Executive Development Blog

Identifying, Measuring, and Improving Employee Engagement

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Sep 25, 2014 11:39:00 AM


The following is a summary on a white paper Pat Cataldo wrote.

Measure and Improve Employee Engagement

Filmmaker, comedian and well-known neurotic Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Pat Cataldo, managing director at UNC Executive Development, notes that while this may have been true thirty years ago, today it no longer applies. “In our internationally competitive business environment, employers need dedicated employees fully committed to the success of their organizations,” says Cataldo.


As the economy recovers, employees will begin to look for new opportunities that could result in the loss of your organization’s most valued talent.  Therefore, if improving employee engagement has not been on your organization’s radar screen, it should be.

Get the Pulse on Employee Engagement Levels

How can senior leaders assess the level of employee engagement in their organizations? Just ask.

For smaller workplaces, one-on-one meetings with employees may be the easiest, most effective method to assess employee engagement. For medium and larger workplaces, one-on-one meetings may be supplemented with town hall meetings, focus groups and surveys. In all cases, it is important that employees are asked the same questions. This allows for better analysis of the feedback, which leads to more targeted action steps.  Gathering feedback should not end here, however. There is a strong link between good leadership and employee engagement.  Research confirms that employee engagement starts at the top, so it is also important to gauge the engagement levels of CEOs and senior leaders.

Action Steps to Improve Employee Engagement

There is nothing more damaging to morale than asking employees for their thoughts and opinions on engagement levels and then failing to take any action based on their input. It is vital that employees understand that steps are being taken to improve employee engagement as a result of their feedback.

Step 1: Know What Drives Employee Engagement

Knowing what drives employee engagement will help you plan those action steps. Researchers at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) recently identified several components of what drives employee engagement:

  • Involvement in decision making

  • The extent to which employees feel able to voice their ideas, and managers listen to those views and value employees’ contributions

  • The opportunities employees have to develop their jobs

  • The extent to which the organization is concerned for employees’ health and well-being

In all cases, two-way communication and strong leadership play vital roles in keeping employees engaged.

Step 2: Get Senior Leader Buy-In

Senior leader buy-in is critical for employee engagement initiatives to succeed. Good leaders create a culture of engagement, keep employee trust, and help increase productivity, employee satisfaction and retention.

Step 3: Communicate with Employees

A hallmark of organizations with strong employee engagement is communication. Let employees know the steps that have been taken to assess employee engagement and the plans for moving forward to improve employee engagement. Communication can take many forms, such as town hall meetings, articles in employee newsletters and on employee intranets or e-mail.

Step 4: Act on the Results

Organizations will differ in what they need to do to improve employee engagement, and action steps should be tailored to the needs identified through employee feedback. In some cases, for example, feedback may reveal that employees don’t understand the organization’s mission and vision. If this is the case, a series of meetings can be arranged where the organization’s mission, vision and strategic plan are discussed and a link made to how employees’ work contributes to the organization’s success.

Action steps to improve employee engagement do not need to be costly or time-consuming. A McKinsey Quarterly survey revealed three effective non-cash awards that can work for small and large organizations:

  • Praise from immediate supervisors

  • Attention from leaders (e.g., one-on-meetings or attention from the top)

  • Opportunity to lead projects or task forces

The time is now to do more about helping employees achieve their maximum level of potential and satisfaction. Assessing and improving employee engagement to re-energize and re-engage workers can be the first step in this retention process to ensure the best and brightest continue to attain both personal and professional success with the organization.

To learn more about UNC Executive Development, its open enrollment programs that help executives in identifying employee development, and its customized programs that help organizations answer their business challenges, please visit our website.  We look forward to assisting you with your talent management needs.

Click to Download Full White Paper

Topics: employee engagement, actively disengaged, learning and development