What Does 'Engaged At Work' Really Look Like?

July 21, 2023

Employee Engagement


‘Engagement’ is a decades-old HR buzzword. Regardless of its longevity, however, the term remains somewhat nebulous, leaving some organizations unsure of what Grade A employee engagement looks like or how to make it happen.

When you think about it, though, there is freedom in the lack of standards or prescribed strategies for engagement. It allows every workplace culture to shape its own definition, as well as blaze a new trail for achieving an engaged workforce. That said, two-way communication between employers and employees is crucial no matter the path an organization takes. It’s key to ensuring that the flexibility around engagement strategy is a positive force for continuous improvement, rather than an excuse to neglect progress.

Employers must be crystal clear with team members about the organization’s intention to cultivate an environment that is supportive, inspiring and balanced. Importantly, employers must also be open to feedback from employees as to what they need to feel supported, inspired and balanced.

Here are four ways to activate two-way communication for a supremely engaged workforce.

  1. Measure, measure and measure again. Assess annually, or more frequently if necessary, how team members feel about coming to work each day, if they feel a sense of purpose in their jobs and how they are developing professionally. Scrutinize the findings to ascertain where you’re making progress and where you’re falling short. Follow up on quantitative results with qualitative research to get better context on survey outcomes.
  2. Set mutually beneficial goals. Most companies are great about setting 5-year strategic plans. Many are also good about encouraging employees to do the same for themselves as individuals. Fewer are adept at drawing connections between professional development and the organization’s vision. During evaluations, help team members see how investing in themselves as individuals strengthens the business as a whole.
  3. Hammer home the vision. Even with mantras, missions and milestones scrolled on breakroom walls and Zoom backdrops, it’s easy for these statements to become white-noise platitudes. Find concrete ways to continuously reiterate the company’s purpose and your employees’ role in it. Celebrate even the smallest of wins by showing how they are reflective of the organization’s purpose, vision and values.
  4. Leverage laughter. All people can use a dose of hilarity in their professional lives. Find ways to incorporate fun and laughter into the workday. At the bank, we are lucky enough to have a CEO willing to let down his hair (so to speak) and engage employees with ludicrous or goofy commentary on news of the day. Delivered weekly via a short video, the lighthearted moments continue to solicit great feedback from our team.

As Simon Sinek famously said, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” No doubt your organization is lovable. Lean into that lovableness. Get intentional about two-way communication that reminds your team why they spend their days the way they do. Stick with it, be creative, get silly, and you’re sure to make that Grade A employee engagement happen.

Kate Wolfe serves as the chief administration officer and chief human resources officer for Bank Iowa. With more than $1.9 billion in assets, Bank Iowa ranks as one of the leading independent ag banks and the second-largest family-owned bank in the state. Farmers, families and businesses access Bank Iowa’s products and services through 26 locations in 23 communities, as well as online and on mobile devices. To learn more, visit bankiowa.bank. Member FDIC.