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The Art of Employee Engagement: Strategies that Work

Learn about the true nature and benefits of employee engagement, as well as actionable strategies to put to work today.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Nov 6, 2023
Table of contents

Employee engagement isn’t as simple as offering your team a few perks.

It means providing the right work culture, a sense of fulfillment, and an environment that makes your team want to do their jobs well.

And doing that requires a multi-layered strategy developed by a knowledgeable manager.

Ultimately, engaging employees in a meaningful way isn’t easy.

That’s why we’ve broken down the benefits, strategies, and metrics you need to be successful. Read on to learn employee engagement strategies that will help you turn your efforts into results.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is more than just showing up and going through the motions. It’s the heartfelt commitment and passion an employee brings to their position at work.

Engagement is not about punching the clock but feeling connected to the job.

Engagement involves an employee’s relationship with:

  • Their specific role
  • Their colleagues
  • The company itself

Employees can range from being actively engaged to completely disengaged.

Employee engagement vs. satisfaction

Employee satisfaction means a team member is content with current conditions, such as their pay and job environment.

Employee engagement goes deeper. It’s a long-term commitment and enthusiasm for the job.

Team works together at desk

‎An employee might be satisfied with their current situation but not necessarily feel engaged. Engagement includes an emotional investment in the role and the organization as a whole.

Engagement is about the passion and devotion that drives an employee to give their all — day in and day out.

Employee engagement vs. motivation

Motivation can also be confused with engagement.

Employee motivation refers to the specific reasons or drives behind an employee’s actions.

Engagement, on the other hand, enriches this motivation with a sense of belonging and a deep emotional connection.

Once again, it’s the employee’s genuine relationship with their role that makes the difference.

Powerful benefits of an engaged workforce

An engaged workforce brings about transformative changes. Let’s delve into some of the most compelling advantages.

Increased productivity

When an employee is genuinely engaged, they’re not just working — they’re thriving.

These employees often outperform their disengaged counterparts, resulting in higher output.

According to Gallup, “Simply put, engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do — across industries, company sizes and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.”

Gallup found an 81% decrease in absenteeism and a 14% boost in productivity in highly engaged teams.

And this makes sense. When employees care deeply, they’re willing to go the extra mile when completing their tasks.

Boosted innovation

Engaged employees often feel a sense of ownership and belonging. This makes them more willing to share their insights and actively contribute to brainstorming sessions.

Engagement, then, requires creating an environment where good ideas are welcomed and, as a result, given a voice.

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‎Engaged teams are also more resilient to failure and willing to experiment. This type of company culture can lead to groundbreaking solutions.

Reduced turnover

The cost of employee turnover isn’t just financial.

Yes, recruiting and training carry hefty price tags. But there are more subtle losses that can have even more damaging impacts.

Turnover harms:

  • Institutional knowledge
  • Team cohesion
  • Established relationships

But engagement keeps team members committed and around longer.

The Gallup report mentioned above found highly engaged teams experience anywhere from 18% to a whopping 43% difference in turnover.

Employee engagement strategies: What really works

The most effective engagement strategies are rooted in understanding the following factors:

  • What motivates employees
  • The role of leadership
  • The significance of culture

Here, we offer a list of strategies split into these three categories.

1. Intrinsic motivation: What drives employees

Everyone likes money. External rewards, like bonuses, can certainly boost morale temporarily. But they don’t often create long-term engagement.

It’s the intrinsic motivations — the internal desires — that truly drive engagement. Here are a few strategies to tap into them:

Take rewards to a new level

  • Rather than only using financial incentives, recognize effort and dedication in more personal ways.
  • Example: Those who excel could be given public recognition, more responsibility, or opportunities for leadership.

Align with personal values

  • Understand what your employees value. You can then create opportunities for them to work on projects that align with those values.
  • Example: Connect work to environmental initiatives, community outreach, or innovative tech solutions.

Offer growth and learning

  • People inherently desire growth. By catering to this need, you can help your employees feel invested in and valued.
  • Example: Offer your employees free courses, workshops, or even simple mentoring sessions.

2. Role of middle management: What leaders do

Middle managers are the bridge between your team’s leadership and the broader workforce. Their role in employee engagement can’t be understated.

Understand that middle managers are frontline influencers

  • Middle managers are the ones who interact daily with most of the staff. Not only do they create a supportive environment, but they also turn organizational goals into actionable tasks.
  • Example: After a company-wide announcement, a department head could start a team huddle to discuss how the change would play out in their department.

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‎Train and equip middle managers

  • Investing in your middle management will pay off. Equip them with the tools, training, and autonomy they need to support their teams effectively.
  • Example: Send a middle manager to a conflict resolution seminar to gain more tools for and insights into managing conflict.

Create feedback loops

  • Middle managers are also an important mouthpiece for the workforce on the ground. Construct mechanisms where middle managers can relay feedback to leaders and make informed decisions.
  • Example: A middle manager could send in a monthly report that includes their team’s suggestions and roadblocks.

3. Building a robust culture: What long-term looks like

While perks and benefits can be attractive, it’s the culture that retains and engages employees in the long haul. These strategies help with exactly that.

Think culture first

  • Rather than focusing solely on the physical perks of the job, emphasize the intangible aspects. That could be trust, transparency, or mutual respect. These things form the backbone of a robust organizational culture.
  • Example: Instead of micromanaging a team, place trust in your employees to make certain types of decisions.

Foster a sense of community

  • Team connections not only strengthen bonds but also create a sense of belonging. Team-building activities or platforms for sharing personal interests are great for bringing your staff together.
  • Example: The tech and marketing team could be brought together once a week for a joint brainstorming session.

Prioritize well-being

  • Well-being goes beyond standard health benefits. It’s about establishing a culture that embraces physical and mental health.
  • Example: Offer free gym memberships or biweekly meditation sessions to your staff.

Common myths about employee engagement

Many myths get in the way of managers achieving true engagement. We’ll dissect a few in this section.

Myth #1: Higher pay equals higher engagement

While it’s important to offer your employees competitive salaries, this won’t exclusively create engagement. Engagement often requires deeper emotional and intellectual connections.

A raise might spike the recipient’s short-term satisfaction, but it’s not enough to ensure long-term loyalty and enthusiasm.

For engagement that lasts, you’ll need to focus on the following:

  • Work environment
  • Growth opportunities
  • Team dynamics

Myth #2: Engagement is just an HR issue

Some think of engagement as a human resources problem, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

HR might conduct annual surveys to help measure engagement, but engagement efforts are up to the whole team.

It’s a shared responsibility that involves everybody in the organization, from leadership to individual team members.

Leaders and managers do set the tone for the company’s culture, however, so they definitely have a huge role in fostering an engaging environment.

Myth #3: All employees are motivated by the same things

Each employee carries their own set of aspirations, personal values, and motivators. This means generic, one-size-fits-all strategies aren’t likely to yield the desired results.

Engagement strategies should be tailored to each employee to be effective.

Myth #4: Only disengaged employees need attention

As with any relationship, the bond between employees and the company they work for needs continual maintenance.

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‎Assuming that currently engaged employees will always be so can lead to drops in engagement.

Furthermore, just because employees aren’t voicing any concerns doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Regular check-ins can help gauge your team’s pulse.

The art of measuring employee engagement

You must be able to measure and evaluate your progress to properly execute an employee engagement strategy. Here are some ways you can do this:

Distribute quantitative surveys

Annual surveys give you a comprehensive overview of where your staff is at. And pulse surveys act as quick health checks, which can help you disrupt the early stages of disengagement should you come across them.

These employee surveys can feed helpful metrics, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Employee Engagement Score. They’ll give you a sense of your employees’ current engagement level.

Keep in mind that while these numbers are valuable benchmarks, they can’t fully account for the complexity of your human staff.

Collect qualitative feedback

This feedback is about getting into your team’s intangible world.

Never underestimate the value of open-ended questions. They encourage employees to convey their true feelings and genuine concerns. Listening sessions and focus groups, too, elicit vital feedback in a group setting.

After you’ve collected this employee feedback, investigate it. Techniques like thematic analysis can help spot recurring themes and pain points.

These understandings will guide the next stages of intervention.

Use observational insights

Not everything can be measured. And not everything is said. But perceptive managers can pick up on early signs of trouble.

You should keep an eye on the following among your employees:

  • Body language
  • Level of participation
  • Casual interactions

These non-verbal clues, combined with employee feedback and data, will help to paint a fuller picture of what’s happening among your staff.

How are employee experience and employee engagement different?

These terms are often confused, so let’s clarify.

Employee experience encompasses the employee’s entire journey with the organization, from recruitment to exit.

Creating a positive employee experience

Employee engagement is the emotional connection and commitment the employee establishes during that journey.

Employee experience and employee engagement are both very important. It’s something of a “chicken or egg” question as to which creates the other. In truth, these two components feed each other. An improvement in one will have a positive impact on the other.

It’s important to invest in both to ensure your organization’s overall health.

Real-world success stories: Companies getting it right

When it comes to mastering the art of employee engagement, some companies have already led the way. Let’s explore three examples.


Salesforce often tops “Best Places to Work” lists.

That’s because they’ve cultivated a culture rooted in:

  • Transparency
  • Innovation
  • Inclusivity

Salesforce’s “Ohana” (or “family”) philosophy emphasizes the interconnectedness of all employees, partners, and customers.

This company demonstrates what it means to be engaged, with platforms like Trailhead to improve employees’ knowledge and the Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, Measures (V2MOM) model that helps align everyone’s goals.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest isn’t your typical airline. They’re a testament to the power of employee camaraderie and customer-first thinking.

By treating their employees like family — such as offering them stock options and maintaining a fun, spirited environment — they create a positive, engaged work culture.


HubSpot stands out for its dedication to creating a culture that prioritizes flexibility and personal development. Central to this is their “Culture Code,” a widely shared document that’s garnered millions of views and serves as a manifesto for their company values.

The three key principles in this code are as follows:

  • Autonomy
  • Transparency
  • Revolutionizing work

HubSpot also deeply values feedback. For example, they’ve established a “no-door” policy, which signifies that there are no barriers to communication within the company.

Engage your team with Motion

While employee engagement might seem intangible and hard to grasp, it’s a profound component of any organization.

That’s why you need the best tools to get you there.

Motion is an advanced calendar app that can boost productivity by 137% and support better work-life balance. Our AI-powered software ensures your staff focuses on the tasks that truly matter and helps you get an extra month each year. Try Motion for free and see for yourself!

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Written by Motion Blog