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How to boost employee engagement

Discover the key factors of workforce engagement, including what it is and the elements of an effective employee engagement strategy.

With 1 in 4 employers struggling to keep their team engaged at work, we explore the key employee engagement factors and how to implement and measure them.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is more than job satisfaction and motivation, although these factors are influential. Staff engagement can be defined as a “state of mind” in which employees demonstrate characteristics such as energy, effort, dedication, enthusiasm, concentration and pride in their work.[1]

Benefits of an engaged workforce

Not only are engaged employees happier in the workplace, but happier employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees.[2] Studies have also shown a positive link between an engaged workforce and improved customer satisfaction, absenteeism, staff retention and creative problem-solving.[3]

Factors of workplace engagement

There is a range of factors at play when it comes to employee engagement. Opinions differ on what determines an effective employee engagement strategy. However, when we see employee engagement actioned in organisations, it encompasses many factors of people engagement and management. These factors are explored in more detail below.

What influences staff engagement?

There are multiple elements in creating an engaged workforce. These include:

Job design

Clarity around roles and responsibilities, expectations, systems and processes ensure employees understand where they fit in the organisation and how their work influences the wider objectives. Not only does this improve job satisfaction, but it also connects employees to the bigger picture and helps them feel valued.


Micromanagement leads to a demotivated and disengaged workforce. Giving staff responsibility for their work creates accountability, allowing them to feel valued and respected. A sense of accountability also encourages employees to take pride in their work.

Career progression

It is important to provide staff with opportunities for ongoing training, growth and development. If employees don’t see career progression within the organisation or lack fresh challenges, they can become disengaged and frustrated.

Demand for training and development is high, with previous Totaljobs research showing that 9 in 10 employees want their employer to offer more training courses to develop new skills.

Take time to find out your employees’ career goals and map out a progression plan for them, so they see themselves as part of the company’s future.


Be transparent with staff through open and clear communication. Make employees aware of wider business goals and decisions that may directly or indirectly impact them.

Develop an internal communications strategy to support this. From all-staff briefings to employee newsletters, there are many ways to keep staff in the loop with key decisions and developments.


Acknowledge a job well done, hard work and effort. It’s important to praise employees and reward good work. A simple in-person thank-you can significantly increase an employee’s sense of value. Make time to thank your team and recognise their efforts, both one-to-one and in front of others.

MacLeod’s key enablers of employee engagement

The 2009 MacLeod Review “Engaging for Success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement,” placed employee engagement as central to a company’s success. The Review summarises four key factors of engagement:


Leaders must be visible and empowering. Separating the leadership team from the wider workforce fosters an “us” and “them” mentality, which can disengage employees. MacLeod emphasised that leaders must, instead, empower employees by being visible, approachable and available.

Leaders also need to provide clear direction for the workforce in the form of a “strategic narrative”, which consists of two parts:

The strategy

The organisation’s shared goal that everyone is working towards, regardless of their role. The goal should be simple and memorable so it can be communicated clearly at all levels. A common goal helps employees feel part of the bigger picture and better understand leadership decisions.

The narrative

The organisation’s story. Storytelling is the key to persuasion, connection and good communication. The story should include the organisation’s origins, where it is now and where it is going. This helps employees see themselves as part of the next chapter, inspiring, engaging, and motivating them.

Line managers

MacLeod points to the line manager relationship as the most important for employee satisfaction and engagement, observing that “people join organisations, but they leave managers.”

The key characteristics of engaging line managers include:

  • Provide clarity for employees
  • Appreciate their team and praise their efforts
  • Treat employees as individuals
  • Provide employees with the necessary support and equipment to do their jobs
  • Facilitate and empower teams, rather than micromanage

Employee voice

Allow employees to feel they have a voice and their opinions matter by inviting and listening to their feedback.

Employers must actively encourage their staff to speak up and give genuine consideration to feedback. Responsiveness is key to the effectiveness of employee voice — it is not enough to simply “listen”. Employers must act on feedback wherever possible.

Business values and culture

An organisation must have a clear set of values that shape its culture. This creates trust and integrity. Any disparity between proclaimed values and behaviours harms trust and ultimately leads to a disengaged workforce.

To avoid falling into the trap of the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, managers and leaders should be role models of the values and culture, not the exceptions.

Measuring employee engagement

Just as there are various factors at play in influencing workplace engagement, there are different ways to measure it.

Invite regular feedback from staff. Let them share their observations through feedback forms or face-to-face discussions. Anonymous surveys can help quieter team members have their say and ensure you get honest, unbiased feedback.

Asking staff to rate key factors of engagement, such as job satisfaction, team relationships and career progression, is another good way to highlight areas for improvement. This can be a straightforward rating system rather than detailed feedback.

Aim to conduct surveys or request feedback at regular intervals, for example, every quarter as a minimum. Keep a record of the responses so you can gather comparable data and track trends over time.

With each passing quarter, you obtain more data to continuously identify areas for improvement and shape your engagement strategy to meet your employees’ needs.

For more advice on boosting employee satisfaction and engagement, read these top tips for motivating your staff.