Back to all posts
Emily Weissang

Unlocking Employee Engagement: How to Build a Thriving Workplace

How well do you understand employee engagement? Let's take a closer look at this complex topic - and how we can boost engagement.

Folks in HR and management have been working with the concept of "employee engagement" for nearly two decades now - the term showing up in HR manuals and training materials since the mid 2000's.

So perhaps we'd be forgiven for thinking that we have it all figured out by this point. But it turns out, we might actually be pretty far off the mark.

Recent research shows that being disengaged is actually the norm for most employees, which begs the question - do we really understand what employee engagement is? And how can we turn the tide on this negative trend?

This article is all about building genuine employee engagement - what this actually looks like, and how to make progress towards it.

What is employee engagement?

In simple terms, employee engagement refers to the level of involvement, community, enthusiasm, and values-alignment people feel when it comes to their work and workplace environment.

Compared to employee happiness or employee experience, employee engagement is not only about how content people feel at work. It reaches far beyond that, drilling into the commitment people feel to their company and its overarching goals, which, in turn, translates into their motivation and performance.

Do they actually feel motivated by the goals the company is striving after? Would they recommend it as a great place to work? Do they plan to stick around for a long time? Or are they keeping an eye on their network, scoping out new potential opportunities, just waiting to jump ship the moment an offer comes along?

As many overlapping factors impact employee engagement, it can be difficult to articulate, and even harder to quantify. However, when you are able to make an accurate assessment of engagement, it helps you evaluate the quality of your workplace culture and the way it impacts employees' performance, productivity, and satisfaction at work.

Why employee engagement matters

So, here's the bad news: Gallup recently found in their State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report that 85% of employees are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" at work.

Disengaged employees are not going to be the drivers of success and innovation. Indeed, they can actually have a negative impact on their colleagues as they tend to be vocal and critical of the company, management, and even other colleagues.  

Needless to say, all of this can contribute to demoralised, fractious workforce with no motivation to hit KPIs. And here are a few more indicators that explain why good employee engagement is important:

  • Engaged employees are more productive, which means 21% higher profitability for the company
  • Engaged employees are absent less often, with 41% lower absenteeism than disengaged employees
  • Engaged employees are more loyal to their companies, which improves your employee retention; companies that recognize their employees' efforts actually have a 31% lower employee turnover
  • Engaged employees welcome change, show more flexibility, and will adopt company initiatives with more enthusiasm
  • Engaged employees are generally happier at work, which has a direct impact on the company culture
  • Engaged employees are more innovative and motivated at work

What makes good employee engagement?

One of the ways you could approach this question is through the strategy of five P's - five factors that contribute to a holistic sense of being appreciated, respected, and being bought into broader company values and goals:

  • Purpose at work. In short, people want to feel that their work is has purpose and meaning. Research by HBR found that 9 out of 10 people would be willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work.
  • People at work. Building genuine connection with colleagues helps people feel engaged. A culture of trust, psychological safety, and open communication contributes to workplace relationships.
  • Pride at work. Feeling pride in your work is an intrinsic reward that strengthens motivation.
  • Package — pay and perks. Employee preferences - work location, working hours, whether the role is remote or hybrid, compensation, etc. — all have a impact on how satisfied people are at their workplace.
  • Passion at work. Being able to do what you are passionate about and develop the skills you want are decisive factors when it comes to envisioning your future with an employer.

What's the best way to measure employee engagement?

Measuring employee engagement is possible both with quantitative and qualitative methods. However, neither approach alone can achieve a complete picture - so we recommend combining qualitative and quantitative methods in order to really understand how people feel.

Measure the numbers

One of the most common ways to quantify employee engagement and satisfaction overall is eNPS, or Employee Net Promoter Score.

This score relates to how likely people are to endorse their company as a good place to work: to determine the eNPS for your company, survey staff by asking them to rate, on a scale of zero to ten, how likely they would be to recommend the company to a friend as a positive place to work.

In the results, you want to see lots of tens, nines, and eights. These high scores suggest that your employees are more likely to be "promoters" of the company as a good place to work. Scores of six or below indicate that employees are not likely to recommend the company.

But eNPS isn't the only metric you can look at. If you want to get stuck into productivity and proficiency indicators, resource utilization rate can show you what is going on with people's workloads. Too little work and they might be feeling bored and unneeded. Too much, and they may be combating stress and anxiety around how much they are responsible for. In either case, an unbalanced workload can lead to disillusionment and dissatisfaction.

Check the reviews

Employer review sites can be a treasure trove of information. Outgoing employees posting their opinions anonymously have no reason to hold back. If they have something negative to say, this is where they will do it!

Individual reviews are worth taking with a grain of salt (one person's experience might not be reflective of the majority, after all), but if you see that reviews keep mentioning the same factors, then this may be a helpful indicator of where you need to improve.

Run surveys and "listening tours"

The richest insights come from asking people how they feel. If time is short, conducting an employee engagement survey may be the most achievable way of asking these questions. Try initiating "pulse" surveys - brief yet frequent surveys that aim to capture real-time insights around employee engagement.

However, remember that anonymity is important for surveys, as people are more likely to share their thoughts honestly if they don't fear repercussions.

Another option is to perform a "listening tour" - a period of time during which you meet with a range of employees in different departments, at all seniority levels, and all locations of your company.

How you structure this tour and how long it may take depends on your circumstances. But, ultimately, the goal is the same: to gather the opinions of a wide spectrum of people at your company, from the most junior staff to the most senior.

Conduct "stay" and "exit" interviews

Exit interviews are standard practice at most organizations now, and for good reason - it's very helpful to understand what motivates an employee to leave.

Of course, people's reasons for moving on may be extremely diverse and varied. But it's when you start to see trends (perhaps people are being tempted by more competitive pay packages elsewhere, or they feel like they aren't being given scope to grow in their roles?), then you can act.

"Stay interviews" are less widespread, but the idea is much the same. However, rather than asking why they wish to leave, you ask what compels them to stay. Once again, people's answers will vary - but noticing trends can lead to useful insights.

How do you improve employee engagement?

Strong employee engagement is not easy to achieve, but there are a lot of ways you can improve on what you already have.

Prioritize employee wellbeing

Poor employee wellbeing poses risks both to the employee and their employer. For one thing, Gallup found that "people who are not thriving in their lives" are more vulnerable and have a 61% higher likelihood of ending up in burnout.

To improve employee wellbeing, you can establish flexible working hours, introduce mental health days or programs, encourage employees to socialize more and create opportunities for that, offer a relevant benefits program, give people more free time for volunteer work, or introduce a 4-day business week so everyone can enjoy a longer weekend or have more quality time with their loved ones.

Invest in skills management

engaged employee with skills management

To increase engagement and retention, make sure you have a system for improved learning and development opportunities.

If you're using resource management software, it is easy to keep track of everyone's skills and growth potential with a skills management system. This can help you to assign people to projects that they have expressed an interest in, or which could help them develop their skills further.

Create transparency around workloads

When it comes to workloads, transparency can be achieved with proper visualization, clarity, and communication around work and project assignments coming down the pipeline. This is why it is so important to have a resource management tool showing everybody's workload, availability, and capacity.

With Runn, you get a unified dashboard showing all of your resources, grouped by project or skill, along with their workload, assigned projects, and even vacation time. It helps you make informed decisions about resource allocation and be open about strategic resourcing plans.

Ensure work-life balance

engage employees with a resource management solution

Work-life balance is something people are not willing to gamble on in 2024. In fact, World Economic Forum recently discovered that 34% of people would not tolerate a toxic environment at work, while 48% would leave a job if it stopped them from enjoying their life.

Needless to say, unreasonable workloads is one sure way to kill that work-life balance. However, with good visibility into all of your resources you can easily eliminate that risk.

Create a culture of trust and safety

Autonomy at work and the ability to speak freely, even if it is to challenge someone's opinion or business strategy, sends a clear message to employees: they are heard, trusted and appreciated at work. They work for an organization where their opinions matter.

This creates a climate where people feel empowered to take risks, innovate, and come up with daring solutions and suggestions.


It's said that you can't please all people, all of the time - and this is very true. People are complex, and they may feel more or less engaged over time, as their career develops, and as their life changes.

What HR and resource management professions need to do is create an environment where the conditions for employee engagement are dialled in.

Runn helps you foster employee engagement and build the type of environment that helps people reach their personal and professional potential. Book a demo to get a personalized tour around the tool today!

Enjoy the post? Sign up for the latest strategies, stories and product updates.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 10k users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed