These are the Three Employee Engagement Types

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If you use Workify tools or you’ve read our blog posts because you’re debating launching an engagement program, it’s probably no secret to you that we believe employee experience is at the heart of an organization’s success. Programs might seem hard to sell to extended leadership at first, but once they realize the possible impacts to a company’s bottomline, the sell gets much easier. 

Today we want to talk about something related to engagement programs and the employee experience, but a little bit different. We’re sharing details about employee engagement types. These are the different ways that workers can be engaged while they’re on the job. The types are usually separated into three main buckets: cognitive engagement, emotional engagement, and physical engagement. There are many factors and experiences that could end up falling into each specific type. 

Once you’re ready to launch your engagement program or investigate your employee experience practices in more detail, it’ll be important to make sure that you’re seeing how well you’re performing across the main buckets of employee engagement types and their various scenarios. 

Cognitive engagement 

This facet of engagement includes anything that connects to the cerebral part of a worker’s experience, meaning how engaged employees are mentally when they’re at a company or working in a job. Some of the questions you may ask during surveying are: 

  • Do you have enough work to do?
  • Do you feel stimulated, excited, or challenged by your work?
  • Do you feel like you have enough opportunities to learn, develop, and grow?
  • Do you have enough training opportunities to level up or acquire new skills?
  • Is your work consistent, but not overwhelming?

Each of these factors will be different for every company, department, team, and worker. Some workers might head to startups because they’re looking for a certain pace or stimulation, while others might prefer slower paced industries that match their working styles and needs. The trick to making sure that workers have the right amount of cognitive engagement is to survey them to uncover data, understand their preferences, and then make sure those preferences are applied to each department and team uniquely. Not every part of an organization will require the same amount of cognitive engagement. 

Do keep in mind that not having the right amount of cognitive engagement can lead to workers leaving their jobs—either because of too little stimulation, or because they’re facing burnout. These scenarios are often brought up during exit surveying, and it’s important that you try to uncover insights at your company so that you’re aware of these possibilities long before they start causing actual problems in your business. 

Emotional engagement 

Emotional engagement can be thought of as the sense of connection that workers have to their organization, team, and the broader business goals. This sense of connection could mean that workers feel like they belong in an organization and can express themselves, or it may just mean how committed and passionate workers feel about the larger mission their company has in the world. Here are some common questions that can help identify this: 

  • Do you feel aligned with the company’s mission/values?
  • Do you think the company serves an important purpose in the world?
  • Do you feel like you can express yourself at [insert company]? 
  • Do you feel like you belong in your organization?
  • Do you feel connected to your team, manager, and other employees?
  • Does the work you’re doing make an impact on the world?
  • Does the work you’re doing make an impact for the organization? 

These are some of the questions and topics that will help you identify the level of emotional engagement that workers have in your organization. Another important thing to know is that not all workers will want the same level of emotional engagement in the places that they work. Some people may be more likely to prioritize compensation and benefits, tough problems to solve, or career growth and mobility.

When you’re finding out about employee engagement types at your company, always remember that each individual will prioritize certain engagement styles over others. Personalizing an experience at a company is where managers can help, and you can also get a sense of what styles workers are looking for as you’re interviewing and hiring. 

Physical engagement 

Physical engagement will also look different for every worker and industry—especially when you consider the difference between knowledge workers and manual labor jobs—but the pandemic has also changed our definition. Physical engagement criteria may be defined now as being able to work remotely and not go into an office

Other factors that go into this category are the ability to attend in-person conferences and events, team seminars and get togethers, or the travel perks and accommodations that a company is able to deploy. Here are some questions and topics that could help identify how physically engaged workers are: 

  • Do you have the equipment, tools, and resources you need to do your job?
  • Is your working station or set-up at the office comfortable? 
  • Are there any perks or other amenities you wish the office had?
  • Do you have the right accommodations when you fly and stay somewhere overnight?
  • Do you prefer in-office, remote, or hybrid working? 
  • Does your company have enough in-person or team events? 
  • Are you able to attend the right amount of conferences and networking events?
  • Do you have the right medical coverage that you need?
  • Are you satisfied with the health perks and incentives that your company offers? 

Since some of the topics and categories in the physical engagement bucket may not directly relate to a person’s job, it could be easy for companies to downplay or overlook how impactful the physical aspect of a worker’s experience is. Companies should never overlook it though, because how physically healthy and satisfied a worker is will have mental health and on the job repercussions. 

Fortunately, many companies are starting to realize how important mental health is for their workforce. This trend is making it more likely that companies prioritize mental health, and it also means that workers are looking to work in industries and join companies that focus on their physical wellbeing as well as their career outlook. 

How can I use this information?

Now that you know the three main employee engagement types, you can start to look out for them during interviewing, onboarding, and throughout employee lifecycles. These broad engagement types connect to all of the surveys that Workify encourages and provides, but knowing that they exist and how they may affect workers will give you a better sense of what trends and themes to explore during surveying and through your engagement programs. 

As we encourage with all programs and surveys, just remember that no two companies will have the same results or require the same input for any of these employee engagement types. Since every company has different workers and circumstances, they’ll also have different needs. This even holds true for companies that are in the exact same industries. 

Never make assumptions about the needs or feelings of your workers. Instead, always make sure that you have data and surveying results that back up the strategies and approaches that you’re taking on for employee engagement. Once you’re using concrete data to make changes, you’ll start to see lasting and successful business results. 

Go further with Workify 

Whether you’re looking to launch your first engagement program or you just want to see how these employee engagement types can connect to current surveying your company is doing, Workify is here to help. We’ve got a number of tools at our disposal, including backing from industrial and organization (IO) psychologists. 

Connect with one of our engagement specialists today to see what strategy works best for your company. They’ll guide you on how to understand our dashboards and features, and make sure that you’re looking at the right metrics that you should be tracking. 
Our Workify blog and Modern People Leader Podcast will also keep you up to date on the latest trends and topics that are impacting turnover and employee engagement. Join us in conversation on the podcast, and make sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter so that you’re up to date on what industry trends are driving conversation and focus at Workify.