Today’s HR leaders are increasingly focused on improving employee engagement – recognising that a happier, more motivated and productive workforce will have a direct and positive impact on the bottom line.

However, whilst employee engagement can be led by HR, any initiatives will also need to be understood and implemented across all areas of the business if they are to have the desired effect. So, what is ‘employee engagement’ and how does it fit in with your overall business strategy?


A joint report by the CIPD and Kingston Business School – ‘Creating an Engaged Workforce’ – defined employee engagement as “being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to other”. The report also identified 3 dimensions of employee engagement:


So based on the above definition, how successful are UK organisations when it comes to ensuring employee engagement? The CIPD’s research over the last few years indicates that the level has remained fairly stable, with 35- 39% of employees indicating ‘positive engagement’. Digging deeper, the research found that levels of Affective Engagement were highest, followed by Intellectual Engagement, with Social Engagement the lowest. Other key insights from the report were as follows:


The kind of insight provided through these statistics can prove invaluable to HR leaders that need to know where to focus their attention – identifying areas of both risk and opportunity. Increasingly though, organisations are recognising that the traditional annual survey is an ineffective means of gaining this kind of employee insight, with the lack of immediacy and personal contact resulting in a huge drop-out rate and consequently, incomplete and inaccurate data for analysis. The world we all live and work in has changed dramatically over the last 5 years, with social media in particular meaning that we’re used to providing instant feedback and sharing our thoughts and opinions 24×7. This becomes particularly important as the next generation of ‘millennials’ enter the workplace, bringing different expectations and preferred ways of working with them.


Millennials are used to transparency and ‘always-on’ engagement, so a new approach is needed to gain their full attention and give them a sense of ownership in driving the business forward. ‘Continuous Listening’ is an approach that represents an evolution in the way that organisations engage, motivate and retain their workforce – taking employee views and ideas into account on an ongoing basis and in a way that can influence and steer business strategy, as opposed to only seeking employee input on a periodic basis. This does however require that managers can gain on-demand access to performance and engagement data – enabling them to answer questions as they arise and to make real-time adjustments and decisions that will improve results and drive innovation.


Increasingly, organisations will need the capability for real-time feedback and data analytics that can enable proactive management of employee performance, attrition and engagement. The most effective systems will also enable predictive analytics – helping HR leaders and line of business managers to stay one step ahead, rather than simply reacting to problems and opportunities as they arise.

Continuous listening, artificial intelligence and machine learning can all help to deliver personalised insights that take more relevant data sources and current opinions into account than would be possible with a manual approach. But at what cost?

HR is one of the few areas of a business that engages with every individual, which is why bringing technology into HR can have such a dramatic impact on the productivity and profitability of the whole organisation. Cloud is a key enabler – making it possible and affordable for businesses of any size to access the same level of systems and analytics.


Whilst the advice and guidance from organisations such as the CIPD is extremely valuable, it’s also important to look beyond ‘best practice’ to discover what actually works for your organisation.