What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement describes the overall enthusiasm of employees in their work and understanding it is a vital factor in improving performance.

It seems like it should be a straightforward equation: Employees plus time at work equals output. Unfortunately, things aren’t usually so simple. The truth is that many employees struggle with remaining motivated and productive while on the company’s time. In fact, according to Gallup in 2022, only 32% of full- and part-time employees are actively engaged and 17% are actively disengaged, following a downward trend from 2020 and 2021. This is creating major problems for industries around the world.

The good news is that your business has the opportunity to counter this growing trend of employee disengagement. By tracking employee engagement metrics, encouraging honest employee feedback and applying the right employee engagement tools and strategies, organisations of all sizes and types can take the right actions to ensure that their workforce is dedicated to achieving company objectives.

When discussing employee engagement, separate groups often use different terminology. For example, Gallup divides employees into one of three groups based on their level of

  • Actively engaged employees
    Passionate, loyal employees who go above and beyond expectations to help move
    the organisation forward.
  • Not engaged
    Employees who meet expectations in terms of work, but seldom do more than is
    required or expected of them; they have no emotional commitment to the
    organisation and may be actively researching other employment opportunities.
  • Actively disengaged
    Underperformers who are often negative or resentful about the company and do
    only the absolute minimum in terms of productivity and work quality.

Obviously, actively engaged employees offer a significant benefit to their organisations, not only from increased productivity, but also through proactivity and innovation in solving problems. Their enthusiasm is infectious, helps inspire other team members and may even spread through to other departments. Actively engaged employees are brand advocates who collaborate well, share knowledge and build positive relationships both within the company as well as with the company’s partners and customers.

It is always in the organisation's best interest to inspire employee engagement wherever possible. That said, before a company begins to formulate an engagement strategy, it’s important to recognise what engagement is and what it is not.

Employee engagement is not the same thing as employee happiness. Although engaged employees are usually also very happy in their positions, simply aiming to make employees ‘happy’ will not necessarily promote true engagement. Another way to look at the issue is this: Fun job perks such as break-room snacks and on-sight activities can help keep employees happy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are engaged in their work.

At the same time, employee satisfaction falls too short of engagement. An employee who does the minimum to receive a paycheck may be perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. But being satisfied is not enough to ensure loyalty and that same employee will likely be more than happy to leave the company to pursue opportunities elsewhere for even a minor increase in pay.

Employee engagement looks not only at the attitude of the employee, but at how that attitude affects their work. Actively engaged employees are emotionally committed to their company. They see their organisation as an important part of who they are and thus are much more willing to weather difficult times and put in more effort, because they take personal ownership of the organisation’s success.

It may seem like an obvious statement, but an actively engaged workforce brings with it several potential benefits. These benefits span each of the three major areas of company improvement: business performance, customer satisfaction and employee experience. As such, successful organisations place employee engagement among their top strategic priorities.

The advantages of improving employee engagement include the following:

Reduced absenteeism

Actively engaged employees don’t dread going to work and thus are not always looking for excuses to take time off. They have a personal stake in their company’s success and are excited to promote that success through ongoing work. This does not mean that engaged employees never take days off; it simply means that the time they take off isn’t an attempt to escape responsibility.

Improved retention

It takes time and costs money to train new employees and every member of your workforce represents a significant investment. Engaged employees are more interested in improving the company than in looking for new opportunities outside of it. They are loyal and much less likely to leave on a whim.

Happier, more satisfied employees

Although employee happiness and satisfaction are not the same thing as employee engagement, they are natural byproducts. Engaged employees derive satisfaction from their work and they know that their strengths are recognised and that their work has value. Their bosses don’t have to resort to threats or other types of negative reinforcement to keep them on task.

Reduced employee risk

Although an often-overlooked advantage, employee safety likewise improves alongside employee engagement. Gallup reports that highly engaged workforces experience 70% fewer safety incidents. At the same time, engaged employees are more likely to be healthy and less likely to suffer from obesity or chronic disease.

Optimal productivity

Simply put, engaged employees do more work. More than that, because they take pride in their efforts and care about how those efforts impact the organisation as a whole, their work is of higher quality.

Increased revenue

A natural result of productivity, the increased revenue associated with employee engagement also comes from fewer costs associated with scouting new talent and the positive impact engaged employees have on other team members and the work they do. In fact, Gallup reports that highly engaged teams are 23% more profitable than disengaged teams.

Improved customer perception

Finally, engaged employees don’t only inspire their coworkers; they also have a positive impact on the people who keep your company in business. They serve customers better while also projecting a positive image of the company itself. This improves customer perception, increasing your brand reputation among those who matter the most.

There are many ways to measure employee engagement scores. These include:

Employee NPS

The Employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) consists of a series of direct questions aimed at allowing employees to honestly assess their employers and work environment. Each answer uses a scale of 0–10.

UWES and Gallup Scale

Both the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) and the Gallup Scale are tried and true methods that equate high feedback scores with improved employee outcomes.


The Temkin Employee Engagement Index (TEEI) attempts to streamline the employee feedback process by measuring worker agreement with critical statements related to three specific areas: understanding the company’s mission, feeling that employee feedback is valued and having the correct training and tools.

Customised surveys

Employers may wish to create their own anonymous employee surveys to generate feedback on more specialised areas of employee engagement related to their business. These surveys should be repeated on a regular basis to determine trends and chart progress.

Although surveys and scales can offer valuable, honest insight into the enthusiasm and dedication of your workforce, for best results you will likely need to go beyond scores. A comprehensive employee engagement strategy will need to include the following areas:

  • The methods by which the strategy will be communicated throughout the organisation.
  • The processes that will be used to identify action areas.
  • The metrics that the organisation will focus on when evaluating progress.
  • The actions that may be taken to address and respond to the results of employee feedback.
  • How the engagement strategy will be sustained.

As the name suggests, employee engagement metrics are quantifiable measurements that allow you to reliably evaluate and track engagement within your workforce. These metrics should be the major focus of any surveys, scales or scoring systems you may wish to use as part of your engagement strategy.

  • Work-life balance
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Professional development
  • Employee recognition
  • Employee autonomy
  • Workplace culture
  • Compensation
  • Benefits and perks
  • Employee alignment with company goals

Each of the aforementioned metrics may be gathered through anonymous surveys, but they may not tell the entire story. To create a more complete picture of employee engagement, you also need to consider issues that may not be fully addressed, such as absenteeism and employee turnover. And, because engaged employees naturally promote engaged customers, tracking customer satisfaction can help shine more light on employee engagement issues as well.

Although every organisation is different and will thus naturally need to approach employee engagement in a way that takes those differences into account, there are certain best practices that may be common across most industries. These factors can play a vital role in developing and sustaining employee engagement:

General best practices for employee engagement

Company leadership should take a deliberate approach to tracking and improving employee engagement. To do so, they should do the following:

  • Create a compelling business case for improving employee engagement
    This will allow you to clearly identify metrics, goals and measurable business outcomes to express the necessity and value of your engagement strategy to key decision makers and others within the company.
  • Keep survey feedback completely anonymous
    Some employees may hesitate to answer survey questions or score business practices and managers completely honestly because they fear reprisal. Make sure that your strategy includes anonymous feedback and that your employees know that they can be completely forthright without having to worry about being identified.
  • Base all decisions on quantifiable data
    The value of employee engagement metrics is that they provide real, concrete data on how engaged or disengaged your workforce may be. This data should be given the highest priority when conceptualising new strategies or evaluating the effectiveness of engagement initiatives.
  • Create a culture of engagement
    From the C-suit down to the newest intern, engagement is the responsibility of the entire company. Always communicate the value of employee engagement,and create a culture that prioritises implementing, monitoring and improving engagement strategies, and in celebrating positive engagement results.

HR best practices for employee engagement

Human resources departments are major factors in improving employee engagement. Consider the following best practices for HR to help promote improved engagement:

  • Promote autonomy and cooperation
    Give your employees the freedom to go beyond their assigned tasks. Encourage cooperation and a focus on broad business goals rather than individual productivity metrics.
  • Make engagement a focus during the hiring process
    When recruiting new talent, look for those who appear interested in challenging themselves and improving their skillsets. These candidates will be more likely to remain engaged and to promote engagement in others.
  • Offer training and development beyond specified responsibilities
    Provide a more comprehensive view of the organisation’s objectives beyond an employee’s individual responsibilities. Create resources and training opportunities where employees can further develop their skills and become acquainted with other departments and processes.
  • Compensate strategically
    Incentivise employee engagement by recognising top performers and offering bonuses and other compensation for those who go beyond their minimum requirements. This not only rewards engaged employees; it also serves as a public acknowledgement of their work and clearly demonstrates the importance of engagement to the rest of the workforce.

Employee engagement isn’t just a concern for HR and team leaders—it’s a vital factor in business success that is the responsibility of everyone in your company. But simply recognising the importance of company-wide employee engagement is not enough. To ensure that you are placing the correct focus on employee engagement while also capturing and evaluating relevant engagement data, you need the right technology and tools. ServiceNow provides the solution.

The ServiceNow Now Platform® offers a single, unified location in which to improve engagement in the hybrid-work era. Automated employee workflows help free employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus more on the work that gets results. Multi-dimensional employee portals provide personalised communications and support and make it easy to collaborate and share information. Self-service solutions empower employees with the tools to resolve their own issues using embedded experiences across every digital channel. And HR Service Delivery takes engagement even further.

Help your workforce have the best possible experience as you work together to achieve company goals. ServiceNow employee engagement solutions give your employees the tools and support they need to become fully engaged in their work. Demo ServiceNow today and experience employee engagement like never before.

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