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The Top Psychological Drivers of Employee Engagement

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Top Psychological Drivers of Employee Engagement

The psychology of employee engagement has been studied extensively. Similarly, the link between a company's employee engagement and their productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction ratings is also well established. Yet, measuring the specific ‘key drivers' of engagement and their contribution to overall employee engagement has been challenging and evolving.

‍While there are 14 unique psychological drivers of employee engagement that Qualee references, this article outlines the top seven: why they're relevant and how you can leverage these engagement drivers to boost your employee engagement strategy and foster positive relationships in your own organization.

Employee Engagement

Several studies have shown that engaged employees are more likely to be loyal, productive, and have higher job satisfaction. Teams with a high level of engagement have been found to be 21 percent more profitable than others [1]. Employees who believe that their opinions are valued are almost five times more encouraged to function at their best [2].

‍These are reasons enough for companies to invest in strong employee engagement strategies. But while every organization wants its employees to be engaged, few truly invest to increase employee engagement and have formalized protocols to encourage it.

‍More than 65 percent of employees don't feel engaged at work [3], while more than 60 percent of businesses state that retaining employees is proving to be more challenging than recruiting them [4]. Employee retention has become an HR focus point because of this. However, all these are findings from the pre-pandemic era. After the global health crisis, engagement became even more important as several teams needed to implement remote work setups.

‍In a physically isolated and uncertain world, the challenges have only become bigger. How do you derive actionable insights and create an engaged workforce in a world that has institutionalized remote work and virtual meetings? What are the top drivers of employee engagement for offices in this new reality?

Employee Engagement Drivers

There are several ways to be able to help formulate a good employee engagement strategy and program. Some companies conduct an employee engagement survey to gather actionable feedback from their teams. Some senior leaders conduct discussions with employees to gauge the employee manager relationship and see how employees view strong leaders. Other companies encourage employees to leave feedback with routine checkpoint discussions to gather feedback on employee engagement levels, company culture, and job satisfaction.

‍While all of these methods help contribute to bolstering a business' employee engagement program, the best way to improve engagement is to understand the employee engagement drivers that are essential in driving engagement.

‍Here are the top seven engagement drivers:

1. Strategy

Strategy is essential for providing a sense of direction for every single decision and move made in an organization. It is also one of the key employee engagement drivers. Studies have found that employees who believe in the mission of their company are 72% more productive than those who don't.

‍Unfortunately, while most businesses have a mission and strategy, many of them don't effectively communicate this strategy. Numerous companies make the mistake of communicating their strategy from the top going down, making it go through several layers of org charts before reaching employees. Sometimes because of this, the true company mission is lost before it gets to everyone.

‍Additionally, management communicates to employees after strategic decisions are made, which creates employee distrust. It is important you share plans as well as the general directions in which the organization is headed. This doesn't mean that every decision has to be revealed, but employees shouldn't be surprised by big decisions. Be sure that employees feel that they are an integral part of the process.

‍When employees are onboard with your strategy, they're more likely to have a clear sense of direction, feel committed, and ultimately, be more engaged.

‍Utilizing strategy as an engagement driver not only has a direct impact on inspiring employees and promoting better engagement it also ensures your teams are well aware of the company's goals and roadmap forward.

2. Autonomy

The importance of autonomy has been acknowledged in several academic studies [5, 6] and psychologists have proposed that all humans have a desire to feel in control of their behavior. This control provides the foundation for intrinsic motivation.

‍An excellent indicator of good company culture is the level of autonomy its employees enjoy. If you have to constantly supervise your employees, it shows that you don't trust them enough. In a virtually connected world, those intrusions will also take up precious time and take it away from more important work goals.

‍Once you define a goal and let them know of the expected results, you should give them the autonomy to do it their way. That's how you make employees motivated and empowered. This will also make them accountable for their actions. They'll know when to take responsibility and correct the course.

3. Peer Relationships

Peer relationships affect our sense of belonging to our organization. When people feel connected to others and experience a sense of belonging, their motivation to complete tasks increases.

‍An office is more than a physical collective primed for productivity. It's also the informal get-togethers, corridor conversations, and shared meals. An employee's construct of an office is a summation of all these non-structured but human experiences. That's what instills a sense of belonging and gets them to overlook the minor flaws of an organization.

‍COVID-19 has disrupted all that. Now, more than ever, employees need to feel that they are together. “We are all in the same boat” should be a recurring theme for managers and HR units. To effectively do that, management should evaluate employees as individuals and not as nameless units in a system.

4. Management Support

The role of management used to be primarily concerned with execution and efficiency, but the focus has shifted towards coaching and empathy now too. Management support is also about developing and empowering employees to do more without relying on outdated methods of reward schemes and punishment.

‍Organizations should institute a system for continuous feedback that encourages employees to actively participate. This is absolutely necessary as remote work gets regularized.

‍Modern forms of management are all about using empathy, emotional intelligence, and feedback to build better relationships with employees. Done right, people are more willing to invest in their work, which results in better overall motivation, engagement, and performance.

‍Senior leadership that is willing to mentor and coach their teams and focus on their success are key employee engagement drivers.

5. Accomplishment

Feeling a sense of accomplishment is essential for humans to enjoy life, including our work life and it also reinforces our self-image. Doing as little as possible with our time isn't as wonderful as it may sound for most people, particularly when applying ourselves to meaningful activities creates that sense of accomplishment.

‍Although the draw towards the big results may be strong, research shows that most people benefit from regular steps of progress than only looking for the long shot. Regular success provides more opportunities for reflection and validation to keep going. Small wins along the way are important. When people consistently make progress on significant activities, they have greater opportunities for creativity and deeper engagement.

‍Therefore, appreciate consistent progress over mega wins to foster accomplishment and remember, we should not mistake activity for accomplishment.

6. Recognition

It is equally important that employees are recognized for their good work regularly and it is well known that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to quit within a year.

‍To learn how effective employees are at work, feedback is required. It allows them to know how well they're performing against expectations, which promotes feelings of satisfaction and competence.

‍Feeling competent is a fundamental human need that is required for us to be motivated to undertake a task and to understand how that task fits into the bigger picture as well as understanding how it impacts others.

‍Therefore, it is imperative that managers take the time to ensure they are distributing recognition evenly amongst various members of their teams.

7. Meaningful Work

What gets people up and going is not the remuneration behind it. What makes them look forward to Mondays is not just the size or stability of the company. It's the purpose, challenge and respect in the workplace.

‍Most of us want our work to be valuable to ourselves, our company, and society as a whole. A lack of meaning can quickly lead to a loss of motivation and a decline in employee engagement. Considering how much time we spend at work, it's important for companies to consider the value of meaningful work, especially as it's tied so closely to our identity and sense of self.

‍Therefore, it is crucial to define your organization's purpose beyond financial goals and quarterly results. The purpose should be positioned as a higher-order benefit that inspires and engages your workforce. That's when your employees will feel motivated because they'll know that no matter how insignificant their role, what they do collectively makes a difference.

Improving Employee Engagement

There are many strategies that companies undertake to have better employee engagement. Here are a few approaches that drive engagement in the work environment that can be tailored to suit the company values, culture and budget.

Having the Right Tools Go a Long Way

One of the most important factors that drive employee engagement is making sure your workers are given all the tools they need to thrive in their roles. Having the right infrastructures at work will have a significant impact on the way employee finish their tasks.

For example, if your security protocols require your employees to remember a wide range of passwords to do their jobs, it may get in the way of your company having a productive workforce. Find a system that can simplify the process, allowing employees to focus on what matters: their tasks.

Constructive Feedback Helps

There is no cut-and-dried answer on what drives employee engagement. The approach that works for most employees may not work as well with one team member.

There is a simple and no-cost approach to resolve this: establish regular communication with your employees. Asking them about their motivations and surveying them about their mental health may help you better understand their communication styles, which could prove valuable in your aim to create a fully engaged team.

Surveyed employees are also more likely to have higher employee morale. This is because talking to them and doing your best effort in giving employees what they need to thrive makes workers feel valued and part of the company's success.

Give Your Employees Development Opportunities

The more employees sense the company is investing in their future, the more likely they will be engaged. Promoting a workplace culture that allows employees to grow not only helps workers build the skills they need to complete their tasks. It also communicates that the organization believes in their potential and talent.

Promote Work-Life Balance to Increase Overall Engagement Level

Gone are the days when working late or overtime meant increased productivity. A study by Stanford University [7] found that the productivity of employees fall by 19% for every hour they work beyond an 8-hour day. When employees cannot feel disconnected from work at the end of the day, it may lead to burnout.

Perhaps never before in recent memory has the need for employee engagement been so significant. An organization is only as good as its people. For them to feel invested in the company's future, the organization must be invested in their emotional wellbeing. That's when employee engagement initiatives will grow up to be a core function within companies.

Qualee's platform automates the process of assessing the employee experience, providing actionable insights that can measurably improve employee engagement. Change what you can measure with Qualee and sign up for our FREE Starter Plan today.

You might be interested in the following resources:
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[5] Hackman & Oldman (1976). Motivation through the design of work: test of a theory
[6] Locke (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives
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