There’s a Difference Between Engagement and Productivity

5 min read
Apr 12, 2017

employee engagement

Companies increasingly understand the link between employee engagement and productivity. According to Gallup, the most engaged workers are 21% more productive than their more disengaged peers. Put together a team of highly engaged workers, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what can be accomplished.

It’s no secret that many of today’s organizations are doing everything they possibly can to make their workers more productive. But oftentimes, this obsession on productivity turns detrimental. Focus on productivity too much and engagement efforts can suffer — which can make the team as a whole less effective.

Imagine a call center manager has decided to implement a new tech solution that enables their workers to field twice as many phone calls. That might be great and all from a productivity point of view, but nobody contacts a call center to tell a company how great their product is. They call because they have a problem. Put yourself in a call center operator’s shoes. Would handling twice the amount of calls during a single shift make you more engaged? Almost certainly not.

employee engagement

On the flip side, directing too much focus on employee engagement could result in a company winding up with a slew of happy and engaged employees who actually don’t end up doing that much work. If you measure engagement by asking your employees whether they believe your organization is a “great place to work,” you may end up with a ton of engaged employees who don’t do a lot of work. Employees who answer in the affirmative, according to this metric, would be considered to be engaged. But maybe the employees who think the company is a great place to work are happy because the culture doesn’t really encourage workers to reach their full potential. If employees are considered engaged because they like working somewhere that doesn’t challenge them, what’s the good in that?

To build a truly great organization, managers need to focus on improving both engagement and productivity. Though the two ideas overlap in many areas, they do not mean the same thing. That’s according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, which revealed that a significant amount of workers are considered to be engaged but aren’t really productive. According to an analysis of one Fortune 100 company, 25% of workers were highly engaged yet had short workweeks. Working more hours, of course, doesn’t necessarily correlate with productivity. But if you don’t work that many hours to begin with, you won’t be able to get things done.

It appears that a number of organizations are very interested in creating engaged employees, but for many of them, the definition they use for an “engaged employee” is off the mark.


How to Create Engaged Employees Who Are Productive

To create employees that are both engaged and productive, organizations need to first define their own company cultures and then figure out what can be done to motivate workers and help them grow professionally.

For example, your company could pride itself on giving team members access to cutting-edge technology. Part of your culture could include the fact that workers at your organization will always learn how to use the latest tools and technologies on the market. Employees who are technologically inclined and are interested in playing around with these tools will seek out employment at your company. In turn, they’ll be more engaged because not only are they getting paid to do work, but they are also gaining experience with new technologies that should help them later on in their careers. And as a result of the new technologies and platforms rolled out, your workers will be more productive.

Maybe your company is proud of the fact that a vast majority of the people promoted to managerial positions started in junior positions at your organization and worked their way up the ladder. Make promoting candidates internally a cornerstone of your culture, and employees will become more engaged because today’s workers care a great deal about professional development opportunities. Since your employees will believe they have a chance to move up the ladder, they will be more engaged. To increase the chances they are offered a promotion, they’ll crank out a ton of work, therefore boosting your organization’s productivity.

employee engagement

How else can you create a workforce that’s both engaged and productive? Here are some more ideas:

  • Lead by example: Nobody likes to work for a manager who says one thing but does another. So don’t tell your employees you expect them to work incredibly hard while never seeming to lift a finger yourself. According to a different Harvard Business Review article, managers who work long hours lead employees who work 19% more hours than their peers who work for managers who don’t log much time at all. While hours worked doesn’t always correlate with productivity, these workers were found to be 5% more productive despite logging longer hours. The takeaway? Employees are more engaged and more productive when they work for a manager who’s engaged and productive in their own right.
  • Spread work out evenly: Employees who work 120% more hours than their peers are 33% more likely to be disengaged and twice as likely to hate their bosses, the aforementioned Harvard Business Review article reveals. It’s one thing when the entire team is burning the midnight oil, but it’s quite another when it’s the same employees who are expected to invest considerably more hours than their peers. To create an engaged team that’s productive, managers need to make sure that everyone has even workloads.
  • Have regular one-on-one meetings: According to the Harvard Business Review article, employees who don’t have one-on-one meetings are more likely to be disengaged. Conversely, employees who got double the amount of one-on-one time with their bosses were 67% less likely to be disengaged. By having one-on-one meetings on a regular basis, managers prove to their employees that they care about their performance and their well-being. In turn, employees become engaged and more productive because they know their bosses are invested in their future.

If you want to build a strong company, you need employees who are both engaged and productive. Understand the difference between the two and focus on improving both. As a result, you’ll have happier employees who are more committed to their jobs and get more done — which in turn will improve customer satisfaction and your bottom line.




2017 Employee Engagement Report

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