Employee Engagement And Employee Productivity Aren’t The Same Thing—Here’s How To Boost Both

by Elizabeth Dukes on March 11, 2019

Employee productivity or employee engagement? That is the question for businesses that want to ensure that they’re making the most out of the employees that they have. But for far too many organizations, the quest for both becomes blurred to the point that they aren’t sure where to focus their efforts. Employee productivity and employee engagement aren’t the same thing, and it’s important to recognize the distinction so organizations can enact a plan to ensure their employees are getting the best of both worlds and, in return, so are they.

Employee Productivity

All businesses want to have productive employees, but productivity is only one part of the equation. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, teams with high employee engagement rates are 21 percent more productive. But what does that look like?

Let’s take a look at an example of a productive employee to understand the distinction between employee productivity and employee engagement. 

Emily is a model employee. She arrives on time every day, produces a high level of work and gets along with her coworkers. Although Emily can be trusted to be a consistent, reliable worker, she isn’t engaged with the company. She might be friendly with her coworkers, but she hasn’t really gotten to know them. She’ll diligently take notes during meetings but will rarely speak up. Similarly, although she’s productive, she’s not truly connected to the company’s mission and often daydreams about working at an organization where she can truly thrive because she cares about her work.

Although Emily might be a model employee now, her productivity is starting to wane as she becomes increasingly disenfranchised with her position at her company.

Recommended: The Hard Truth About Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

So we know that productivity doesn’t necessarily mean engagement and, in turn, it won’t translate to long-term success. On the other hand, according to a Gallup poll, employees who are engaged are 27 percent more likely to report “excellent” performance. So what does an engaged employee look like?

Meet Jared.

Jared is always willing to go above and beyond because he believes in the work that he’s doing. Jared subscribes to a “work hard, play hard” philosophy, and he makes sure that shines through in everything that he does. Jared can often be seen coming in early and going home late. He’s at every single one of the company events and interacts with his coworkers outside of work. He’s always willing to speak up at meetings and talk to his managers about big-picture ideas. Although Jared loves working for his organization and puts in the hours, his results and productivity levels are nowhere near Emily’s.

So how do businesses go about creating the best of both worlds? 

Here’s How To Create Both

To create employee productivity and engagement, organizations need to ensure that their workplaces are designed, first and foremost, around their company values. What does this look like? It means that if organizations value collaboration, they’ll provide their employees with the space and technology to collaborate. Whether that’s couches in a common area or a more advanced solution like wayfinding that allows employees to find each other from anywhere in their facility, organizations need to ensure that they’re giving their employees the tools they need in order to be productive and engaged. In recent years, collaboration tools like Slack have been taking the world by storm by ensuring that employees have the capability to quickly connect to their workplaces from anywhere in the world. This trend is called activity-based working, and according to a study conducted by Leesman, it showed that employees who embrace activity-based working styles have a much higher satisfaction rating in the eight areas that were polled.

The next thing that business can do to ensure that employees are productive and engaged is to offer them the times and places to build interpersonal relationships. Research shows that 72 percent of adults report feeling lonely. No one wants to simply go to work and clock in and clock out, day after day, without a human connection. So to make sure that your employees enjoy coming to work, be sure to check on in teams and find out if they’re able find space in the workplace where they can share a meal, conduct a meeting or just collaborate — whether it’s over a game of ping pong or a critical customer discussion. With technology like room reservation tools, hoteling, hot-desking, visitor management and more, it’s now easier than ever for employees to find each other so they can more efficiently work together.

Finally, and it may sound obvious, but it’s important that organizations check in with their employees to ensure that the company mission aligns with the ways that they currently work and the ways that they want to work. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 61 percent of respondents said that trust between employees and senior management was a major contributor to overall job satisfaction. By regularly checking in with employees—whether that be a company-wide meeting or a simple survey—organizations can ensure that their efforts are making the most impact by asking employees what they want and need out of their workspace. Not only will this provide direction, but it will also make employees feel valued, which leads to higher engagement.

Although employee productivity and engagement are not the same thing, both are needed to ensure that organizations are making the biggest impact possible. By creating workplaces that support and value employees, organizations can create both.

This post was previously published in the Forbes Technology Council Jan. 12, 2018.

To learn more about how to measure the impact of employee productivity improvements, download our whitepaper, In Search of Intelligent Space


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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