We want our people to come to work feeling happy – that’s the ideal, right? However, happiness is just one side of the coin. Sure, we don’t want employees to dread coming to work every day, but is happiness what we should aim for? What about understanding if our employees feel committed to the company? Are they motivated in their work?

These questions all play into truly understanding what it means for employees to be engaged at work. Employee engagement is more than just employee happiness, and it’s more than just a buzzword. Understanding what employee engagement is and how you can measure it is an important first step to creating a better workplace.

In this article, we’ll share how we at Culture Amp, an employee feedback platform, define employee engagement, and the steps you can take to measuring and improving it. We share the top 3 engagement drivers we’ve found in our feedback data across 1000+ companies and ways you can take action on these drivers to boost your engagement scores.

Employee engagement is an outcome, not just a goal

At Culture Amp, we help over a 1000 companies each year understand employee engagement through regular feedback surveys.

We’ve crafted a holistic definition of employee engagement that you can use as a starting point:

Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It’s a measure of how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organization, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there.

One of the most important things to understand about employee engagement is that it is an outcome. To affect employee engagement, you need to take action on the things that are driving it.

How can you measure employee engagement?

Because employee engagement is an outcome, and you need to understand what’s driving it to take action, an employee engagement survey is the best way to measure it.

But, before you launch your first survey, there are a few things you should know to make the most of the results.

Here are five things you should consider before measuring employee engagement:

We take a deeper dive into these five components of measuring employee engagement over on the Culture Amp blog if you’re looking for more information to get started.

Top 3 drivers of employee engagement

Once you know what employee engagement is and how to measure it, the next step is knowing how to improve it. Improving employee engagement at your organization requires an understanding of what’s driving engagement in your unique context.

Here are the top 3 drivers of employee engagement based on 2018 Culture Amp data. We’ve also shared some of the programs our customers found effective in boosting engagement.

1. Learning and development

According to our data, learning & development is a key driver in boosting employee engagement and retention. Employees who stayed were more 24% more likely to say they had access to the learning and development opportunities they needed.

In addition to implementing on-demand learning platforms like Udemy for Business, there are many ways to take action on this driver. For example, one of our customers found success with a job swap program, giving employees a chance to test out different jobs within the business. This allowed people to try out new experiences and develop skills outside of their day-to-day roles. Managers teamed up with HR to facilitate the swaps and ensure a smooth experience for everyone involved.

2. Leadership

An employee’s connection with their leadership not only drives engagement, we’ve also found it to be a driver of employee retention. According to our data, organizations with great managers and great leaders results in 89% of employees feeling committed to staying at a company.

Manager and leadership training is essential to creating great managers and leaders at your company and boosting engagement. Another easy way to increase visibility and accessibility of leaders is through lunch and learns hosted by executives. This could be a group event or a one-on-one meal. One organization created a program to randomly pair executives with a team for a monthly lunch. This type of program allows people to connect on a more personal level, and executives can meet teams they might not otherwise work with.

3. Service and quality focus

We’ve seen learning and development, as well as leadership, as drivers of engagement over the past few years. However, this is the first year that service and quality have emerged as a driver of engagement in our Culture Amp feedback data. This factor represents an organization’s attitude towards their product quality and services, internally and externally.

Running project retrospectives is a great way to demonstrate a focus on service and quality. Retrospectives allow teams to work together to identify mistakes, what went well and ultimately apply learning toward the next project or product/service update. At a larger scale, having trained facilitators for these types of sessions can make them even more impactful. Sharing learnings from retrospectives at all-hands meetings ensures that everyone learns from feedback and understands how the company is approaching service and quality improvements.

Uncover the engagement drivers at your organization

Running your own engagement survey will reveal your organization’s specific drivers. With that information, you can take targeted action for improving engagement.

While these are the top 3 drivers we found across 1000+ organizations, the drivers unique to your company may be different. The first step to boosting employee engagement is to understand what’s driving engagement at your organization. With the right tools to collect and analyze employee feedback data, you can be on the fast-track to improving employee engagement at your organization.