Types of Employee Engagement

Implement Meaningful Actions to Engage Your Team

Engaged employees are an organization’s key to success, yet it seems that many companies have not received the memo (text, voicemail, emoji … or whatever communication strategy you’re using now, though we don’t necessarily recommend texts, voicemails, or emojis).

To review, our definition of employee engagement reads as follows: Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.

It can still feel like an abstraction, but once your organization identifies the types of engagement, it can implement actions to improve them.

What are the four types of engagement?

1. Affective engagement is an emotional connection and positive attitude an employee has toward the organization, organization values, and organization mission.
2. Behavioral engagement is an employee’s involvement and participation in the organization’s activities.
3. Cognitive engagement describes the level of an employee’s focus – the discretionary effort they put into their work.
4. Social engagement refers to the employee’s sense of belongingness, the connection they have with their colleagues and the organization.

What actions can your organization implement to increase the four types of engagement?

Affective engagement:

Management should take the lead here, cultivating emotional commitment, motivation, and enthusiasm with staff. Optimism, gratitude, work-life balance, and employee well-being are all pieces of affective engagement.


Take out the “but” when giving positive feedback. Recognize and applaud the success of a project in the moment. In due time, at the next staff meeting, take time to solicit feedback on what worked, what could improve next time.

Create a safe work environment for everyone to share ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Model assertive, positive feedback. Solicit opinions and implement changes when possible. Empower your team to be leaders and change-makers.

Be an active listener.

Be transparent about what’s happening in the organization. Lose the “need-to-know” attitude.

Involve employees in changes in processes and policies that affect their work. This gives them a greater sense of ownership, and, honestly, it makes sense. They are the ones on the frontlines and will have important information regarding how to improve processes.

Put money toward meaningful leadership development for managers and senior staff.

Give back. Employees are proud to be part of organizations that are connected with their neighborhoods and communities through social responsibility programs. Motivate employees with meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Behavioral engagement:

This is shown through an employee’s actions (behaviors) at work, initiatives, and employee citizenship actions.

Start with an employee survey to measure engagement. This will give your organization leaders the opportunity to identify, understand, and fix employee engagement problems through meaningful actions.

Take an absenteeism audit with the help of HR. Which teams or departments are experiencing higher rates of absenteeism? Ask why.

Likewise, which teams or departments have more active employees and less turnover? Ask why.

Improve communication with a strategic plan that reaches all collaborators.

Set clear goals and expectations for your teams and hold everyone accountable for them. Knowing what they’re working toward can help keep employees focused and motivated.

Improve collaboration by establishing and communicating clear codes of conduct. Reward teamwork. Avoid the “star employee” trap.

Cognitive engagement:

This is the mental and intellectual involvement of employees with their work, their responsibilities, and their teams. Cognitive engagement and employee focus can be highly dependent on the organization and managers. .

Ensure your employees’ work is aligned with organization goals. Be explicit about their why, their purpose in the organization.

Stop interrupting your employees with unnecessary texts, messages, emails, and phone calls. Consider implementing a no-talk Tuesday afternoon, no-meeting Wednesdays. These allow employees to do and make, instead of talking about doing and making. This gives them real, uninterrupted blocks of time to get work done.

Provide your employees with updated software, comfortable work spaces, and good equipment. Provide them with the resources they need to get the job done. This includes educational opportunities and training for people to develop new skills and increase knowledge.

Develop critical thinking skills with your teams.

Foster a growth mindset. This isn’t just TED Talk stuff, but creating an organizational culture that isn’t risk averse. Celebrate innovation and learn from setbacks (commonly known as failures).

Social engagement:

Creating a real community at work can combat the loneliness epidemic and increase engagement.

Create an onboarding process that gets people feeling welcomed and part of the team as soon as new hires walk in the door.

Provide meaningful support and mental health benefits.

Create connections between team members, teams, and across the organization by celebrating life – birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.

Provide shared places for people to meet – a lunchroom, a kitchen space, a reading nook, or a relaxation room. Common spaces are natural gathering places.

Be mindful about meetings. Meetings and decision-making processes should be inclusive, where everyone feels heard and valued. As managers, it’s important to recognize the squeaky-wheel phenomenon. Start meetings soliciting feedback from quieter contributors to get them speaking first. Keep a checklist and note which people don’t generally speak up.

Set up book clubs, hiking clubs, and lunchtime MOOCs for those who want to connect outside of work. (Don’t forget your remote workers).

Encourage social media activism and provide employees with clear guidelines about social media expectations.
Create a culture of belongingness.

By recognizing the four types of employee engagement and developing strategies to improve them, your organization leaders, with the support of HR, can implement meaningful action plans to improve morale, motivation, and employee retention.

To receive periodic articles & research updates, sign up for our newsletter mailing list.
Email address