Read any management blog, and the term employee engagement is likely to crop up. You’ll see it linked to a whole host of impressive corporate results — from increased profitability to lower levels of absenteeism. 

However, many of the same people talking about employee engagement struggle to define what it actually is. For too long, companies have equated employee engagement and employee communication with hosting an employee paint night or setting up a nitro brew station in the kitchen.

In reality, true employee engagement requires far more than tempting your employees with free snacks or team excursions. Below, we’ll learn from leaders across Vimeo what employee engagement is, how it can benefit your organization, and how you can build a culture that keeps your employees engaged long-term.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to how involved, motivated, and connected an employee feels in relation to their job and employer. 

Rather than just clocking in and out for a paycheck, an engaged employee is deeply invested at work. They’re driven to perform well, they feel captivated by the work that they do, and they’re committed to their organization and its goals.

Employee engagement is more than just job satisfaction

While engaged employees generally have high levels of job satisfaction, the reverse isn’t always true. A person can be satisfied with their job thanks to a decent salary and good work-life balance, but still do the bare minimum at work. A person who has high employee engagement, on the other hand, feels motivated by the work they do, connected to their teammates, and excited to grow at their company.

“Employee engagement can best be described as a team member’s experience with their organization,” says Alissa Conway, VP of Employee Experience and Innovation at Vimeo. “Their experience is driven by their manager relationship, the work they do, the environment that the organization enables, how they get work done, and who they work with.”

Why is employee engagement important?

When looking at the levers they can pull in order to grow, organizations will often focus on costs, margins, productivity, and revenue. Employee engagement is a more nebulous factor that most companies rarely look at — yet it can affect nearly every other factor that feeds into a company’s success.

“The more engaged team members are, the better their work product is, the more productive they are, and the more committed they are to the organization,” says Conway.

Existing research backs Conway up. According to Gallup, teams with the highest levels of employee engagement show marked differences in performance compared to those with the lowest levels of engagement.

On average, they see:

  • An 81% reduction in absenteeism
  • A 58% drop in patient safety incidents
  • 18% to 43% less employee turnover
  • A 64% drop in safety incidents
  • A 41% reduction in quality issues
  • 10% higher customer loyalty
  • An 18% increase in productivity or sales
  • A 23% increase in profitability

In many ways, employee engagement acts as the ghost in the machine that can either make your company results much stronger or weaker. Unfortunately, signs point to the latter for most companies, as only 20% of employees globally reported feeling engaged at work in 2021.

With the Great Resignation driving up employee churn globally and stock market trends forcing companies to get their operations shipshape, there has never been a better time to focus on employee engagement.

How to measure employee engagement

There are multiple ways to measure employee engagement, but most of them come down to surveying your employees, says Conway. Engagement questions can — and should! — be asked during regular one-on-one meetings and employee exit interviews.

Of course, there are a million and one questions that could be included in an employee engagement survey. However, according to Gartner, your questions should cut to the heart of the three main drivers of employee engagement:

  1. How much employees trust your organization
  2. How committed employees feel to their coworkers
  3. If employees feel they have the right capabilities to succeed at work

“Survey questions are validated by algebraic formulas that measure correlation,” Conway explains. “When a question has a high correlation to engagement, it is what we call a ‘driver question.’ Driver questions are questions that, when answered by team members, most closely measure the impact of engagement.”

A few examples of driver questions you might ask include:

  • On a scale of one to nine, how likely would you be to recommend this organization as a place to work?
  • Do you believe leadership have your best interests in mind?
  • Are you satisfied with how the organization has managed its people and the business over the last year?
  • Do you feel inspired by your teammates to do your best work?
  • Do you feel like you have the tools and information you need to complete your work effectively?
  • Do you know who to rely on for help when you encounter something unexpected at work?

Over time you’ll notice which questions are most aligned with employee sentiment at your company. Note these as your driver questions and prioritize initiatives that will impact those drivers specifically.

10 ways to drive employee engagement

From small switches to larger initiatives, there are many ways to drive engagement at your company. Depending on where employees’ pain points are, some of the methods below may make more sense for your company than others.

1. Put extra care into hiring

When it comes to hiring for employee engagement, the key isn’t to bring on employees that will all fit into the same cultural mold. Instead, it’s to ensure that each employee is a wonderful fit for the role they’ll fill.

“For me, employee engagement really starts with the team that you build,” says Dan Brooks, Vice President of Creative and Brand at Vimeo. “You want to have people that are motivated in their roles and you want to hire really carefully to make sure they’re the right fit.”

That means being as honest as possible with job candidates about the realities of each job, including the good, the bad, and the ugly — from the reality of work-life balance at your company to the growth opportunities an employee can expect. This helps increase the level of alignment between employees, their roles, and their teams.

2. Prioritize regular communication at the team level

According to research from Gallup, employees who have regular meetings with their managers are nearly three times more likely than peers to feel engaged at work. What counts as regular? According to Brooks, managers should aim for weekly one-on-one meetings with their direct reports, and monthly meetings with anyone else on the team.

“Being connected is really important for employees,” says Brooks. “They need to feel they’re a part of the business, and that their input and their energy is directly related to the prosperity of the business. People want to feel like a part of something, rather than just being a cog in the machine.”

Brooks also recommends running short weekly status meetings with teams, as well as longer, team-wide meetings each month where coworkers can sync on the various projects they’re spearheading. This helps keep teams connected and aligned in the work that they do.

3. Shake up leadership communication

The focus on internal communications shouldn’t stop at team meetings. According to Gallup data, only 13 percent of employees strongly agree that their leadership team communicate effectively across the organization. 

Employees value feeling trusted and heard by organization leadership, and regular communication is a big part of that.

Crystal Boysen, Chief People Officer at Vimeo, says that company-wide communication becomes even more important for remote and hybrid companies, as distance can make it easier for siloes to develop. To boost collaboration and connection in town halls and virtual meetings, she suggests making them interactive: let employees ask questions, vote in polls, and use emojis to participate.

“We have people at all levels talk about the work they do,” says Brooks of Vimeo’s all-hands meetings. “We talk about the impact of the work we’re doing, the results we’re getting, and what’s cooking — so people get a peek at things happening across teams that they weren’t necessarily aware of. It energizes teams to see other things going on.”

By giving teams a peek behind the scenes and tying their work directly to results, employees can see how their work fits into the larger picture.

4. Empower & acknowledge team members

Employees feel more engaged when they’re given a seat at the table and their work is recognized. Managers can foster employee empowerment in several ways:

  • Switch up who leads weekly meetings
  • Assign individual team members to lead or take ownership over certain projects
  • Ask teammates for feedback or advice
  • Create a “shout out” or “kudos” channel on Slack where teammates can praise each others’ contributions

Boysen stresses the importance of finding ways to acknowledge remote or hybrid workers on your team, as well. “You can’t just give a quick high-five to someone down the hall,” says Boysen. “[When we moved to remote working], there were some intentional things we had to do around that engagement, connection, appreciation, and recognition piece.”

When team members feel empowered to own their work, they feel more invested in their company, acknowledged for the work they do, and “seen” at all company levels.

5. Build natural opportunities for connection

A large part of employee engagement comes from employees feeling connected to their teams and the company at large. A ping-pong table in the office can come in handy in this case, but it certainly isn’t required to foster authentic connection.

On the Brand and Creative team, Brooks takes intentional time with his team to give employees the opportunity to talk about what’s inspiring them, whether that’s books, movies, art, plays, or anything else. Having different Slack channels for different interests can also help employees (no matter where they’re based) connect over shared interests.

For virtual meetings, Boysen recommends taking time to chit-chat before diving into business on Zoom calls: “In this [remote] environment, you tend to just jump right into work, and you go from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting.”

One way Vimeo encourages people managers to foster remote connections is by facilitating ice-breakers on team calls. They don’t have to take place for every meeting, of course, but they can be a good way to shake things up.

Other ways to foster connection (remotely and in person!) include:

  • Hosting off-sites every year that bring remote, hybrid, and in-office employees together.
  • Using a #watercooler channel in Slack to connect employees for short, informal calls one-on-one once a week or month. This can create cross-team connections and help employees get to know each other on a more personal level.
  • Hosting fun events, such as a wine tasting, paint night, or trivia, that get the team out of work mode.

6. Give employees a voice

While one-on-one meetings are a great way for employees to connect with a trusted manager, they should also feel heard by leadership. Of course, not every team is small enough to allow a CEO to meet with employees routinely, but there are other ways that employee feedback can be gained.

First off, make sure that large-scale meetings aren’t a one-way street. Whether a team presentation or an all-hands meeting is taking place, ensure room is left for questions and that employees are asked for their opinions.

If your meetings are remote, use live streaming tools that allow for Q&As, polls, and an audience chat. You can also create anonymous forms ahead of meetings, where employees can ask questions to be addressed in the meeting that they might not feel comfortable asking publicly.

Surveys also provide a way for employees to provide their feedback anonymously. This allows companies to garner honest feedback from their team members, and it helps employees feel heard — even when it comes to the hard topics.

7. Leave room for creativity

Did you know that the use of creativity at work has a larger impact on employee job satisfaction than wages or benefits? Employees who use creativity at work tend to see lower levels of stress, more success, and high job satisfaction levels.

There are multiple ways you can create room for more creativity at work. Hosting a hackathon can invite employees to tackle problems in innovative ways, while also fostering connection between team members. Alternatively, employees can be given a set amount of time — per day, week, or month — to tackle any work project that they choose. 

Google famously did this by letting employees dedicate 20 percent of their work hours to their own creations; the results included the launch of both AdSense and Google News.

At Vimeo, every year employees take part in a three-day hackathon where employees can create and build projects based on any problem (or solution) that inspires them. 

“It’s a really interesting strategy around illuminating ideas,” says Brooks. “A lot of time, folks are busy on big projects and they don’t always have time to come up with new ideas. So it’s about giving them a platform and an opportunity to do that.”

8. Give employees productive feedback

While most employees get feedback at least occasionally, only a third of people think that the feedback they receive is actually helpful. Often, managers’ feedback will be too vague, delayed, or poorly delivered to actually be useful to employees.

So, how can you deliver feedback that lands? There are a few approaches you should keep in mind:

  • Be specific. Whether positive or negative, feedback should be specific and actionable. Instead of saying, “This needs more work,” for instance, try saying, “The presentation slides felt a bit too cluttered. Can you try making them a bit cleaner and then elaborating during the presentation?”
  • Provide coaching. Part of a manager’s job is to help their teams learn. Instead of always being directive, Brooks recommends — when possible — guiding employees with questions that leave room for their own opinion and direction. 
  • Deliver feedback sooner, rather than later. Employees’ engagement peaks when they’re given feedback weekly. By letting employees continuously know how they’re doing (rather than saving feedback for a review), employees feel motivated to keep improving.
  • Lead with kindness. For many, sharing their work requires vulnerability — and so delivering feedback needs to come with a healthy dose of empathy.

9. Provide learning opportunities

According to a Deloitte survey, close to 50 percent of Millennial and Gen Z employees rank “opportunities for continuous learning” as a very important factor in selecting an employer. If and when those learning opportunities dry up, employees may start looking at other jobs.

Fortunately, there are many ways to cultivate a learning culture at work:

  • Give employees a budget dedicated solely to learning — whether through books, conferences, or courses.
  • Give teams the time and space to attend conferences and networking opportunities.
  • Launch a mentorship program at work to allow employees to learn from one another.
  • Host lunch and learns monthly.
  • Provide employees with a robust onboarding program and training for any new tools or processes.

10. Focus on employees’ long-term career goals

Employees feel engaged when they know how they’re making an impact and where their careers are going. Spur that engagement by making it crystal clear to employees how they can grow with your company and beyond.

Consider creating an internal career path or development chart that employees can reference. This can help individuals visualize the work they need to do in order to be promoted or reach a managerial position. It also makes it clear that there’s room for them to grow and develop within your company.

But don’t stop there. Some employees may want to switch careers or explore experience that your company can’t provide. Encourage employees to share their aspirations with you anyway, and find tasks or skills that you can help them develop in that direction, even within their existing role. The type of motivation that employees will experience when chasing after their intrinsic goals will help energize them and their work.

How to design an impactful employee engagement plan

While your Human Resources or People Operations department might be responsible for sending out an employee engagement survey each year, improving employee engagement is a cross-company initiative. It requires intentionality and effort — from middle management all the way up to the executive level.

Fortunately, you can tackle things step-by-step when it comes to creating an employee engagement plan.

1. Get feedback from your employees

Start by understanding your current level of employee engagement. Surveys are a good place to get started. To encourage more candid feedback, you can even consider anonymous surveys for employees.

Follow-up surveys can take place every quarter or every year, depending on how often you’d like to get a snapshot of engagement (and how many initiatives you’ve rolled out). You can also survey employees around specific initiatives launched to get a feel for their success.

Of course, once you survey employees, the next step is to take action.

“The biggest question around surveys are, well, then what? How does that translate into action?” Brooks says. “Get holistic viewpoints from employees, then use that data to create a plan of action or recalibrate.”

2. Set a budget

Realistically, most companies won’t be able to introduce 10 new employee engagement initiatives immediately, of course. Based on your survey results, however, you can identify your employees’ most pressing pain points and start there. 

Once you’ve identified those, create a budget and select a few actionable initiatives that you can implement over the next quarter or year. As you identify initiatives, think through:

  • Does this impact one of our key drivers of engagement?
  • Will this require additional tools and software?
  • How much — if any — training will be required for this initiative?
  • How quickly will we see results from this initiative?

3. Train managers

According to Gallup research, managers are responsible for at least 70 percent of the variance seen in employee engagement across business units. This makes manager training the single most effective way to increase employee engagement.

“Engagement has been found to be most correlated with manager impact, which makes sense if you think about it,” says Conway. “Your manager aligns with you on your work, manages your performance, and creates the environment you work in day-to-day.”

Regardless of which initiatives you choose to implement, manager training should be a part of it. Managers should be trained on the different ways they can drive employee engagement, how to lead effective one-on-ones, and how to foster connection, creativity, and engagement across their teams.

4. Implement initiatives

Once you’ve selected your initiatives and trained managers, start putting your plans into action. Make sure that you’re not asking employees to spend additional time at work in order to take part in these initiatives, either: any team events, additional meetings, or learning opportunities should all take place during working hours so that everyone can participate and employees’ work-life balance isn’t affected.

5. Get feedback & iterate

Employee engagement initiatives can take time to work, so don’t survey employees immediately after launching a new mentorship program or rolling out a new collaborative tool. 

Once they’ve had time to soak it in, ask employees for feedback (anonymous or otherwise). Their opinions can help you iterate as needed, and help you pick out your next initiative.

4 tools to boost employee engagement

If your company has a hybrid or fully remote work model, boosting employee engagement might seem even more challenging. Fortunately, there are tools that you can use that help increase collaboration, communication, and overall engagement — no matter where your employees call home base.

Vimeo

Vimeo has a suite of solutions for live streaming, events, asynchronous collaboration, and engagement that can enable more conversations and creativity within teams. Brooks’ team constantly leverage Vimeo’s collaboration features to provide time-coded comments and feedback on any design videos.

Boysen also recommends boosting connection remotely by having new employees introduce themselves to the company over a short, fun Vimeo video.

Miro

When it comes to brainstorming remotely, Boysen recommends Miro: a whiteboard platform that allows teams plan, strategize, and create collaboratively online.

Figma

On the design front, Brooks’ team often use Figma, a tool that allows teams to collaborate virtually on designs. The tool lets users provide feedback, diagram, and workshop together.

Lattice

Using a platform to track employees’ objectives and key results (OKRs) can be a great way to make sure employees are getting the feedback they need and that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Enjoy the benefits of an engaged workforce

Companies with engaged employees tend to see improved retention, higher productivity, and happier customers. Curious how to use video to support your employee engagement efforts?  Learn how video can enable and empower your team and drive more productivity, inclusion, and engagement.

Download Vimeo’s guide to engaging a remote workforce

Originally written and published by Alysha Parker on April 20, 2021. Update on Jun 30, 2022 by Kenza Moller.