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Does Engagement Improve Performance?

Posted by Insightlink on 10/01/14

The Value of Employee Engagement

In recent years, many organizations have made an effort to improve working conditions in ways that would allow employees to actually enjoy their work. These positive changes are often in response to research suggesting that, as employee engagement improves, so does organizational performance.

Job satisfaction and employee engagement are related, but separate, measures of the vitality of an organization’s work environment. They tend to be correlated and many of the changes in a workplace that improve one measure will improve the other as well. This does not, however, mean that they are identical, which is why we recommend measuring both.

Simply stated, job satisfaction summarizes an internal emotional state that employees may or may not feel. It is possible for an employee to feel quite satisfied with their job but not feel a strong sense of loyalty to their organization or see the need to innovate, be creative or give other types of discretionary effort to their work. This means that job satisfaction is a foundation on which engagement can be built, but it is not the same as engagement.

Employee engagement, in contrast, is a measure of the relationship between the employee and the employer. Engaged employees are willing to go “above and beyond” for their organizations because they feel a sense of mutual interest and alignment between themselves and their employers. This can stem from interesting work, a vibrant workplace culture, charismatic leadership, worthy organizational goals, a shared moral purpose or a combination of many different factors. Without a meaningful basis for a relationship between the organization and its employees, engagement is unlikely to occur, even in a fairly contented workplace.

The key benefit of high engagement is productive energy. Engaged employees give effort that is beyond the call of duty, provide exceptional service to customers and produce a superior quality of work. They often show initiative in their jobs, take ownership of their work responsibilities and willingly provide assistance to their coworkers

However, our own research – based on our annual normative study of employee attitudes and opinions – clearly shows that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the U.S. Our Engagement Index, which calculates employee engagement on a number of factors using a 0-100 scale, is just 67 in the U.S.

The question, then, is: If improving employee engagement has become an organizational priority, why are so many employees still disengaged at work?

Defining the Problem

Disengaged employees remain a considerable problem in organizations of all sizes. Our research shows that about one-in-four U.S. employees is a “Dissatisfied Compromiser,” which means they are not satisfied with their jobs but have no plans to leave. In other words, they are the “quit and stay” workforce. In addition, about one-in-five are “Change Seekers,” who are already looking for ways to leave the organization. In contrast, only one-half are what we call “Committed Loyalists,” who demonstrate high levels of engagement and motivation – this is the group that all organizations should be trying to maximize.

Despite recognizing the value of increasing employee engagement, many employers have still not fully implemented employee engagement efforts in their workplaces.

The good news is that employee engagement can be improved with careful planning and consideration, plus a little financial investment. Since much of what goes into engagement is about the level of respect, appreciation and value they feel, some issues can be fixed by simply focusing on these basic elements. Employees who feel that they have some say and autonomy in their place of work are often already that much more engaged.

There are many different approaches to improving engagement but, regardless of the approach, clear thinking and careful planning are essential. We find that more effective findings come from methods that are “home grown” and tailored toward an organization’s specific needs.

Ten Steps to Ensure Employee Engagement Success

  1. Define your organizational strategy so the direction is crystal clear
  2. Articulate the values, behaviors and measurement criteria that will signal success
  3. Assess employee engagement overall and for each major business unit and identify the most important barriers to engagement
  4. Create specific action plans, both overall and at the business unit and/or department level, but be realistic about your expectations, since this will not only save time and energy, it will mean you take on only what can feasibly be done with the resources available
  5. Set clear objectives for employees based on the action planning and consider using a performance management/talent management system to monitor progress
  6. Link incentive compensation to the outcomes of performance management, so employees can see not only how their contributions help to achieve the organization’s goals but also return clear benefits to them
  7. Make every manager accountable for their department’s performance
  8. Commit to a formal program of career advancement/enhancement and succession planning, including a communications program that will advise all employees that career advancement will now be based solely on merit
  9. Foster positive, supportive relationships throughout your organization, since encouraging relationship building among employees builds morale and breaks down silos
  10. Communicate constantly and consistently and demonstrate at every step along the way how your employees are connected to the organization’s strategy and successes

Once you have taken these steps, reassess what improvements, if any, have occurred due to your action plan. Making a plan to improve employee engagement is less than helpful if you don’t take the time to find out if it made a difference. If the changes were not implemented as planned, capitalize on the opportunity to rethink your plan and try something new.

Remember that patience is essential when trying to make any organizational changes, especially when taking action designed to influence employee perceptions and beliefs. A good tip for overcoming this obstacle is to communicate, communicate, and communicate. Employees should never be left in the dark on organization-wide changes and they will appreciate all efforts that include them in helping improve the workplace environment.

Finally, develop an ongoing plan to maintain the improvements. Without constant and consistent effort to maintain employee engagement, the old ways will surely come back to haunt the organization and your efforts will go to waste. It is very easy for an organization to backslide into past habits, so it is essential to ensure that the improvement efforts become a part of your new corporate culture.

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Where does your company stand on each of the critical "4Cs" of employee engagement and satisfaction?
  • Commitment
  • Culture
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Find out with a benchmarked and validated 4Cs Employee Survey from Insightlink. Since 2001, one of the most trusted research companies in North America.

How many of each do you have?
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  • Satisfied Opportunists
Only the Insightlink 4Cs Employee Survey can give you the full picture and let you hear how your employees feel about their experience at your organization.


Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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