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Understanding Employee Engagement

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Stephanie Davis

Employee engagement is one of the keys to business success. Studies have shown that engaged employees produce higher quality work, treat customers better, and are more likely to stay at their jobs and continue to grow and deliver those strong business results. 

Understanding employee engagement for small businesses.

However, you may not always know if employees are engaged or disengaged. Below we define employee engagement, share the differences between engaged and disengaged employees, and touch on how high levels of employee engagement can shift to burnout.  

What Is Employee Engagement?  

Engage for Success defines employee engagement as, “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization's goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” With all of that, there are many factors that can contribute to employee engagement, including things like salary, work/life balance, and a clear picture on their assigned roles and responsibilities.  

Engaged vs Disengaged Employees 

At first glance, it may seem pretty simple to tell engaged employees from disengaged. Additionally, because there are so many factors that can lead to disengagement, it can affect each employee differently. In general, the thoughts of an engaged employee are along the lines of:  

  • “I’m excited to go to work. ”
  • “I’m looking forward to seeing my team and working together with. ”
  • “I know what my role in this organization is and I want to contribute to the success of the.”

When an employee isn’t engaged, as you can guess, their thinking doesn't align with these positive statements. There are many factors that can contribute to employee disengagement, but some top reasons are:  

  • No alignment with company goals and objectives
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities
  • Salary and compensation  
  • Lack of career growth 

Gallup does an annual survey on employee engagement and found the highest levels of engagement in the 2019 survey; 35% of employees reported being engaged. Disengagement falls into two categories; actively disengaged where employees are miserable and spread that to their team, and not engaged, which is the majority of this disengaged group. Not engaged employees don’t have an attachment to their work and will contribute the time to complete minimum requirements, but will not go above and beyond and are always slightly on the lookout for better opportunities.  

Employee Engagement and Burnout 

Burnout has been a hot topic in the workplace for many years and continues to grow. The next question becomes, when does employee engagement turn into burnout? While high levels of employee engagement are good, there is always the factor of too much of a good thing. Engagement-related burnout can affect anybody, but studies have shown that it’s typically seen in purpose-driven workersAdditionally, workplace burnout typically happens after high periods of stress.  

As a small business owner, you can help employees avoid burnout by providing resources. For example, paid time off, like vacation and sick days are great options. The flipside is some employees have a hard time taking time off or feel there is too much work to be done so they don’t. As an employer, remind them they can take breaks. Additionally, while there may be times in your business when it’s all hands on deck or a very busy season, you shouldn’t expect employees to work like that year-round. Ensure there are boundaries for a healthy work/life balance.  

Next Steps 

Understanding employee engagement and disengagement is just the beginning. As mentioned earlier, there are many factors that contribute to this topic and it’s important to understand everything that goes into and check in with employees frequently so you know how they are feeling. It’s easier to stop disengagement when you have frequent talks rather than waiting until things get to a point they are no longer fixable.  

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