done correctly.

Drivers of Employee Engagement: Culture, Culture, Culture

There are whole books written about company culture that aim to give the best methods to ensure that your culture is thriving. However, you can break many of these down into a few key components.

One, arguably the hottest topic right now, is flexibility and work-life balance. These two are one of the same. The days of clocking in and out and worrying about every single minute of time spent working are coming to an end – at least at forward-thinking companies anyhow.

The modern approach is to allow workers to get their work done on their own time. If they are able to complete their work by working from home when their child is sick and home from school, they should be able to. If someone has to leave early for a doctor appointment, why should that be a big deal if their work is getting done?

Treating employees like the adults they are and not micromanaging their hours allows them to work better in the long run. There’s honestly no point in people being at work for eight specified hours if they are constantly thinking about something in their personal life that needs doing.

Drivers of Employee Engagement

This will likely lead to disengagement.

Why? For a few reasons. One is that people will likely always put family before work, especially if it’s something very stressful (like an emergency or anything to do with child care). Plus, by not allowing them to have this flexibility, the company is showing how little they care about the employee’s personal life, which is a strong signal that they are not valued. This goes against the first driver on our list.

As you can see, flexibility, trust, and openness are all intertwined. And all of them come into the umbrella of culture.

Other things to consider when thinking about culture, is how projects are handled, how relationships form internally, and things like that. You should create a culture that is ideal for the type of company that you have. To make this as easy as possible, you should simply combine your cultural efforts with their company’s overall mission and values.

We won’t go into all of the culture activities here, but remember that culture and relationships are vital for employee engagement and the two are extremely connected.

Drivers of Employee Engagement: The Takeaways

There are many drivers of employee engagement that you can whittle down to smaller, component pieces. However, if a company is trying to get started with engagement, you should keep it simple.

Start by looking at your management and how they interact with staff members. Ensure there is trust, openness, and honestly. Then, allow workers to do meaningful work in a way that works for your organization. Finally, don’t forget that culture and relationships are vital for people to feel engaged.

With these drivers of employee engagement in place, you’ll be well on your way to giving your organization a boost.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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