Employee Engagement: Definition, Measurement + Survey

Engaged Employees Happy at Work

Our friends at HR Basics create helpful YouTube videos that cover everything you need to know about a particular human resource management topics. This transcribed video helps companies understand and increase employee engagement.


Click here to make your own copy of the Employee Engagement Survey!

Use this survey to gauge employee engagement today!


What is Employee Engagement

In today’s HR Basics, we explore employee engagement, what it means to be engaged, and a proven method for measuring engagement. Engaged employees are those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. To create an environment where people flourish employers need to understand what it means to be an engaged employee and how to manage people for engagement in their workforce.

Employee engagement is about individual and organizational performance. Employees who are engaged based on key workplace elements predict important organizational performance outcomes. Gallup’s Employee Engagement Index is based on worker responses to 12 workplace elements with proven links to performance outcomes. The index provides high level insights into the workplace by displaying the percentage of engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged employees overall.

How to Identify Engaged Employees

Engaged employees are involved and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged are unattached to their work and organization. They’re checked out. Finally, actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work, they are resentful and potentially undermine what engaged coworkers might accomplish. In 2016, 33% of US employees were engaged in their work and workplace. This is the highest number in Gallup’s 15-plus years of tracking employee engagement. But it’s not quite cause for celebration. The majority of employees, 51% are not engaged and haven’t been for some time. That leaves 16% of employees actively disengaged, looking to potentially undermine organizational results.

When your employees are engaged, they don’t just become happier, they become better performers. Organizations falter in creating a culture of engagement when they solely approach engagement as an exercise in making their employees feel happy. It is true that engaged employees feel better about their work and workplace, but simply measuring workers satisfaction or happiness levels and catering to their wants, often fails to achieve the underlying goal of employee engagement, which is improved outcomes.

Although the concept of employee engagement and job satisfaction are inter-related, they’re not synonymous. Satisfaction is about the employee being happy with their job or organization. Satisfaction is an attitude, like organizational loyalty or pride. Engagement is about the employee being actively invested in their work and the value they add to the organization. Engagement predicts satisfaction as well as many other concrete organizational results. When employees are engaged, they become emotionally attached to their work and workplace. As a result, their individual performance soars and they propel their team and organization to improve outcomes such as higher levels of productivity, safety, and quality.

Benefits of Employee Engagement

Engaged employees make it a point to show up for work and do more work. Highly engaged organizations realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged workers are also more likely to stay with their employers. In high turnover organizations, highly engaged business units achieve 24% lower turnover. Engaged workers are more mindful of their surroundings. They are aware of safety procedures and diligent about keeping their coworkers and customers protected. Highly engaged business units realize a 70% decrease in employee safety incidents.

Finally, engaged workers care more about the products and services they deliver to customers and the overall performance of their organization. Organizations with highly engaged employees experience a 40% reduction in quality defects. When taken together, the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.

How to Measure Employee Engagement

Levels of Employee Engagement

Gallup measures employee engagement using a 12 element survey called the Q12 rooted in employees’ performance development needs. Each question reflects one element of great managing. Through rigorous research, Gallup has identified 12 core elements that link to key organizational outcomes. These 12 statements emerged as those that best predict employee and work group performance.


Click here to make your own copy of the Employee Engagement Survey!

Use this survey to gauge employee engagement today!


When employees needs are met, employees become more emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace. The Q12 is based on four types or levels of employee performance development needs. First, basic needs, the foundational needs at work. What do I get from this role? Then, support needs, the management support of individual contributions. What do I give? Then, teamwork needs, a broad connection to the organization and to work. Do I belong? And finally, personal growth needs, the desire to learn, grow and innovate. How do we grow?

Of the 12 the first two elements addressed fundamental needs at work. Q01 addresses expectations. I know what’s expected of me at work. Q02 ensures employees have the right materials and equipment. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. The next four elements measure individual contributions and management support. Q03 focuses on strengths at work. I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. Q04 emphasizes recognition for good work. In the last seven days, I’ve received recognition or praise for doing good work. Q05 draws on attention to unique individual needs. My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person. Q06 encourages individual betterment. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

The next four elements address teamwork and belonging. Q07 is about input. At work my opinions seem to count. Q08 emphasizes purpose. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel that my job’s important. Q09 is about respect for quality. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. Q10 is about close trusting relationships. I have a best friend at work.

The final two levels include elements about growth and innovation. Q11 focuses on achievement and guidance. In the last six months someone at work has talked to me about my progress. Q12 emphasizes opportunities. This last year I had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

How to Increase Employee Engagement

Employees need to be equipped to perform and then positioned for individual and team success. The first, second and third levels create an environment of trust and support that enables managers and employees to get the most out of the fourth level. These levels provide a roadmap for managers to motivate and develop their team members and improve the team members’ performance, with each level building on the previous. The levels do not represent phases. Managers do not finish the first level and then move on to the second. They must ensure that employees know what’s expected of them and they have the right materials or equipment to do their work, while meeting the needs of the second, third or fourth levels. The best way to sustain progress is to keep doing more of what works to support employees and determine the barriers to success, adjusting accordingly.

Commonly, organizations put too much emphasis on measuring engagement rather than on improving engagement. They fall into a survey trap where viewing engagement is just a survey or a program, focusing more heavily on survey data or reports than development. Defining engagement as a percentage of employees who are not dissatisfied or are merely content with their employer. Relying on measures to tell leaders and managers what they want to hear. Finally, measuring worker satisfaction or happiness levels and catering to their wants. Creating the culture of engagement requires more than completing an annual employee engagement survey and then leaving managers on their own, hoping they’ll learn something from the results that will change the way they manage. It requires an organization to take a close look at how critical engagement elements align with how managers understand and manage employee needs.

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