Employee engagement is one of those business phrases that’s easy to say, but more tricky to define. As employees, managers and business leaders, we’ll all have our own ideas about what it means and how it actually happens (or not) in reality.

Effective employee engagement is a goal that many businesses strive for to improve productivity, ensure better staff retention and improve internal communications. There is also very important benefits for the engaged employees, namely:

“Those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”


Attitude and behaviour

The confusion around what employee engagement is, really starts from this point onwards. Professor John Purcell, a leading authority on people management and employment relations, says that:

“Engagement is a combination of attitude and behaviour. The attitude is ‘commitment’, and the behaviour is ‘going the extra mile’”.

The issue with the definition of employee engagement so far is that the whole emphasis is placed on the employee to do the engaging. Worldwide, this approach simply isn’t working. Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workforce’ 2018 states that, worldwide, just 15% of the workforce is actively engaged. Canada rises high above this global average, with 31% of the Canadian workforce engaged. Gallop suggests this higher rate of engagement is down to “A managerial culture that embraces individuality.”

Before we get too celebratory, this figure still means that 69% of employees are either not engaged (indifferent) or worse, disengaged. So, how can we as managers, business leaders and company owners improve that situation?


Employee engagement: the MacLeod Report

In 2009, David MacLeod wrote a report for the UK government,  ‘Engaging for Success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement’. In it, he switched the focus firmly back onto the organisation/business as the driver in a new definition of employee engagement as:

“A workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.”

To many Canadian businesses, this approach is far more in keeping with current practices than trying to change attitudes through various schemes, incentives or restrictive practices. It’s probably what many business owners in our part of Ontario have been doing for years, at least in part. However, every business is unique, so your own employee engagement strategies will be tailored to your marketplace, business model and employees. However, even the most successful companies would agree that, with employee engagement, complacency is a slippery slope towards falling engagement levels and rising staff turnover.


Five ways to boost employee engagement

If your employment engagement isn’t quite what you’d like it to be, here are some ideas for giving it a boost.

1. Improve internal communications

The modern workforce is rarely based just in one single location. Your employees might be in an office, on the manufacturing line, out on the road, working from home, and enjoying flexible hours too. So it’s vital that they all feel connected, valued and informed, wherever they may be. An effective internal communications tool will enable to you include everyone in important decisions and celebrations alike!

2. Reward and Recognition

Regular rewards are certainly an incentive for employees to keep working for you, but not when they become expected or routine. The key is to ensure that when rewards are given, everyone knows WHY it is being given. So, the process is to:

  • recognise a job well done and the person/team behind that job
  • reward that employee/team for their efforts and achievement
  • celebrate the reward with those involved, and share the news via internal comms

That way, you’ll have many more examples of great work to choose from next time around!

3. Take on employees’ engagement suggestions

If you want to improve your employee engagement practices, ask your staff for their suggestions. They will soon pinpoint the gaps. Once you know these, you can work with your staff to improve engagement by allowing them time and headspace to develop better engagement ideas.

4. Health and wellness for all

Most benefits plans for employees includes health benefits, including dental, health care, illness cover and insurance. Indeed, our own Chamber of Commerce plan includes access to specialist doctors, plus reliable health information and resources online. Extending benefits plans to include proactive health and wellness initiatives will help engage your employees and help their health too, from discounted gym membership to company sports leagues and healthy food policies for onsite catering. This focus on health has other benefits for your business, including increasing productivity, reducing sick leave and happier employees who know you value their wellbeing.

5. Better on-boarding

When new staff join your organisation, they need an induction or on-boarding process that helps them integrate into the workforce more easily. Give them the level of support they need in the early days, including:

  • access to reliable, up to date information
  • an email group of established employees who can answer the rookie’s questions
  • a mentor for 1 to 1 discussions and development help

An employee who knows that it’s OK to ask for help and feels part of a supportive team is far more likely to value his/her position and remain with your company longer.


How do other Woodstock companies promote employee engagement?

Why not come and ask that very question at our next Business After 5 networking event! Join fellow Chamber members on the first or second Tuesday of the month, from September to June each year.

Or browse through our Chamber Business Directory to find a local business to help you engage your employees and expand your benefits package.