What do the Characteristics of Employee Engagement Really Look Like?

17 August 2022 | 5 Minute
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What do the Characteristics of Employee Engagement Really Look Like?

It won’t be surprising to know that engaged employees are better for your organisation than disengaged ones. That much is obvious, but it’s not obvious that $7.8 trillion in lost productivity occurred recently due to actively disengaged employees. So, if you want to find ways to review engagement levels in your organisation, you need to know what the characteristics of engaged employees are. And while there’s not an exhaustive list, some specific factors should be considered because they’re not always that easy to spot.


What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement includes many aspects of the workforce and is concerned with how engaged and motivated your people are and whether they are working to their full potential. In addition, the engagement of your people depends on how connected they are to their work and employer and how satisfied they are with their employee experience.

According to Gallup, employee engagement ‘Describes a psychological commitment to one's work, team and organisation. It's a mental state that fluctuates all the time, influenced by workplace relationships and events. Engaged employees are mentally in the zone, ready for action.


Why is Employee Engagement Important?

It may be an impossible task to ensure every employee is fully engaged. However, if you can build an engaged workforce, they will not only thrive but also create a culture of high engagement and motivation, increased commitment and potentially reduced turnover, enhanced productivity and hopefully a happy workplace. Surely that’s enough to convince you to focus on engaging your people?


How Do You Know If Employees Are Engaged?

On a surface level, it may be possible to feel engagement in the workplace culture and energy. However, you need to dig deeper to understand whether your people are committed and engaged in your organisation. 

Perhaps an easier way to conduct a quick review is to identify disengaged employees. Disengaged employees may show their lack of engagement through poor performance or regular absence, or physical signs like looking fed up, not interacting with colleagues or management, or being moody or unhelpful.


How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?

While the above examples of how to potentially spot a engaged or disengaged employee may be helpful for extreme cases, as mentioned, it's a surface-level way to assess engagement. You need to question them and gain honest feedback to find out how all your people are feeling.

This can be done through anonymous or non-anonymous employee satisfaction surveys, which allow you to understand how engaged your people are and where you could make improvements within the organisation. Furthermore, you could run pulse surveys, focus groups or one-to-ones to gain additional information about organisational engagement.


First Things First

However, surveys and focus groups take time and organisation, and results will not be immediate. So, if you want to know what engagement looks like in reality and the traits engaged employers will show, you can recognise some quickly, and some may take a bit more consideration.

There are many different theories and employee engagement models, but we've put together the characteristics that we deem most important when assessing and analysing employee engagement. An engaged employee will:

  • Go the extra mile – not all engaged employees will go the extra mile, but if someone consistently puts in the extra effort, it probably means they care. And if they care, the chances are they’re engaged in doing their best.
  • Perform at their best ALL the time – engaged employees are likely to be engaged constantly rather than at intermittent periods during their working week. So, for example, they will perform at their best regardless of where they’re working or who they’re working with (i.e. not ramping up performance when they are with their manager or staying late to look good).
  • Feel like they have a purpose – there’s no golden rule for creating purpose for individuals, but organisations can link individual and team goals to organisational goals to show how they can contribute to the greater good of the organisation. In addition, continuous recognition, feedback and development can confirm purpose and reiterate what employees are doing well and where they can impact the organisation.
  • Give their input and opinions – if someone is engaged, they may offer ways of doing things or tasks differently as they care and want to make a difference. However, unfortunately, disengaged individuals are likely to put up with the status quo rather than giving their input as, potentially, they don’t care enough.

But if employee feedback or opinions aren’t listened to, then disengagement could set in. One study found that those who feel heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel confident and motivated to perform at their best.

  • Be resilient – an engaged individual who trusts their employer and feels secure in their role is likely to be more resilient at work than a disengaged individual. Not only do engaged employees cope better with setbacks, but they can cope with change and setbacks with optimism rather than discouragement.
  • Motivate the team – if someone is engaged, then it’s likely that their enthusiasm and motivation will be contagious, and they’ll want to share it. For example, it might be that they offer to help others in the team with tasks, perk the team up during difficult times or suggest ways to motivate their colleagues. Whatever they do for the team, it’s probably positive for teammates.
  • Speak positively about the organisation – ultimately, everyone will have good and not-so-good days, but engaged employees are more likely to speak positively about their employer, work or manager because, essentially, they are satisfied.
  • Volunteer – if employees are engaged, they may pursue opportunities more than their disengaged peers. It may be in the form of learning and development opportunities, extra projects, or other ways to develop and grow themselves and contribute to the organisation. So not only are they challenging themselves, but they are contributing to the broader company.
  • Develop themselves – employees who enjoy their work and are committed to their organisation may seek learning opportunities to develop themselves and contribute more. For example, one study found that those organisations that did not have employees engaged in learning were twice as likely to have employee turnover before three years.
  • Look forward to work – those engaged individuals who want to get to work, do their best and contribute to organisational goals demonstrate their commitment.
  • Be adaptable to change – change is impossible to avoid in an organisation, and change will always occur, whether big or small, regular or sporadic. However, engaged employees may be better at adapting because they believe and trust in their employer.
  • Work autonomously – no one wants to be micro-managed; autonomy can go a long way. Managers who give their people some sense of autonomy build trust, proactivity and ownership. Such traits go a long way in building engagement. But managers need to strike the right balance of giving some autonomy but not so much that individuals feel isolated, unsupported or without feedback.
  • Be self-aware of their performance – if employees receive regular feedback from their manager about their performance and development, they probably know how well they are performing and contributing to the organisation at any given time. Therefore, if someone feels knowledgeable about their performance and place in the team or organisation, they are likely to be more in control, motivated and feel a greater sense of security. 

Almost 90% of HR leaders believe ongoing feedback and check-ins are crucial for success. Ideally, this will lead to higher productivity, trust and engagement.

  • Have a work-life balance – if someone is working all hours and never feels like they are ‘off’ from their work or away from their workplace, they may not feel engaged. Similarly, those who don’t have enough work or aren’t stretched may also not be engaged. Therefore, engaged employees are likely to have a balance that suits them and is sustainable and just the right level of challenging.

To achieve employee engagement, you must meet each person’s basic needs to build commitment and trust. Although it’s a significant challenge to engage every person in a large organisation, it is helpful to understand the characteristics of engaged employees and strive to build these in everyone. Clearly, not all engaged employees will possess every characteristic, but they serve as guidance. And that’s why you need ongoing employee feedback because engagement (or often disengagement) isn’t always obvious, so you need to dig deeper and identify engagement issues before they spiral into resignation.


Sorwe can help you to assess employee engagement levels using 360° feedback or collecting feedback via surveys. We eliminate the administrative burden of feedback, allowing everyone to concentrate on improvement.

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