Have you ever been out on a date or hung out with a casual friend who you can tell just doesn’t really want to be there? One-word answers, staring at their phone the whole time…it’s clear they’re not interested or engaged in whatever you’re saying.
Sometimes, this can happen in your workplace, too. It’s natural for some employees to prefer their own space. But negative factors like burnout and breakdowns in team dynamics can drive additional team members to withdraw and disengage from meetings, messages, and even their assigned job responsibilities. That’s why employee engagement is an important sign of a healthy culture and work environment — it means team members are enthusiastic about their jobs and working together.
But what does employee engagement look like? How can you tell the difference between a productive or self-motivated worker, and someone who’s genuinely engaged with your workplace? Here are some signs you can look for to gauge the health of your employee engagement levels.
- They Actively Participate in Team Activities or Events
When employees are engaged, they readily attend and participate in company-sponsored events and outings. Instead of acting disconnected from the team or company, they're excited to join in and have fun. They usually jump at the opportunity to collaborate and connect with their colleagues — whether it’s through a virtual happy hour or a company-wide meeting.
In fact, these optional events are typically a great gauge of employee engagement because team members aren't required to be there. They attend simply because they enjoy spending time with their colleagues and want to be involved.
Remember, though, that involvement looks different for everyone and doesn't signify a lack of engagement. Employees who are more introverted might prefer to help set up events or to connect through one-on-one informal chats. Those with busy evening schedules might skip out on happy hours, but attend lunches, volunteer outings, or virtual events during work hours.
- They're Willing to Learn New Skills
Employees who are engaged in their jobs actively seek out ways to improve and strengthen their skills. They’re rarely satisfied with the status quo, wanting to learn more about their field, industry trends, and how they can apply that knowledge at work.
In fact, boredom and monotony is a leading driver of disengaged employees, with 80% of workers agreeing that learning new skills would make them more engaged, according to a study by Udemy. And employees recognize this connection: 61% of the Udemy respondents said that they invest in their professional development because it helps keep them engaged at work.
These employees typically enjoy studying new topics or taking classes related to their role — whether that’s taking an online coding course for a developer or attending a professional seminar for sales reps. They might also look for mentors who can provide valuable feedback and advice, so they can become more knowledgeable in their roles.
- They Get Involved During Onboarding
Engaged employees understand the importance of onboarding and training, so they actively seek out opportunities to build their skills and experience. They want to soak in as much knowledge as they can and build a strong foundation for success during their tenure with their company — and that often means engaging with your training materials, learning modules, onboarding sessions, and anything else you lay out for their first 90 days.
Keep in mind that the way you structure and approach onboarding can also impact employee involvement and participation — it's a two-way street. Organizations with effective onboarding practices report 33% higher rates of employee engagement, according to BambooHR.
You might notice a new hire reaching out for extra feedback or resources, even if it’s not required. The questions an employee asks during their 90-day review with your HR team can also help you understand their level of engagement and confidence in their job responsibilities.
- They Receive Recognition and Feedback
Recognition and constructive feedback can provide employees with a greater sense of motivation and purpose in their roles. They’re more likely to understand how their work affects the team or organization as a whole, and they know that the company appreciates their efforts.
Without any feedback, it's easy to feel like your work lacks meaning or understand how it connects to broader team or company goals. In fact, four out of 10 employees who don't regularly receive feedback say that they're actively disengaged from their jobs. While you can't always control when managers give out feedback or praise, you might notice that engaged employees take the extra initiative to seek it out and apply what teammates or managers think about their work.
- They Take Ownership of Their Assigned Tasks
Engaged team members don’t just take on the tasks assigned to them — they take ownership of their projects, because they care about the results. Their job and their place within your company means something to them, and they want to do the best job possible to get results.
You might see these employees regularly suggesting new ideas to make processes more efficient, brainstorming innovative solutions to a problem, and offering help to other team members who are assisting on the project. These employees are clearly driven by the team's success and will work to make sure that everyone is on the same page and moving forward.
- They Ask Questions to Gain Clarity
Engaged employees try to understand the “bigger picture” of their role and how it affects other departments or teams. They don’t just focus on completing a single task, but ask questions to gain more clarity and knowledge about the project as a whole.
Questions can range from why certain tasks are performed in a certain way to how their work contributes to larger company objectives. This type of curiosity and desire to learn more indicates that they’re interested in their job, as well as the organization and its goals.
And when they are working on their own projects or tasks, they don't just put their heads or act indifferent about results. They come to meetings with questions and follow up with team members if there are any unclear instructions or assignments.
- They Take Initiative on Projects
Employees who are passionate about their roles don’t just wait for instructions — they take on and complete tasks without being asked. Two key elements of employee engagement, according to Harvard Business Review, are when workers "feel energized at work" and "feel committed to an organization." They're likely to find their work personally fulfilling and take some joy and purpose from their projects.
It's not just to "get ahead" or "impress the boss" — they take initiative because they believe in their team’s mission, and are proud of their own accomplishments. Ultimately, moving projects forward is what helps boost their job satisfaction. They understand the importance of their work, so they make sure it gets done (and with minimal oversight).
Improve Employee Engagement Through Wellness Programs
Whether you already have a cohort of highly engaged employees or you’re looking to boost engagement for your team, wellbeing initiatives can help you boost engagement. Wellness benefits are helpful for building deeper connections with your team, showing them you care about their health. They also provide team members with a fun outlet for fitness, mindfulness, and other wellness activities inside and outside of work.
In fact, organizations that leverage the right wellbeing strategies are 3.2 times more likely to engage and retain their employees, according to The Josh Bersin Company. Wellness programs are a proven employee engagement strategy, and they can be tailored right to your own workforce’s needs.
You can put on employee fitness challenges, corporate volunteering initiatives, or sponsor a wellness day event to build up team spirit while encouraging employees to look after all aspects of their health. Or you can offer access to wellness classes and coaches so that team members feel valued, refreshed, and ready to go once they’re back at work.
Learn more about how to boost employee engagement and happiness through wellness initiatives by speaking to a Gympass wellbeing specialist!
- Battling Boredom Blues: How to Engage Today’s Workers. (2016.) Udemy. Retrieved May 15, 2023 from https://info.udemy.com/rs/273-CKQ-053/images/2016_Udemy_Workplace_Boredom_Study.pdf
- The Healthy Organization: The Definitive Guide to Wellbeing. (2021.) The Josh Bersin Company. Retrieved May 15, 2023 from https://joshbersin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/HW-21_10-DefGuide-The-Healthy-Organization-Defintive-Guide-.pdf
- The Incredible Impact of Effective Onboarding [Infographic]. (May 3, 2018.) BambooHR. Retrieved May 15, 2023 from https://www.bamboohr.com/blog/effective-onboarding-infographic
- Mazur, Caitlin. (February 1, 2023.) 20 Essential Employee Feedback Statistics Want More Than Just Performance Reviews. Zippia. Retrieved May 15, 2023 from https://www.zippia.com/advice/employee-feedback-statistics/
- Stein, Daniel, Hobson, Nick, Jachimowicz, Jon M., and Ashley Whillans. (October 13, 2021.) How Companies Can Improve Employee Engagement Right Now. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 15, 2023 from https://hbr.org/2021/10/how-companies-can-improve-employee-engagement-right-now
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.