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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel valued and involved in their everyday work.

There’s plenty of debate among human resources professionals and researchers about the particular dimensions that make up employee engagement. But at its core, it comes down to whether employees feel invested in their company’s mission and its success.

Running an employee engagement survey doesn’t just measure how happy employees are—it measures how dedicated they are to the mission and outcome of your company. Measuring employee engagement, then, is even more crucial: It’s an important indicator of the health of your business and a good way to spot areas for improvement.

Try out SurveyMonkey’s employee engagement survey template →

Why measure engagement?

When employees are engaged with their work, they’re more fulfilled and more motivated. That ultimately leads to higher productivity—as much as 22% in some cases.

That’s why employee engagement is so important to the success of your organization. An engaged workforce results in a more productive — and profitable — organization. We’re not talking about tiny increments here, either. Gallup found that companies with highly engaged workforces outperformed their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

Performance like this just goes to show: Businesses not only should measure employee engagement—they can’t afford not to.

Employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction

What’s the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction? While there’s overlap between the two, there are far more dimensions that define employee engagement than employee satisfaction. In other words, an engaged employee is most likely satisfied, but not all satisfied employees are engaged.

There’s a pretty robust debate among academics about what exact dimensions actually make up employee engagement. But based on an aggregate of findings from several recent studies on the matter, we can see that a good employee engagement survey will measure several factors, including:

Leadership behavior: Effective management can make or break your employee engagement. It’s not just whether your senior management treats employees well or whether they act ethically (of course, that’s important too!) It’s crucial to have effective leadership at every level of the organization. That means managers who articulate company values, communicate well, and follow up with appropriate actions. A good employee engagement survey will gauge these habits, from managers to C-level: You can use our management performance template.

Nature of work: Most people don’t actually want an easy job. They want to be challenged and tested in their day-to-day work. Challenging work can be immensely motivating for employees—as long as employees can see clearly how their work ties to the company’s performance. Use your employee engagement survey to ask your employees how challenging (and motivating) their work is—and whether there’s a clear line of sight between their performance and the company’s.

Career development: Ambitious employees are a good thing. They can be the most self-motivated and productive members of your team—as long as it’s clear to them how you can help them advance in their career. If it’s not, you’ll risk losing them. Clarity around career goals is important, but you’ve also got to offer a helping hand. Are your employees getting support from educational and mentoring opportunities? Running an employee engagement survey can help you find out if your employees can see a clear path forward and if they have the support they need to get where they want to go.

Company pride: When employees are proud of where they work, it shows. They’re true believers in your mission and they want to see your company succeed. That attitude translates to their performance: When people take pride in their company, they’ll take pride in their work. Fostering this feeling of pride isn’t just about making employees feel good about themselves. It makes them show up to work focused, aligned with their peers, and ready to tackle problems with commitment.

Colleagues: It goes without saying that we spend a lot of time interacting with our coworkers. In companies of every size, it’s important to think about the working relationships between employees: how they interact, how they view each other’s abilities, and what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the workforce. How employees view their colleagues can have huge impact on their morale and faith in meeting company goals. Employee survey questions aimed at these issues should be a huge part of any employee engagement strategies you implement.

Using surveys to develop engagement strategies

Simply measuring employee engagement isn’t enough to foster an engaged workforce. You’ve got to read the results, uncover areas for improvement, and implement employee engagement strategies to meet them. That’s where the real work begins.

Step 1: Decide what you want to study

Maybe you’re interested in measuring and improving only a few of the factors of employee engagement. For example, you may only be interested in taking a closer look at how management performance is affecting employee engagement in your company. You may want to use the management performance survey template or extract only the portion of the employee engagement survey template that deals with management performance.

But if you’re really focused on using surveys to develop employee engagement strategies, this probably isn’t the best approach. When you home in on a specific topic from the beginning, you may miss out on other areas for improvement. What if career development opportunities—not management performance—are a bigger factor for employee engagement in your workforce?

If you’re trying to develop an overarching employee engagement strategy, it’s best to be comprehensive first and focus on specific parts second.

Get a pulse on every factor affecting your employee engagement: Our employee engagement survey template is specifically designed to provide a comprehensive look at the issue. Try it out →

Step 2: Identify areas for action

Once you’ve run your survey and found what areas need improvement, you’ve got to start prioritizing. Your first reaction will probably be to try to address every single area that received a less-than-perfect score. Try to suppress that reaction. You’ll only end up stretching your managers and resources too far, which will lead to mediocre results.

Instead, try to identify a few key drivers of your employee engagement and focus solely on those. Prioritizing only a few can be tough. To help narrow it down, ask yourself two questions:

  1. “Where can I use my resources so that they’re likely to have the largest impact on employee engagement?” Look for the places where your survey results are furthest from where you’d like them to be.
  2. “Which actions will use my resources most efficiently?” Think about which areas will be easiest to address—perhaps by using existing resources or expertise.

Step 3: Create a plan

Whichever action you choose, it’s important you communicate your plan to your employees and make sure they understand how and when you’ll carry it out. Transparency is crucial to this process. We advocate for keeping your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Step 4: Maintain your plan

How can you tell if your plan is having a positive effect? By sending an employee engagement survey, of course. The key to continue improving your employee engagement is to measure it consistently and measure it often.

Sample Training Templates

The list of potential training topics is endless. SurveyMonkey offers many surveys that can be used as-is or customized to cover many areas of training. Here are a few templates you might use with individuals, community residents, students and their parents, and employees.

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Customer Satisfaction and Customer Service

What do your customers think of their experience with your business or customer service representatives? Use this feedback to explore potential areas of customer-service training for employees.

Preview Template

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Learning Support and Parent Engagement

Find out how parents support students’ learning at home or engage with their children’s teachers. Use this feedback to develop training that helps parents guide their children to develop good study habits, handle problems or challenges at school, or achieve specific learning goals.

Preview Template

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3 quick tips to improve survey response rates

Here are some ideas to ensure that respondents will answer your surveys.

1. Be quick

If your survey is short and sweet, there's a greater chance that more respondents will complete it.

2. Offer incentives

Little incentives like small discount or an entry into a drawing can help ensure respondents complete your survey.

3. Buy a targeted audience

With SurveyMonkey Audience, you can purchase access to an audience who meets specific demographic criteria for your survey. It's a great way to get targeted responses from a specific group.

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