Engaged Employees: Everything You Need To Know

By Chris Kolmar
Oct. 11, 2022
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Engaged employees keep productivity high, problem-solve, and overall, find ways to improve efficiency. And yet, Gallup research has found that only about 15% of employees worldwide and 34% of employees in the United States are truly engaged with their work.

While these numbers may be alarming to employers, they show that there’s a lot of opportunities to study the qualities of highly engaged workers and learn how to inspire other employees to adopt these same patterns.

By improving a company’s percentage of engaged employees, businesses can drastically increase their efficiency, and therefore, profitability.

Key Takeaways:

  • Employees can be divided into three categories which are engaged, non-engaged, and actively disengaged.

  • When employees are engages it helps create a healthier work culture and the work is done with care and pride.

  • To help with employee engagement, a manager should have open communication and adopt the role of a coach rather than a traditional boss.

Engaged Employees: Everything You Need To Know

Types of Employees in the Workplace

Employees can be divided up into three categories:

  1. Engaged. Proactive and efficient employees who enjoy their work.

    Engaged employees are the healthiest ones to have for the good of the company as a whole. They feel like they have a meaningful purpose in what they do, and they’re constantly striving to do their best work.

  2. Non-engaged. Employees who are there for the paycheck but aren’t attached to their work.

    Non-engaged employees are going through the motions. They usually show up on time and do the work they’re assigned to do, but they lack enthusiasm and aren’t interested in doing more than the minimum expected.

  3. Actively disengaged. Disgruntled employees who are resentful that their needs aren’t being met.

    Actively disengaged employees can be detrimental. They’re often late to work and late with deadlines, and they tend to cause problems within the workplace. They don’t want to be there, and they’re not shy about airing their grievances among their colleagues.

What Do Engaged Employees Do Differently Than Non-Engaged Employees?

Studies have found that workers who are highly engaged tend to adopt specific behaviors and patterns that are typical among good employees, such as:

  • They focus on their strengths and don’t spend a lot of time on projects or activities that don’t come naturally. As often as they can, they seek out ways to operate at peak efficiency.

  • Engaged employees don’t allow barriers or challenges to inhibit their work. They don’t use problems as an excuse for not getting the job done.

  • Their engagement is proactive. They don’t wait around for management to give them permission or instructions. They often formulate their plan and then work toward that goal on their own.

  • Instead of blaming others, engaged employees take personal responsibility for any lapses in their performance.

The Benefits of Having Engaged Employees

The level of employee engagement at a company affects everything from the culture to the profits.

Having workers who are about their duties will have a massive impact on the wellbeing of a business in comparison to employees who are just putting in their hours and counting the minutes until they can go home.

  • Engaged employees create a healthier work culture. People are happy doing their jobs. They’re more likely to put in extra effort, and they’re also more likely to help other employees.

  • Work is done with care and pride. Engaged employees are less likely to make big mistakes, and if they do make a critical error, they will work just as hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

  • Supervisors can dedicate less time to micromanaging since engaged employees are generally self-sufficient. This time can be allocated to other tasks, such as thoroughly training new employees and working with those who aren’t engaged to see what can be done to inspire them.

  • A healthy culture of people who like being at work and enjoy doing their jobs doesn’t just mean happier employees; it also means higher efficiency, which directly correlates to profits.

  • Engaged employees are more confident at work, and that extra boost of confidence likely manifests in their personal lives as well, helping them succeed both inside and outside of the workplace.

  • When people love their jobs, they aren’t usually quiet about it. Word-of-mouth praise from happy employees talking about what a great company they work for can help to attract top talent to the business.

How Can Managers Affect Employee Engagement?

Proactive supervisors can have a dramatic effect on how engaged employees are. The brunt of this conduct is usually overseen by the company’s human resources department.

Because managers are responsible for creating the work environment and setting the tone of the company, their actions have a profound impact on employee reception or lack thereof.

  • Open communication is key. When employees understand their role and purpose, they’re engaged and take ownership of their tasks and projects without being told constantly what to do.

  • A good manager will adopt the role of a coach rather than the more traditional boss operating a transactional relationship demanding certain deliverables without investing any interest in the employee who is fulfilling the other end of the transaction.

    In a coaching role, a supervisor is in the unique position of motivating an employee to work toward a goal while providing any necessary resources and support along the way.

    This nurtures a much healthier relationship between not only a manager and employee but also an employee and the company since every party involved is benefitting.

  • A poor supervisor can be detrimental to employee engagement by fostering an environment that can’t support clear communication and goals, leaving workers uninspired to give their best, uncertain of what’s expected of them, and unlikely to turn their job into a long-term career.

    Even worse, employees are often taught that they can’t overcome obstacles on their own without being instructed, forcing them to become dependent on a boss even when confronting simple problems. Poor leadership is likely to create actively disengaged employees and allow animosity to spread.

What Can Managers Do to Increase Engagement?

Thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, unions, whistleblower laws, and other regulatory services, employees can expect certain protections to ensure a decent work environment. But these measures don’t guarantee an employee’s engagement on their own.

For an employee to become truly engaged, two things need to happen.

  • First, the employee needs to understand the company’s vision for the future.

  • Second, the employee’s own goals should have a clear link to the overall success of the business and in the pursuit of that vision, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

A safe workspace, paycheck, and occasional “thanks for your hard work” isn’t enough to truly inspire workers to do their best work. When a supervisor adopts the role of a caring coach, employees have a better chance of feeling a sense of purpose rather than just a duty to show up for work.

A good manager will:

  • Provide all the necessary training, tools, and equipment for employees so they feel well prepared to handle any challenge

  • Clearly illustrate what is expected of the employee

  • Ensure the workplace has a confidential avenue for employees to address any issues such as LGBTQ+ resources, non-retaliation policies, sexual harassment protections, etc.

  • Send out surveys and have one-on-one meetings with employees to make sure all needs are being met and find out where improvements can be made

  • Adopt an open-door policy so employees can feel comfortable confiding in a supervisor, seeking advice, or presenting a new idea

  • Practice what they preach to set a tone of responsibility and ownership

  • Watch out for signs of workaholism in employees

  • Understand employees’ goals and help create a reasonable plan that will allow them to grow and reach those objectives

  • Care about employees as people and not just workers that can be replaced

  • Recognize employees’ strengths and utilize them in the most effective manner

  • Take the time to show genuine appreciation

  • Address any concerns or discomforts of an employee with a sense of compassion and understanding

  • Implement team-building activities to strengthen the trust and relationships between employees

  • Support education opportunities if an employee is interested in learning more outside of work, whether by taking a supplemental online class, exploring options at top private colleges or public universities, attending a conference, or taking a seminar

  • Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance

  • Be on the lookout for warning signs in employees that don’t seem to be engaged, such as tardiness, absenteeism, poor performance, missed deadlines, disinterested attitude, etc. and reach out to reassess the employee’s needs and goals

Final Thoughts

More and more businesses are seeing the impressive list of benefits that comes with having active and engaged employees, and thanks to the changing nature of the workforce, companies are adapting their management strategies.

Decades ago, employees generally stayed at a single business and dedicated their entire career to working at one place, even if the working conditions weren’t all that great.

But thanks to the millennial generation’s insatiable appetite for satisfaction and success, nowadays it’s common for an employee to “job-hop” from place to place if they aren’t fully engaged.

This constant shifting within the workforce has highlighted the need for businesses to work harder at trying to retain employees. Considering all of the training invested in onboarding a new employee, it’s more cost-effective to keep a seasoned employee happy rather than filling their position.

A high turnover means more training, less experienced workers, and lower productivity.
Employee engagement doesn’t necessarily equate to employee happiness, although it’s a good start. Successful companies have to look at every facet of the equation to a healthy, happy workforce, and even though that means more effort, time, and resources, it’s a winning move in the long game.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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