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Don’t make your employees happy: Engage them.

July 15, 2020

Written by Levent Dokuyucu.

The question is, do engaged employees contribute to the overall business performance? And if yes, what makes people not only happy but truly engaged? In this article, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic, backed by some recent research. First, let’s sort out what we talk about when we talk about “engagement”.   

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the company and its strategic goals. However, there are some slight but crucial differences:

  • Engaged employees are unlike satisfied employees. A satisfied employee may be one who is doing the bare minimum. Their needs are satisfied, and they stay in the job, but without any extra effort.
  • Engaged employees are unlike happy employees. If you make your employees happy, you meet their needs, and they (most likely) feel better than satisfied employees. However, they may still not be fully engaged. If satisfied employees get a better opportunity, they may still leave your business.

In other words, to be truly engaged, employees must exhibit an emotional connection to the company and its leadership. They need to be proud of what they do. 

We can see 3 types of employees in organisations:

  • Engaged Employees. These are employees who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company and its goals. They work hard, think positive, and put in their maximum efforts. They outperform in their work being prepared to ‘go the extra mile’.  
  • Not Engaged. These employees are essentially “checked out.” They are just going through the motions putting in the time, but not with the passionate energy that would be required for projects to succeed. They will probably stay in the job, but if they find a better option: They leave.
  • Actively Disengaged. These employees are not just unhappy or dissatisfied at work, but they are actively displaying their unhappiness at work. They intentionally (and unintentionally) undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish. They have a negative effect on the company. They are the riskiest group of employees companies can have.

Every company has a percentage of each of these types of employees. However, the most successful companies have a disproportionate number of engaged employees.

Gallup Engagement Study (May 2020)

Gallup found that the percentage of "the engaged" in the U.S. - those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace - reached 38% (May 2020). This is the highest score Gallup recorded since starting to track the metric in 2000. 

In contrast, the percentage of workers who are “actively disengaged”; those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues reached 13 %.

The remaining 49% of workers are “not engaged”, they are psychologically unattached to their work and company. These employees put in the time, but no extra energy or passion. This type of employee typically shows up to work, contributes the effort required, but not more. They’re also on the lookout for better employment opportunities and will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.

Why should you care? Clearly, team members with higher levels of engagement are more likely to remain with their organisation. But there is more. Research shows that engaged employees directly effect business success. Here are some employee engagement statistics that may convince you: 

  • Companies with engaged employees had 89% greater customer satisfaction and 50% higher customer loyalty than their disengaged counterparts (Hay Group).
  • Organisations with higher than average employee engagement have been known to exceed the financial performance of their peers by 73% (University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School).
  • The average company’s biggest productivity losses are often caused by less than 20% of employees who are “disengaged” or “extremely disengaged” (Hay Group).
  • An employee who feels engaged and inspired is 125% more productive than the satisfied staffer (Bain & Company).

So, there is every reason to care about your employees' engagement. Not only to grow and keep talent in your organisation, but also because high engagement rates will positively and directly influence your business success.

Don’t make your employees happy. It is not enough.
Make sure they are engaged!


Want to know more about how to increase employee engagement? Read further: Show me that you truly care: Increasing Employee Engagement in Times of Crisis.


Levent Dokuyucu is a Human Resource Professional. He led Employee Engagement and Employee Experiences programs  throughout his career and ranked his organisation on the top position regarding employee engagement in the Middle East and achieved ‘Outstanding Employer MENA Award’ resulting in winning 20+ International HR Awards in the last  6 years.

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