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ATD Blog

Employee Engagement: Who Cares?!

Friday, September 22, 2023

The conversation around employee engagement and employee engagement programs came into full swing at the height of the pandemic. Managers could not see people—nor did they have the option to—because the entire world was on lockdown. Companies went fully remote overnight, and knowing how employees were doing became a business imperative.

Although many companies now offer hybrid work or are completely back in the office, employee engagement is still an issue. This likely stems from confusion around what engagement is, how it manifests itself, how to track it, and how to recover it when things start to go sideways.

Employee engagement is a combination of one’s mental state, stemming from personal employment expectations and genuine interest and enjoyment in the job. When employees’ interests and purpose align with their responsibilities, they’re more likely to feel a sense of emotional connection with their professions and employers. This can contribute to more effective and productive work as well as newfound innovation and interest.

The Employee Engagement Problem

To engage your employees, you must take a more hands-on, individual approach. Too many organizations rely on annual engagement surveys alone to determine whether they have an engaged workforce. While sending surveys is better than doing nothing, group surveys can only identify common trends and pain points; they often don’t provide actionable data and lack the personalized learning insights necessary to significantly affect engagement for individual employees long term.

Without the right engagement strategy, managers frequently revert to gauging employee engagement levels by observation. This is difficult in traditional office settings and even more challenging for remote teams. Each employee exhibits a distinct array of behaviors, and managers may misinterpret those behaviors as showing engagement when the opposite is true.

For example, an employee might display high motivation and demonstrate dedication. You may understandably assume the employee is genuinely engaged. However, beneath the surface, the employee may be dissatisfied. Whatever the reason (for example, a noncompetitive salary or limited advancement prospects), this simmering dissatisfaction is hidden in plain sight—and only becomes apparent when the employee resigns.


How to Increase Employee Engagement in the Workplace

If you’re an employer, you owe it to your organization and people to keep a pulse on employee engagement. To ensure you have a successful employee engagement program, follow these tips:

1. Personalize your engagement evaluations.

Every employee works for a different reason. Your goal should be to understand the unique engagement factors that are important to each of your team members and whether those factors are being fulfilled. Only after understanding employees’ motivators can you speak to how their jobs and the company can help them achieve their goals and overall job satisfaction. This is the key to increasing individual and group engagement.

Remember that engagement comes from within. What you do matters, but you can’t force disengaged workers to engage without a personalized approach. And the only way to provide a personalized engagement experience is by evaluating engagement and fulfillment at the individual level.

2. Establish an engagement tracking routine between individuals and their managers.


It’s fine to measure your engagement quarterly, biannually, or yearly. Just don’t forget that opportunities for engagement happen every day. If you want to effectively measure employee engagement, you must take advantage of those moments. Managers must be aware of the unique factors that are important to each of their direct reports so they can have regular conversations based on those factors. If they don’t know their team member’s professional goals and expectations, it will be hard to meet them.

This isn’t to say that it’s up to managers alone to build camaraderie, teamwork, and positivity. Engagement is a shared responsibility. Once a manager knows what employment expectations drive an individual, they can provide guidance and training. This places organizations and managers in a position to have mutually beneficial conversations about individual goals, ultimately affecting employee engagement over time.

3. Celebrate positive behaviors, changes, and outcomes.

Recognition can have a strong effect on employee engagement and morale. Yes, you may have a busy schedule, but it’s wise to set aside time to offer recognition to employees, always tailoring the recognition to the individual.

However, it is important to note that recognition can mean something different to everyone— some employees want their accomplishments to be highlighted publicly, while others prefer more privately given kudos. When you are having individual conversations about engagement factors, simply ask which they prefer. By continuously reinforcing behaviors related to individual engagement expectations, you increase the likelihood of people repeating those behaviors.

Employee engagement can’t be attained through a one-size-fits-all approach. The factors that drive engagement are different for every individual. Stop trying to increase engagement through observation and other traditional methods. Instead, elevate your organization’s engagement strategy by embracing a personalized approach for each employee.

Ready to increase engagement at your company? Utilize our assessments to create a culture where employees are truly fulfilled in their employment, love what they do, and give it their all.

About the Author

Dr. Dan Harrison is the founder and developer of Harrison Assessments' and originator of ParadoxTechnology as used in Harrison Assessments. His diverse background in Mathematics, Personality Theory, Counseling Psychology, and Organizational Psychology has enabled him to make a unique and exceptional contribution to assessment methodology.

His 30 years of experience in Psychology and Assessment has enabled the Harrison Assessment tools to fulfill practical needs for recruitment, development and assessment. Dr Harrison's' ongoing world-wide travel gives him direct involvement with the needs of Harrison Assessments' clients and exposes him to the appropriate practical application in a wide variety of cultures.

About the Author

Reid Tolley has 35 years of global experience in business leadership, private businesses, human resources, talent development, and executive coaching.

Reid has subject matter expertise in organization design, change process, talent management, identifying and developing emerging leaders, workforce engagement, performance management, training and education, and human resources general practice. He has significant global work experience with manufacturing, professional services, higher education, and the US military.

Reid’s experience base is often utilized to create lasting competitive advantage through developing and leveraging robust talent benches and developing both senior and emerging leaders. He regularly engages with clients as a facilitator for leadership team building and talent-related planning.

About the Author

Collin George served in the US Army active component from 2007–2015 and currently serves in the Army as a reservist. During his time in both the active and reserve components, Collin has held a broad range of leadership responsibilities, from company leadership to his current position as a battalion commander. He has led soldiers in multiple combat tours in Afghanistan to missions in the Pacific theater to support various training mission types.

In 2015, Collin joined Talent Matters LLC. Talent Matters is a full-service talent management firm that provides predictive talent analytics and training that help people and organizations grow. Collin’s areas of expertise include the effective use of assessment tools for talent decisions and leadership development training.

His academic experience includes a BS in business administration from Carson Newman University and an MBA from Syracuse University. He is also a graduate of the Command and General Staff Officers College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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Most engagement efforts for on serving employees. After 30 years of this, and no improvement on employee engagement, its time to recognize that this does not work. Partnering with your employees to serve customers does work, and research proves it. This article provides more detail:
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