What is Employee Engagement? Happy Employees vs. Engaged Employees

What is Employee Engagement? Happy Employees vs. Engaged Employees

What is employee engagement, and why is it so important? Here's what employee engagement really means, and why it's not the same as employee happiness.

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Is your team engaged at work? Or are they simply going through the motions? 

According to Gallup's State of the Workplace Report, 85% of employees feel disengaged. But what does that really mean? And how does that impact your organization?

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the level of connection between employees and their workplace. Employee engagement measures how employees feel about their organization, their team, and the work they do.

Why is employee engagement important?

Here are a few powerful stats that will make you think twice before writing off employee engagement:

  • Employee disengagement is costly – A single disengaged employee could cost you $16,000-$27,200 per year.
  • Engaged teams are more productive –  Highly engaged employees are 21% more productive, 22% more profitable, and generally better across key HR metrics.
  • Engaged employees are more likely to stick around –  Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave a company.

Employee engagement is critical to business success. So why do so many organizations miss the mark when it comes to team engagement?

Happy Employees vs.  Engaged Employees

Many organization leaders think employee engagement means perks like free beer, ping-pong tables, and Instagrammable office spaces.

Those are the things that make employees engaged... right? 

Wrong. Happy employees are not the same as engaged employees.

Truly engaged employees don't care about perks and free stuff. Instead, they're looking for things like shared values, a purpose-driven mission, opportunities for growth, and supportive managers. 

The bottom line is this: engaged employees stay for what they give, while disengaged employees stay for what they get. 

The Comparison: Jim (happy employee) versus Scott (engaged employee)

Imagine you have an employee named Jim. You might think that Jim is engaged because he does everything you tell him to do and he doesn’t question the status quo. That report that’s been the same for years? Jim does it, and has no interest in improving it, or ditching it, if it’s not required. He’s perfectly satisfied with his job.

Scott, on the other hand, scares you a bit.

He proposes insane ideas, and he hates it when projects stall. He always contributes to discussions and cares about the betterment of everything he comes into contact with. He’s your engaged employee.

Stepping back, it might be a bit overwhelming to think that you want your team to be full of people like Scott, but you do. His lack of patience with the status quo is what you need to keep customers satisfied, to keep your products and services innovative, and to keep your bottom line in the black.

Developing and maintaining a culture of engagement

Employee engagement doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s formed over time through two-way commitment and dedication.

In order to be fully engaged, employees need to feel seen, heard, and connected:

  1. Employees need to feel that their actions are seen. They must be consistently recognized and acknowledged for both employee milestones and everyday achievements.
  2. Employees need to feel heard. They need to feel like they have a voice in your organization, whether that's through feedback, transparent communication, frequent check-ins, or (ideally) all of the above. In a listening culture, employee ideas aren't just collected and filed away – they're actually listened to and implemented.
  3. Employees need to feel connected. A strong connection to your organization's core values, culture, and mission is critical to employee engagement. In a connected culture, employees feel like their teammates and managers truly have their best interests at heart.
Employee engagement empowers your team to soar

The impact of an employee engagement

Employee engagement and performance go hand-in-hand. When your people feel connected to your organization and inspired by their work, they will be more focused and driven, leading to better results and bigger wins.

As for employee happiness? The truth is that engaged teams are often happier as well. We all want to feel like our work has purpose. That's why prioritizing the engagement of your employees is a win-win for everyone. After all, the best combination is a happy and engaged team.

Blog illustrations by Freepik Storyset

What is Employee Engagement? Happy Employees vs. Engaged Employees

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