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Growth · 1 June '20

The Wagestream No-Nonsense Guide to Employee Engagement

We all know how important employee engagement is to the sustainability of the workplace, but it can often get lost somewhere in between what genuinely works and what looks like it does.

With this guide we want to cut through the relatively noisy world of employee engagement and provide you with some actionable and measurable initiatives that can help you think about engagement in the right way and that motivate the whole business to get involved.

The aims of this guide:

  • To help you to understand employee engagement and how to give it business focus
  • To provide you with key, actionable solutions to increase employee engagement
  • To make employee engagement genuinely measurable

What is employee engagement?

Many of us might know what an engaged employee looks like but may find it hard to put our finger on exactly what’s made them that way or what qualities they possess.

We looked at several different definitions from across the board we’ve found that there’s one key theme that seems to run through all of them – emotion. Almost all definitions talk about an emotional connection or commitment between an employee and their organisation.

Which employer wouldn’t want to have that kind of engagement from their employees?

The question is, how do you successfully create this sort of connection? Often, engagement in this way can vary significantly from person to person and an overall emotional connection can be a result of many individual factors.

Why should you invest in engagement as a business?

It’s simple really, if you care about the success of your business then you should invest in the engagement of your staff. A lot of the most successful initiatives are cascaded from the top down, so here’s three ways to get all involved.


According to an Oxford Economics report, the average cost in the UK for replacing a member of staff is at around £30,000. This may sound like a high figure, but when you factor in cost of recruitment, onboarding and time it takes for a new employee to get up to full working capacity, it feels a lot more reasonable.

With the average turnover rate at 10% for the UK, any efforts made to reduce this could have significant cost savings.


Productivity in the UK fell at its fastest annual pace in five years in the April-to-June quarter of 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is a trend that doesn’t seem to be halting anytime soon, but by engaging your staff more effectively you can start to try and increase productivity.


Recruitment can often be a tricky and unusual process. Getting the best talent that will contribute to your business is one of the most crucial elements to workplace sustainability. By growing your employee value proposition and demonstrating that you’ve got an engaged, happy workforce you’re going to be better able to pick and choose from the talent you want.

Key, actionable solutions to increase employee engagement 

Employee engagement starts with employees

If you want your employee engagement strategy to really work you need to listen to what your employees want and put employee wellbeing first. It can be hard to understand whether your strategy is working, but if you start by asking your employees what they actually want and would use then you’re off to the right start. It’s also a great way to get your baseline so that you can make any initiative truly measurable.

5 steps to creating an employee engagement survey that adds value 

  1. Get leadership buy-in – the best engagement with the survey itself will come from endorsement from the entire business. Get the strongest results by communicating from the top down.
  2. Set objectives – what do you want to learn from this? In this case it might be quite clear what you want to achieve.
  3. KISS – don’t worry, this is actually just a great guiding principle for designing a survey effectively – keep it simple, stupid. An overly complicated survey is just going to lose people. Keep it short, let there be no reason for staff to not complete it.
  4. Share the results – make sure all those involved internally understand the results of the survey and that they need to keep it at the forefront of their minds.
  5. Take action – this is the key here, get the results and take action on what you find. This is the best way to build an engagement strategy that will actually work.

Don’t try and create an emotional connection the cheesy way

So often, employee engagement tactics can start with the greatest intentions but miss the mark completely. A manufacturer in the US decided to implement a smile jar system in the workplace to encourage happier people. Employees were encouraged to put a dollar in the jar every time they were caught not smiling. Needless to say, it did not have the desired effect.

Instead, think about a product or service that you use in your life that’s genuinely made your life easier. You probably feel pretty good about that product and the company that makes it. The same goes for engaging employee benefits.

By providing employees with a simple, practical solution that can help improve their lives they’re going to start feeling the same way about you, the employer, who provides it for them. Therefore a practical tool that has the power to impact an employees life is the best way to create an emotional connection.

Make sure it’s applicable and available to everyone

It’s simple maths really, the more people in your organisation that can utilise the benefits you implement, the more you’re going to get out of them. A cycle to work scheme is worth having, however it’s only applicable to a small set of staff that are in cycling distance of the office. To compliment these types of employee benefits it’s good to have something in place that is consistently available to the entire workforce.

Wagestream is available 100% of the time to 100% of your employees. Take a look at how Wagestream works to increase engagement for your business.

How to make sure what you’re doing is working

It’s pretty easy to pull together an online survey, send it out as a whole team email and wait for the responses to roll in. But then you’re left with a whole bunch of results that you’re not quite sure what to do with and you’re no better off than when you started.

We want to help you to design a survey with clear targets, fool-proof, fair questions and actionable solutions to help you keep your ear to the ground.

Try the Net Promoter System

The Net Promoter System is used widely across all business and sectors. Companies like Amazon, Monzo and of course Wagestream all use it to gauge the sentiment of consumers, however it can also be a great tool to measure employee feeling about their organisation. You can then use your score to help recruit staff and grow your employee value proposition.

The Net Promoter System asks one question:

“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend working at [company name] to your friends, family or business associates?”

You get an overall score as a percentage anywhere from -100% to +100%. Employees that give you a 6 or below are detractors, a score of 7 or 8 are passives and scores of 9-10 are promoters. To find out your overall score you just subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Anything +0% is deemed as good and anything above +50% is seen as excellent.

Identify what’s actually driving better engagement

As well as working out overall employee engagement you need to understand the drivers to identify what elements of your strategy are actually contributing to engagement. These are the things that you are better able to take action on.

Drivers can include: autonomy, empowerment, career progression, collaboration, communication, leadership, recognition, resources, and training and development.

In line with industry standard, it’s best to measure these on the Likert scale, with five points from strongly agree to strongly disagree.


“I have access to the learning and development resources I need to do my job well”

Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree.

You can then gauge which areas are lacking to help you drive better engagement. Try to stick to this format for the majority of your questions so that it’s really simple to complete the survey.

Look at the numbers

Measuring employee engagement isn’t just about surveys. Take a look at some of the hard numbers. If you’re looking to increase employee retention with your engagement strategy, look at how your attrition figures have changed since the introduction of your initiatives. If you’re looking to help recruitment then look at how your hiring process has got shorter over time or whether you’re getting more responses to your jobs ads where you’re talking about your new benefits. These may take a long time to shift but it’s good to keep your finger on the pulse if it’s an area that’s really affecting your business.

A simple way to measure attrition is through the equation below:

Attrition Rate (%) = No. of employees that left during period / Average number of employees for period x 100