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01 Employee Engagement Definition

Gallup defines employee engagement as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace.

Employee engagement helps you measure and manage employees' perspectives on the crucial elements of your workplace culture.

You can find out if your employees are actively engaged with their work or simply putting in their time. You can discover if your team building activities and human resources practices influence positive business outcomes or if there's room to grow.

And with the right approach, you can learn how to improve your employees' connection to their work and your company.

Two women looking at an employee engagement activity on the computer.

02 Why Is Employee Engagement Important?

Employees make decisions and take actions every day that can affect your workforce and organization.

The way your company treats employees and how employees treat one another can positively affect their actions -- or can place your organization at risk.

Based on decades of employee engagement research, Gallup knows that engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees -- across industry, company size, and nationality, and in good economic times and bad.

But only 23% of employees worldwide and 32% in the U.S. fall in the "engaged" category.

So, what can companies do better to engage employees?

When companies use Gallup's Q12® as a framework to improve employee engagement-- one that executives support as a primary management strategy -- they yield clear and better results.

Asking, "Why is employee engagement important?" is a vital question for leaders to consider. Because without employee engagement, there's no team engagement, making it more difficult to improve business outcomes.

When Gallup analyzed the differences in performance among business/work units, the benefits of employee engagement were clear. When comparing employee engagement levels, Gallup found that top- and bottom-quartile business units and teams had the following differences in business outcomes*:

Downward arrow
81%
in absenteeism
Downward arrow
58%
in patient safety incidents (mortality and falls)
Downward arrow
18%
in turnover for high-turnover organizations
Downward arrow
43%
in turnover for low-turnover organizations
Downward arrow
28%
in shrinkage (theft)
Downward arrow
64%
in safety incidents (accidents)
Downward arrow
41%
in quality (defects)
Upward arrow
10%
in customer loyalty/engagement
Upward arrow
18%
in productivity (sales)
Upward arrow
23%
in profitability

*The above figures are median percent differences across companies in Gallup's database. High-turnover organizations are those with more than 40% annualized turnover. Low-turnover organizations are those with 40% or lower annualized turnover.

03 Whose Job Is Employee Engagement?

70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.

Employee engagement should be a manager's primary role responsibility.

Managers are in charge of ensuring that employees know what work needs to be done, supporting and advocating for them when necessary, and explaining how their work connects to organizational success.

To succeed in that responsibility, managers need to be equipped to have ongoing coaching conversations with employees.

Unfortunately, most managers don't know how to make frequent conversations meaningful, so their actions are more likely to be interpreted as micromanaging without providing the right tools and direction.

So, it's not enough for leaders to simply tell managers to own engagement and coach their teams.

Leaders must:

04 What Are the Drivers of Employee Engagement?

One of the most common mistakes companies make is to approach engagement as a sporadic exercise in making their employees feel happy -- usually around the time when a survey is coming up.

It's true that we describe engaged employees as "enthusiastic." And employee engagement surveys play a big role in measuring staff engagement. But it's not that simple.

People want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what they're good at.

These are the key drivers of employee engagement:

purpose

development

a caring manager

ongoing conversations

a focus on strengths

Employees need more than a fleeting warm-fuzzy feeling and a good paycheck (even if it helps them respond positively on a survey) to invest in their work and achieve more for your company.

People want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what makes them unique. This is what drives employee engagement.

And they want relationships, particularly with a manager who can coach them to the next level. This is who drives employee engagement.

One of Gallup's biggest discoveries: the manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement.

Drivers of employee engagement: The past is my paycheck, satisfaction, boss, annual review, weaknesses, job.
Drivers of employee engagement: Our future is my purpose, development, coach, ongoing conversations, strengths, life.

05 Improving Employee Engagement Strategies

Nearly 80% of employees worldwide are still not engaged or are actively disengaged at work, despite more effort from companies.

The greatest cause of a workplace engagement program's failure is this: Employee engagement is widely considered "an HR thing."

It is not owned by leaders, expected of managers nor understood by front-line employees.

The result is that some organizations believe they have exhausted "engagement" as a performance lever before they truly explore its full potential to change their business.

These leaders consistently experience low engagement, or they plateau and eventually decline -- despite repeated attempts to boost scores. Other times, they have high engagement numbers, but their business results tell a different story.

Four ladies discussing employee engagement survey results at a large table.

At a loss for explanations, leaders may blame the tool, the measurement, the philosophy or environmental factors that they believe make their problems unique.

But, the apparent failure of employee engagement efforts is likely because of how organizations implement workplace employee engagement programs. Some common mistakes:

Too complicated.

Leaders make engagement metrics far too complicated by focusing on predictors that are often outside managers' control and typically don't relate to meeting employees' core psychological needs at work.

Incorrect engagement metrics.

They use a low-bar "percent favorable" metric that inflates scores and creates blind spots, resulting in the appearance of high engagement without strong business outcomes.

Overuse of surveys.

They overuse pulse surveys to get immediate feedback and rarely take action on the results.

In contrast, leaders who have integrated engagement into their corporate strategy using the framework we outline in the next section on this page see significant gains year after year.

06 Measuring Employee Engagement: Gallup's Questions

Gallup has identified 12 elements of employee engagement that predict high team performance.

Managers can take charge of engagement by asking and evaluating their employees' responses to these 12 employee engagement questions to create a structure for their interactions with employees -- casual conversations, meeting agendas, performance evaluations and team goal setting.

We've been measuring and reporting employee engagement trends for years and have used the 12 elements to determine how involved and enthusiastic employees are in their work and workplace.

The 12 Elements

Some of the 12 elements might seem simple. But Gallup's employee engagement research has found that only a small percentage of employees strongly agree their employer or manager delivers on them.

Here are three employee engagement ideas to help managers approach each element:

07 The Employee Engagement Model

There are four levels in the employee engagement model.

This four-level hierarchy is based on four types of employees' performance development needs:

Four levels in the employee engagement model: Growth(How do I grow?); Teamwork(Do I belong?); Individual Contribution(What do I give); Basic Needs(What do I get?)
Four levels in the employee engagement model: Growth(How do I grow?); Teamwork(Do I belong?); Individual Contribution(What do I give); Basic Needs(What do I get?)

Meeting the needs in the three foundational levels creates an environment of trust and support that enables managers and employees to get the most out of the top level -- personal growth.

These levels provide a road map for managers to motivate and develop their team members and improve the team members' performance, with each one building on the previous.

The levels do not represent phases. Managers do not "finish" the first level and then move on to the second level. They must ensure that employees know what is expected of them and have the right materials and equipment to do their work while meeting needs on the second, third and fourth levels.

With their team members, managers should identify needs and obstacles on an ongoing basis and ideally take action before challenges inhibit their employees' performance.

Interested in using our Q12 survey? Learn more about our employee engagement platform, Gallup Access, here.

Learn More

Survey reports featured in the Gallup Access platform.

08 Employee Engagement Examples: The 3 Types of Employees You Have

09 How to Improve Employee Engagement: Team Engagement Ideas

There are no quick fixes when it comes to human relationships. Simple employee engagement activities won't transform your culture.

But since the value of the Q12 items is in helping managers and teams start conversations and approach workforce engagement issues authentically and meaningfully, there are lots of ideas in the framework to help you build your team up.

For example:

Addressing Diversity and Inclusion

A new manager has inherited a low-performing team with diverse ages, genders, cultures and personalities. After a few months of private conversations and tense team meetings, she can tell that a lack of cooperation and disunity are at the heart of the team's lack of collaboration and low performance outcomes.

Addressing Hybrid Work

For hybrid work to be effective long term, we must consider the real benefits and risks. Push yourself to look beyond management practices that worked when people were mostly on-site or are simply more comfortable because they're familiar. Instead, assess how you can modify those practices to align with your commitment to hybrid and remote workers.

Engagement areas for manager action:

Q04 Receiving frequent recognition:

Make recognition a regular agenda item to demonstrate appreciation for individuals' different contributions to the team and organization. Metrics and methods of tracking excellence should transcend location. If teams are working flexibly, managers have to understand performance management and culture in a flexible way.

Q05 Someone cares about me:

Ask employees: What would make you feel like a valued team member? Individualize the approach to leading team members based on how they say they want to be treated.

Q07 My opinions count:

Become an advocate for employees' ideas. Solicit them during meetings and take action on them.

10 Improving Employee Engagement Begins Here

Partner with Gallup to bring the best out of your employees.

For Departments and Organizations Learn about our employee engagement solutions and customized plans for organizations. Connect with a Gallup expert to talk through your employee engagement goals, access to our platform -- Gallup Access (home to the Q12 survey) -- and discover how a partnership with us could look.

We recommend this option for departments in organizations with more than 100 employees.

For Smaller Teams and Organizations Purchase a one-time Q12 survey. Get limited access to our platform for 12 months.

We recommend this option for teams and organizations with fewer than 100 employees.