The Anatomy of Employee Engagement: How Your HCMS Keeps Workers Happy and Productive

Employees in team meetingEmployee engagement: everybody wants it, but nobody really knows how to define it. Can we boil engagement down to a list of performance metrics? Are high performing employees always engaged?

No, we can’t and no, they’re not.

There’s more to engagement than measuring employee contributions. Every HR manager knows that productive employees aren't always happy employees. And sometimes your best employees jump ship for another employer.  

So how exactly can we define employee engagement? And more importantly, how can we put it into practice to keep employees both happy and productive?

What Employee Engagement Looks Like

BlessingWhite has put together a good definition, presented in their X model of employee engagement:


According to BlessingWhite, engagement happens when maximum contribution to the organization intersects with maximum satisfaction for the employee. It’s a good explanation for why high contributors might look for work elsewhere and why satisfied employees might not contribute much.

Here’s what the X model of engagement looks like:

X Model of Employee Engagement

The goal, of course, is to bring your employees into the top section of the model, where high satisfaction intersects with maximum contribution, producing a fully engaged employee. But the other three categories are present in every workplace as well.

There’s also a fifth category: the “almost” engaged. These employees hang out in the middle of the X. They’re not fully engaged, but they’re reasonably happy and doing a decent job in their role. Most companies overlook this category, focusing their efforts on the employees who are either not happy or not contributing—or both. Ignoring the almost engaged would be a mistake, however. Without an intentional engagement strategy, they will easily become less satisfied or less productive.

So what can you do to promote engagement across the board?

How to Foster a Culture of Engagement

According to BlessingWhite, engagement has to be more than a company initiative or an annual theme. It needs to infuse your culture. To make that happen, everyone has to be involved, from your top executives down to the intern you hired last week.

Here’s how you can encourage every employee to contribute to a culture of engagement:

  • Executives—As leaders within the company, executives model engagement for direct reports and others in the organization by emphasizing authenticity, communication, and enthusiasm for organizational goals. They can also set the tone by highlighting the significance of various roles for organizational success and helping employees find meaning in the work they do.
  • Managers—Managers work on the front lines as coaches for their teams. Managers should help team members align their priorities with those of the company and make it a point to recognize both effort and achievement.
  • Individuals—Individuals (including managers and executives) should regularly assess their own individual goals and achievements as well as those of the organization. What does success look like for each person? How does that align with company strategy? 

These are all lofty goals, but how do you implement them in practice? That’s where your HR tech comes in.

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of Employee Engagement With Your HCMS

Used strategically, HR tech should help you foster communication and development in your workforce. Here are a few ways to do that: 

  • Performance Assessments—Reevaluate your performance review strategy and use your HCMS tools to create frequent, actionable assessments. Customize assessments to reflect company values and keep communication lines open.
  • OnboardingOnboarding helps move new employees out of the “Happy, Not Contributing” category into the “Fully Engaged” category. Online training modules, team introductions, and an intentional process can all be managed with your HCMS portal for more effective onboarding results.
  • Communication—Some HCMS platforms include social tools like forums or messaging tools that keep communication lines open. You can create groups for specific teams, departments, or the organization as a whole so employees can bounce ideas off team members or wish the new guy a happy birthday.
  • Mobile AppsMobile applications give employees access to necessary information when they’re working off site or checking in from home. Alerts and reminders keep everyone up to date on next actions, and managers can keep tabs on performance assessments easily on the go.
  • AnalyticsAnalytics are still important, even if they don’t show they whole picture of employee engagement. Performance, retention, turnover, and other engagement metrics can show you whether your engagement efforts have successfully kept employees in tune with company objectives. They can also show which employees may be most likely to start looking for a new employer.

Technology isn’t a one-and-done solution for an engagement problem. In fact, there is no such thing. As BlessingWhite points out, engagement has to be a priority every single day. It takes intentional effort on the part of company leaders to foster a true culture of engagement.

But your HCMS can give you the tools you need to put your plans into action. And with the advancements being made in today’s technology, every company can take the next step toward a more engaged workforce.

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