Is There A Difference Between Happy and Engaged Employees?

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Engagement

Is There A Difference Between Happy and Engaged Employees?

Last month, the Globe and Mail published an article by Maren Hogan about maximizing employee engagement. The article does an excellent job explaining the difference between happy and engaged employees and what it means to an organization’s overall success.

One section of the article particularly stood out to me because it provides much needed clarity to understanding employee engagement.

Learning to tell the difference between happy and engaged employees. Your most engaged employees might irritate you a little bit. They may propose wild ideas, get frustrated when projects are derailed and volunteer for everything. They may rarely seem super happy, because they are busy pushing the envelope. These are people you want in your organization. In fact, you want their lack of appreciation for the status quo to infect those around them.- Matt Hogan

Five tips to boost employee engagement

Now, let’s get one thing straight: Yes, personal happiness is important. Absolutely. But, understanding what it means to have a high level of employee engagement and what that means to your organization will help you look at the subject a little differently. The sweet spot for managers is looking entirely at the work environment and the employee’s experience. Engagement is about having more than just satisfied employees. It’s about the next step and making it a driving force of your performance management culture.

Here are five ways you can boost employee engagement.

1) Clarity

This isn’t about your communication with employees in terms of what you say and how you say it. When it comes to increasing employee engagement, managers can improve clarity with goal setting and linking it to personal and organizational objectives. So, when managers ask an employee “Is it clear what is expected of you and how it aligns to the organization’s goals?” the answer should be a confident “Yes.”

2) Support

Sometimes, we don’t see support as a performance issue. But, as soon as we think of its impact on engagement, support becomes essential for ensuring personal and organizational success. Employees need to have the tools and training support to achieve their objectives. They also should be encouraged to seek out this support for their personal development and shown how that supports the organization as a whole.

3) Fit

We usually think of fit like this: Define the job and then find the person that suits the role. That isn’t always how things work and, in most cases, doesn’t mean your employees will be engaged. Let’s look at it this way – Managers can increase engagement by ensuring employees can use the skills they are really good at as part of their role. For example, someone who is a great public speaker will thrive if delivering presentations is part of the job. Managers can often craft the tasks and associated goals to what each employee does best.

4) Feedback

Feedback isn’t about praise or criticism. It’s about providing helpful information. As managers are taught to have an engagement mindset, they come to see that consistent feedback is a behavior that will improve performance. The trick here is to notice that what is being demanded is not time intensive. It might only take a minute or two to provide some feedback to an employee. Who doesn’t have a minute or two a day? If you think of its long term impact, a minute or two a day is well worth it.

5) Development

Simply put, career development is essential to increasing employee engagement. One of the main goals of performance management is development, which is directed towards ensuring we have the capability for good performance in the future. Research shows us that if you develop for the future, employees will be more engaged in the present.

The importance of staying power

Now, I’d like to offer an additional tip: Conduct stay interviews. A ‘stay interview’ is exactly what it sounds like. The goal is to gain a better understanding of what motivates and demotivates employees so you can work with them to create an engaging and satisfying work environment. Holding stay interviews with your top talent will help support better working conditions, and build better relationship and communication between managers and employees. A list of questions, provided in a previous blog, gives you an idea of the types of questions you can ask.

Pharrell sang it best, “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…Because I'm happy.”

For companies, their version should be just as catchy, except with a slight change in the lyrics.

“Clap along if your employees are engaged…Because it’s key to our success!”

I encourage you all to take a look at your employees and think: Who is happy? Who is engaged? You might be surprised at the results.

Motivation Self Assessment

Better understand what motivates your employees with this helpful tool!


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Motivation Self Assessment

Better understand what motivates your employees with this helpful tool!


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