What Exactly is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is a concept that emerged in the 1990s and has continued to evolve. It has become an essential part of HR strategy and includes other key concepts such as employee motivation, investment and satisfaction. It is essential for both SMEs and large companies. Here is a brief overview of employee engagement to help you better manage your employees.

Employment Sociology Before the 90s

Until the 1950s, companies were mainly concerned with productivity and output. You surely remember Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin’s famous film that ridicules the overproductivity that abused factory workers. In other words, the priority was customer satisfaction and the employee as an individual was hardly taken into account.

Fortunately, in the 1950s, the work of Abraham Maslow transformed the sociology of employment. This American psychologist developed the hierarchy of needs, which transformed how work was perceived. The 5 needs defined by Abraham Maslow in order of importance, applied to the professional environment are:

  1. physiological needs (work to eat)
  2. security (job stability)
  3. the need to belong (being part of a team and the company)
  4. self-esteem (valuing your work)
  5. the need for fulfillment (developing your potential and skills).

Abraham Maslow’s theory thus radically changed the importance given to employees. They became the focus of HR. In the 1970s, the concept of motivation became paramount. Employee satisfaction and loyalty gradually became a priority. The employee became a key component of the company and employers started focusing on improving their experience.

The Birth of Employee Engagement

In the 1990s, the concept of employee engagement first appeared in an article by the Institute for Employment Studies and in a report by the Academy of Managers written by William Kahn. It should not be confused with workaholism, which is a state of dependence on work that is harmful to the employee. On the contrary, according to the scientist Wilmar Schaufeli, employee engagement is a positive state of mind that contributes to employee fulfillment. It leads to strong employee involvement and motivation to complete tasks, improved concentration and excellent productivity.

For William Kahn, employee engagement is linked to the employee’s ability to be themselves. This means that they need to feel confident enough to take initiative. They must also be proud of their work and feel that it is meaningful to the company or society. Employee engagement is not mere motivation.

How Can a Company Maintain Employee Engagement?

HR departments need to maintain employee engagement now more than ever. With the Covid pandemic, employees around the world have realized that they must find happiness and satisfaction in their work. In the United States, the Big Quit led to the resignation of 4 million employees per month in 2021! Here are 3 ways to strengthen employee engagement:

1) Improve Management

According to the book Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar, the quality of the relationship between a company and its customers is the same as the one with its employees. However, quality management is necessary for the relationship between an employee and employer to be at its best. Caring management avoids conflicts and tension and creates a calm and productive work environment. Leadership training can be used to support managers. On the employee side, reinforcing managerial presence can also be a good way to go, especially with employees working from home, which is isolating. For example, Sewan hosts morning “mini-videos” with managers to reinforce the connection betwee employees and the company.

2) Foster a Positive Employee Experience

Recognition is the best way to make the employee experience satisfying. Establish an attractive promotion policy that makes your employees want to invest in quality work and allows them to climb the ladder quickly. You should also set up benefits and perks with expert companies like Swibeco. This allows you to offer in-kind benefits that focus on the financial, physical and mental well-being of your employees. The French company Utopies, for example, has a “Positive Life” policy that promotes health and relaxation among its employees: yoga, shiatsu and free city bike memberships!

3) Develop Company Culture

To boost employee engagement, you want employees who are proud to work for you. Your company must have strong values and be involved in solidarity or social projects in which your employees can participate. For example, you can support animal welfare, world hunger or medical research through fundraising. This will help you foster a moral commitment among your employees.