Employee Engagement

A complete guide to employee engagement for shift-based work

By Alison Harper

Mar. 24, 2023


  • Employee engagement reflects how connected each employee is to your business and their work.

  • When employees feel connected to their company, they perform better and stay with the organization longer.

  • The three most common ways to improve employee engagement are onboarding, communications, and flexibility.  

Employee engagement refers to how connected each employee is to your business and their work. In many cases, engagement can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. A disengaged workforce can lead to reduced productivity and high turnover, resulting in increased hiring costs for the employer as well as lost opportunities and poor customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, engaged employees are generally more optimistic and dedicated to their work. They contribute to higher profitability, retention, and better customer service. 

High employee engagement won’t come naturally to every company, though. It takes commitment and work from leaders to show employees you care about their well-being and that they have a place in your company.

When employees feel connected to their company, they’re more likely to perform well and stay with the organization for longer periods of time.

Who is responsible for employee engagement?

Direct managers are usually responsible for monitoring and increasing employee engagement. They’re tasked with creating an environment that fosters engaged employees. Managers conduct regular meetings (both team-wide and with individual employees) and help establish a culture where employees can thrive. 

Employees tend to be more engaged when they: 

  • Feel valued and supported
  • Believe in and share the same values and goals as the company
  • Have an involved manager
  • Participate in ongoing conversations about their career trajectory and development
  • Are given recognition and feedback
  • Receive consistent communication

Human resource teams are involved in employee engagement initiatives, too. Often, human resources and leaders of the company will work together to evaluate where employee engagement is currently and what needs to be done to improve it. 

Three benefits of employee engagement

As your employee engagement increases, you’ll also see higher retention, improved profits, and better customer service.

1. Higher employee retention

Engaged employees who feel like they have a purpose in your company are less likely to look elsewhere for a new job, resulting in less turnover. According to a study by Gallup, a workforce that’s more engaged sees between an 18% and 43% decrease in employee turnover

Engaged workforces also tend to see an 81% decrease in absenteeism. The more engaged an employee is, the more excited they are about working for your company and doing their work. 

Engaged employees are also often leaders and role models within the organization. They can help get other employees engaged and excited about your company. For example, a highly engaged senior employee will often mentor junior employees and recommend their coworkers for promotions. This kind of development can contribute to higher employee satisfaction and retention because employees form connections with other engaged employees. 

2. Better customer service

An engaged employee is more optimistic about the future of the business, and they often believe in your product and its value to customers.

Being committed to your company makes employees a better fit for serving your customers. For example, a customer who talks to a pessimistic employee who doesn’t care about your product is going to have a much different experience than a customer who talks to an optimistic employee who believes in your brand.

3. Improved profitability

Engaged employees can also help you increase your profitability by improving productivity. Highly engaged teams have 23% higher profits than teams with disengaged workers, while lower engagement levels cost the global economy an astounding $7.8 trillion.

When employees are engaged, they tend to have less stress, anger, and health-related issues than employees who are disengaged. Disengaged employees also tend to put off important tasks and may engage in quiet quitting

How to measure employee engagement

The best way to measure employee engagement is to ask employees directly. A simple check-in will give you more accurate insights than assuming what your team thinks or feels. It also gives everyone a chance to be heard. 

Start your feedback collection with employee engagement surveys, pulse surveys, and shift feedback. With surveys, the goal is to gather as much information as you can about various components of engagement. Ask their opinion on employee satisfaction and overall happiness, career development, recognition, handling of personnel issues, and preparedness for their job. Give employees the option of anonymity, so they feel comfortable being honest and you get accurate feedback.

With shift feedback, employees can give and receive feedback about each shift they worked. A form or questionnaire can be served to them electronically (either via email or an employee app) when they clock out. If your company uses the latter, you can send automatic notifications to employees after they’ve completed their shift. 

Shift feedback allows employees and managers to evaluate how each shift went. Ask employees questions like:

  • Were you able to take your designated breaks?
  • Did you understand what was expected of you for this shift?
  • Did you have the right tools and resources you needed for this shift?
  • Were there any challenges or issues during this shift?

By asking these questions you can gauge each employee’s general satisfaction and well-being after each shift and immediately bring up any issues. 

You can also get employee feedback from one-on-one manager meetings. One-on-one meetings serve as check-ins to make sure employees who feel stressed or overwhelmed or have issues with coworkers get a chance to be heard — and maybe find solutions to their concerns. 

Three ways to improve employee engagement 

The three most common ways to get employees engaged with your company are onboarding, communication, and flexibility.

1. Effective employee onboarding 

An effective onboarding program can engage employees right away and in the long term. Use onboarding to help your employees get integrated, connected, and committed to your company right off the bat.

During onboarding, new hires want clear guidelines about expectations and responsibilities, so they can feel confident moving forward in their roles. 

Here are a few things that can engage employees during their onboarding period (and keep them engaged):

  • Keep paperwork simple and spread it out throughout their first week. No one wants to spend their entire first day filling out forms. 
  • Get them excited about the work they’ll be doing. Give them small tasks or have them shadow another team member. 
  • Introduce them to the company culture by talking about common values and policies, like an open-door policy.

Giving employees guidance and mentoring them during the onboarding process can help them feel more connected to their coworkers and your company. 

2. Centralized communication

New employees want to know where to find information and how to reach out to someone if they have questions. In the shift trade, employees don’t always have ample opportunities to talk to managers or other employees about issues like scheduling, maintaining a work-life balance, or personnel issues. Centralized employee communication can keep them engaged in a fast-changing environment. 

Use one main form of communication, like an employee app or a company wiki site. These kinds of platforms keep communication accessible to all employees and create a place where they can share knowledge with each other. Employees should be able to access the app or wiki to submit PTO requests, ask questions, find policies or other information, switch shifts, and more.

Encourage all employees to use the designated communication channels right away. During onboarding, help them sign into their account and become familiar with the platform, so they feel comfortable using it regularly.

3. Flexible scheduling

Flexible scheduling can reduce overtime and burnout for your employees and increase job satisfaction. It shows your employees that you’re taking their needs and preferences into consideration. Many shift workers are constantly on call and have little control over their schedules, which can lead to stress and anxiety about work. But with flexible scheduling, they feel more in control of their shifts. 

Most companies don’t have the resources or technology to offer shift-based employees the schedules they need to stay engaged. Shift scheduling software can help with that. 

These scheduling tools send you notifications when someone is approaching overtime, give you visibility into each team member’s availability, and show recommended shift plans and schedules. 

Scheduling software helps companies with time management, too. You can use it to avoid the overallocation of meetings, responsibilities, or tasks, which can also cause employee burnout. 

4. Consistently acting on feedback

We mentioned the importance of using surveys and shift feedback to measure employee engagement. Now you have to use that data to act on the feedback, which will in turn improve engagement. 

Based on the feedback you receive from employees, work with management to look for quick wins or changes that you can implement immediately. For example, dress code changes to make employees feel more comfortable at work or adding an additional break for employees who work a certain number of hours. 

Bigger changes take time to implement. For example, if you need to update a policy or workflow process, that could take weeks or months. In this case, let employees know that you’ve addressed their feedback and changes are in progress. 

Set regular meetings where you all go over new or recurring feedback and discuss whether you’re going to implement it and how. For example, if you notice a lot of employees concerned with short staffing during evening shifts, take steps to immediately remedy this scheduling issue as it directly impacts employee productivity and customer satisfaction.  

These are just three of the most common ways to improve employee engagement. To learn more, read our guide7 employee engagement ideas that create engaged teams.

Focus on engagement to attract and retain high-quality candidates 

Engaged employees contribute to a positive, thriving work environment — one that others will want to be a part of. Start by focusing on one thing you can revamp that will improve the work environment for current and potential employees. For example, you could implement flexible schedules or a better communication and scheduling system. 

Ultimately, the right employee engagement strategy is unique to each business, but by working to address employees’ concerns and prioritizing their well-being, you’ll be on the right track.

For more on employee engagement, check out our free webinar below featuring Laur Timbrook, an NBC-HWC certified workforce wellness coach:

Webinar: How to Drive Engagement

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