5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Without Spending Money

According to a Gallup study, only 15% of employees around the world are engaged in their work.

Yes, you read that right. It turns out, engaged employees are rare.   

Not only are these disengaged employees unhappy at work, but they act on this unhappiness. 

Disengaged employees monopolize managers’ time, drive away customers, and produce less and lower quality work.  

Whatever engaged employees do - such as solving problems, innovating, and creating new customers - disengaged employees ruin.

Disengaged employees cost your business millions of dollars.  

The best way to solve the problem of disengaged employees is to convert them into actively engaged employees. 

But how do you do that? … Especially without breaking the bank? 

Keep reading to find out! 👇 

Employee engagement scores by industry

A study by Emplify shows that employees in smaller organizations tend to have higher engagement than those in larger ones. 

The same study showed that organizations with fifty or fewer employees had the highest engagement. 

By industry, the organizations with the most engaged employees, according to a 2020 report, were leisure and hospitality, followed by real estate. 

In both industries above, employees work closely with customers, which creates a more profound sense of purpose felt by employees, creating a more engaged workforce overall. 

The lowest employee engagement rate by industry was manufacturing and software. 

If we zoom in to look specifically at employee engagement by team type, HR departments showed the highest engagement. Meanwhile, production and engineering reported the lowest.

It’s essential to keep track of employee engagement across your organization teams because you want to avoid a large disconnect between leaders and divisions.  

For example, while it’s great that your HR department is likely highly engaged, you also want to ensure there’s no disconnect between the HR leaders and the other departments they support due to the difference in engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Often people confuse employee happiness and satisfaction to be components of employee engagement or interchangeable with the phrase, but it’s simply not true. 

Employee engagement is an individual’s emotional and behavioural commitment to the organization and its objectives.


When employees are committed to their organization, they don’t just show up for the paycheck. They actively contribute to the organization’s goals. 

Engaged employees will work overtime without being asked when their deadline is on a time crunch. 

Engaged employees want to further themselves in their work roles, but they also want to elevate the organization.

How to measure employee engagement

Now that you understand what employee engagement is, you also need to know how to measure it. 

You need to measure employee engagement so that you can understand what areas your organization can improve on to increase it.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to measure employee engagement. You can either measure it yourself or go through a third party. Below I discuss the pros and cons of each. 👇

1. Measuring Employee Engagement for Yourself

The Advantages ✅

Measuring employee engagement on your own comes with many benefits beyond being the most affordable option. 

  • You choose how the data is gathered (i.e. surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.). 
  • You can customize the process to fit your organization’s needs (i.e. you can use questions explicitly tailored to your company’s needs). 
  • You analyze the data yourself, so you know it’s done effectively, and you get results fast. \\

The Disadvantages ❌

As wonderful as measuring employee engagement on your own may seem, there are a few drawbacks that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

  • The process of designing and implementing the study process can take a long time. 
  • You’re not using psychometric specialists, so you can’t guarantee your study’s validity or effectiveness. 
  • It’s hard to remove biases from your study, as there’s a risk of the process becoming more personal than scientifically based. 

2. Measuring Employee Engagement Through a Survey Provider  

The Advantages ✅

While often more expensive, there are some significant advantages of hiring a survey provider that can’t be ignored. 

  • Whatever process and questions are used to measure employee engagement, you know they’re validated and effective.
  • You don’t have to worry about the time designing and implementing the process. You only need to afford your employees the time to go through it. 
  • You can trust the results you receive because you know they are based on the scientific method and as unbiased as possible. 

The Disadvantages ❌

While there are significant advantages to consider when hiring a survey provider, it’s also important to consider the disadvantages. 

  • This approach is costly and often ranges from low five figures to low six figures depending on the number of employees you have.
  • They may define employee engagement differently than your company, making it hard to implement changes. 
  • These are standardized procedures with little to no room for customization. 

No matter what method you choose, the important thing is that you’re taking steps to measure employee engagement.

If you want your business to thrive, you need to have actively engaged employees and the only way to ensure that is to test it.

Five steps to improve employee engagement 

1. Use the right employee engagement survey.

As the old saying goes, if you’re going to do something, then do it right. 

If you want to measure employee engagement, make sure you’re doing so effectively. 

Start by understanding what employee engagement means to your company, which will affect the method and survey questionnaire you choose. 

You want to ensure you are using a survey that will yield results that your company can utilize. 

In other words, you must ensure that this survey is specific, relevant, and is proven to measure key performance metrics. 

2. Focus on engagement at the local and organizational levels.

You measure employee engagement to ensure that you can take action and make a difference within your organization’s immediate environment.

You want to ensure that you’re motivating managers and employees to make a difference in the workplace by measuring engagement. 

To ensure that real change occurs from the results of employee engagement measures, leaders should align performance expectations with employee engagement items. 

Employees are experts in business processes and the functioning of their teams. So take the time to work with them to help you understand barriers to engagement and what parts of operations can be changed to create a positive change.


Your employees will likely have strong and innovative ideas to maximize employee engagement elements and improve the workplace experience. One way to improve employee engagement is to participate in volunteer activities as a team.

3. Select the right managers.

Not just anybody can be a great manager. 

Your company needs to treat managerial roles as unique and require specific talents. 

There are specific characteristics of a person that help identify the potential for great management. 

The best managers understand that their team’s achievements are the driving factor behind business success, so they care about their people’s success. 

Look for employees on the team who seek to understand others and work to uplift those around them. 

These employees will often be found supporting others and helping others use their strengths to leverage their work. 

A great manager will motivate their team, recognize their value, and actively seek and encourage their feedback. 

👉 Give your managers the leadership skills they need with one of Unicorn Labs’s leadership workshops

4. Coach managers and hold them accountable for their employees' engagement.

According to Gallup’s, It’s the Manager “. . . 70% of the variance of team engagement is determined solely by the manager. . .” (Gallup). 

Companies need to start prioritizing manager training to enable managers to take an active role in building strong team engagement. 

Beyond coaching managers, companies also need to hold managers accountable for employee engagement and keep track of their progress in elevating it by putting specific employee engagement measurements into manager KPIs. 

One way to help managers engage employees is by expressing to them the importance of the employee-manager relationship. 

Managers need to prioritize relationships with their employees meaning they need to be regularly checking in with their team members. 

Regular employee coaching conversations should become the norm for managers. Gallup has found that short, consistent feedback is useful in helping employees become more invested in their work.  

5. Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms.

The most effective way to make high employee engagement a reality is to create engagement goals that are meaningful to your team and that can be realistically achieved. 

Start by describing what successful team engagement looks like, giving it a vocabulary for your team. 

Ensure that you regularly discuss employee engagement, such as in weekly meetings, one-on-ones, strategy sessions, etc. 

When employee engagement is part of everyday interactions, it will naturally become commonplace on the team. 


Employee engagement is the path to achieving business outcomes. 

If you want your business to be successful, it’s essential that your employees are actively engaged in their work. 

In this article, you learned: 

👉 The differences in employee engagement by teams and industry

👉 The meaning of employee engagement

👉 What you can do to measure employee engagement within your organization 

👉 Five steps to help you improve employee engagement without breaking the bank

When you increase employee engagement, you will reap the rewards, and this article helps you understand how to do it. 

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