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Employee Engagement, A Comprehensive Series (Updated 2019)

Employee Engagement is a broad topic with no quick fixes. The good news is that if you put in the work you can create a culture so strong that it becomes a competitive position in the market and can drive a strong brand, excellent customer service and ultimately excellent growth!

1/31/2019 Employee Engagement

This is the first in a series of posts that will cover the broad topic of building a culture of high engagement.

“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.” - Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement does not mean employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are working hard, productively on behalf of the organisation. While company game rooms, free massages, and Friday keg parties are fun--and may be beneficial for other reasons--making employees happy is different from making them engaged.

Employee engagement doesn't mean employee satisfaction. Many companies have "employee satisfaction" surveys and executives talk about "employee satisfaction", but the bar is set too low. A satisfied employee might show up for her daily 9-to-5 without complaint. But that same "satisfied" employee might not go the extra effort on her own, and she'll probably take the headhunter's call luring her away with a 10% bump in pay. Satisfied isn't enough.

"Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals."

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don't work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organisation's goals.

"When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort."

This means the engaged computer programmer works overtime when needed, without being asked. This means the engaged retail clerk picks up the trash on the store floor, even if the boss isn't watching. This means the TSA agent will pull a bag suspicious bag to be searched, even if it's the last bag on their shift.

How do you improve Employee Engagement?

When you have an Employee Engagement problem, there may be some quick fixes in that you can deal with the issues that staff is facing. Generally speaking they, culture improvement is about consistency and long-term proactive actions from the management team.

You have to think about Employee Engagement like you would think about your health. There are best practices that you should typically follow but you also need to factor in your own genetic makeup. Similarly, if you experience illness, you first need to diagnose the issue before taking the appropriate action.

How do you measure Employee Engagement?

The easiest way to measure engagement is by asking your staff. If you want to do that qualitatively, it means a staff survey. Customers of Roslin can send out surveys on a recurring basis automatically. Your dashboard will also be populated with this data. We've also got an article on writing your own Employee Survey Questions.

If you're not a customer, you can set up your own survey using many of the other tools out there. Our preference is Google Forms because it's free! See our article on How to run an Engagement Survey using Google Forms.

We'd recommend a broad set of questions at the outset to scan for issues and establish a baseline. You can always drill-down from there. If you're a Roslin customer then you'll have access to our baseline questions and metrics.

What Drives Employee Engagement?

In establishing what questions to ask, it's best to take a step back and ask yourself what aspects of your organisation you want data for. Based on research of best practices, Roslin uses the following Engagement Drivers:

Management Support

This reflects how much managers provide support for their team members. It reflects the trust between managers and their team, communication quality and direction from managers.

Trust in Senior Leadership

The actions of senior leaders are visible to all staff and greatly impact team engagement. This is a measure of how staff views their leadership's integrity and understands the organisation's vision and mission.

Meaningful Work

This speaks to how important staff thinks their work is and how challenged they feel. It's important to get this balance right. Too much challenge and staff become overwhelmed and stressed. Too little and they become bored and unproductive. It's a great measure of FLOW.


How well the staff is coping with their current workload. It's a good measure of organisational strain.


Part of performance management is simply recognizing good work. Staff needs to be told if they're doing a good job (when it's deserved!).

Peer Relationships

Measures strength of relationships and trust amongst colleagues. It's an indicator of the strength of teams and the nature of interpersonal dynamics.


How staff views their colleagues and the quality of work performed by them. It's also a great measure of collaboration.


Measures how staff views their professional growth. It is subdivided into Career Path, Mentoring, and Learning.


Staff's view on whether they think their remuneration is fair. This is a great way of comparing their perspective to your Employee Value Proposition.


Do staff see themselves working here a year from now. This ends up being a catch-all in that if the staff doesn't express their problems in the other categories, they will discuss them here.


Measures how empowered staff is to get the job done. This is a highly contextual as it needs to be compared to your industry.


This is just an overview of Engagement in your organisation. Follow up articles will delve into more detail on each topic.

JP Olivier
Chartered Accountant, self-taught coder, entrepreneur, investor. Co-Founder of www.roslinlab.com and CFO at www.sonictelecoms.co.za.