Focused on Improving Employee Engagement? Pay Attention to These 4 Factors

woman raising her hand because she knows the 4 areas to focus on when improving employee engagement

Organizations have always had workers who occasionally disengaged — this was an issue even before the global pandemic. But now, given the trends of The Great Resignation and “quiet quitting,” improving employee engagement and retention has become an even bigger focus for many organizations.

So, what can organizations do about improving employee engagement? Understand the 4 areas of employee engagement, and work to address each one in turn.

Areas of Employee Engagement

4 Factors That Increase Retention & Improve Employee Engagement

At CCL, we developed a simple and intuitive framework to approach the various areas of employee engagement. These are the 4 key factors that drive employee engagement:

  1. Leader engagement,
  2. Job engagement,
  3. Team engagement, and
  4. Organizational engagement.

By focusing on these 4 key areas of employee engagement, leaders have the power to affect the people they lead and serve in a more targeted way.

Here are some specific steps that leaders at all levels of the organization can take to improve these 4 key areas of employee engagement.

1. Leader Engagement.

One major reason employee engagement is so low is that managers on the front lines of organizations are simply not equipped to lead. First-line or frontline managers typically lead the biggest population of workers at most organizations — yet many frontline leaders lack critical skills, and as a result, those they manage feel uninspired, unempowered, and unhappy. Our research supports this: 

  • Approximately 60% of employees report a loss of engagement, productivity, and turnover with poor frontline leadership, and
  • 25% of organizations experience profit loss due to ineffective frontline leaders.

Highly engaged employees feel energized by, and connected to, their direct manager or supervisor. Highly effective first-level leaders can build greater trust and loyalty across your entire workforce.

Tips for managers: Here are some ways you can improve employee engagement through building a stronger relationship with your direct reports:

Tips for HR leaders: Be sure you’re supporting your first-level managers and equipping them to succeed in their leadership roles. Investing in developing more effective managers on the front lines of your organization will cascade benefits across your entire workforce, improving employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Some specific suggestions for HR leaders tackling this area of employee engagement:

2. Job Engagement.

Compensation and benefits are important for motivating employees, but they’re not the only things that matter when it comes to keeping employees productive and engaged. Employees are more engaged when they feel their job matters and can connect their daily responsibilities to the goals and outcomes of the business of the organization, and when they are given flexibility and autonomy — especially when they’re working remotely.

Tips for managers: For individual leaders, make sure you’re helping your direct reports see how their role connects to outcomes. Some tips:

  • Avoid micromanaging; build trust on your team by delegating more.
  • Consider bringing in internal or external stakeholders who’ve directly benefited from the work employees have done to share specific impacts; this helps increase your employees’ sense of value alignment.

Tips for HR leaders: To continue improving employee engagement in the area of job engagement:

  • Help employees feel connected to, and passionate about, the business and its mission; keep a focus on purposeful leadership wherever possible.

3. Team Engagement.

Getting team members with different styles, experiences, and knowledge to align around a common goal isn’t easy — and it can be especially challenging when working with hybrid teams, which can require new mindsets and communication skills. The success of any team often depends upon how well team members work together and how much they trust each other. Teams work best when members feel safe expressing divergent opinions and know that they can count on each other. 

Tips for managers and HR leaders: Employees are more engaged when they’re motivated and excited by their coworkers. Here’s how to improve employee engagement in the area of team engagement:

4. Organizational Engagement.

Simply put, engaged employees feel supported by and connected to their organizations. The reverse is also true: the absence of support causes people to leave organizations. Increased organizational engagement is associated with lower employee turnover and better customer satisfaction.

One of the key things that improves employee engagement at the organizational level? Providing ample opportunities for growth and development. And if you don’t offer these opportunities, your employees will simply look to work somewhere else that will. In fact, a recent study found 58% of workers are likely to leave their company if they don’t receive professional development opportunities.

Tips for managers: Individual leaders can help strengthen this area of employee engagement with their direct reports in the following ways:

Tips for HR leaders: To improve employee engagement at the organizational level:

Are You Using Your People Data for Increasing Employee Engagement?

Organizations are more likely to invest in improvement efforts that have a measurable business impact. By using predictive analytics data for leadership development, your organization can get a better understanding of where you stand in these 4 areas of employee engagement, and can more quickly and efficiently target interventions to increase engagement in low-scoring areas.

For example, if your organization’s people data shows workers are highly engaged with their jobs, organization, and teams, but less so with their managers, leadership development interventions should be directed specifically toward increasing leader engagement, and could include making sure leaders know what it takes to coach their people and provide effective feedback to others. Such an intervention would have the greatest possible return on investment because it’s targeted at the specific area of employee engagement that’s most needed.

At CCL, our leadership analytics experts developed a process that enables companies to identify what changes they can make to improve employee engagement — and reap the benefits that come with it — using their people data. Our process for designing leadership development provides a systematic, measurable way to improve employee engagement in a targeted, data-driven way.

It’s time to take a new, focused approach to improving employee engagement and retention by paying close attention to the 4 areas of employee engagement, and using that to strengthen the fabric of your entire organization.

We’re not suggesting that improving employee engagement is simple or even easy, but it is possible. And it can transform your organization’s ability to get results.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you’re focused on improving employee engagement at your organization, you will want to increase the effectiveness of your largest population of leaders, your first tier of managers, with our frontline leadership program, Frontline Leader Impact. Or, partner with our team of leadership experts and data researchers for data-driven, customized leadership development that’s specifically targeted to the unique context and culture of your organization.

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February 3, 2023
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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