The 4 Elements of Employee Engagement You Need to Know

Courtney Gray

Most businesses struggle to engage their employees. Where do you start? What is best practice? And what activities make an actual difference for your employees and your business itself? 

In this article, we’ve identified a list of four key elements that are crucial to be aware of when engaging your employees:

  • Recognition
  • Purpose
  • Autonomy
  • Community & Culture

Each one of the four elements work together in a balanced ecosystem. This is why you need to be aware of all of the elements to create the best environment for employee engagement.

Take one away, and the others become less effective. Use them effectively together, and you will experience a strong effect. Let’s dive in to how.


1. How to Recognize Your Employees

Many companies spend a huge amount of resources to build and deploy recognition programs. Unfortunately, many of these programs are ineffective.

To achieve the utmost powerful effect, recognition must be:

  • Frequent
  • Timely
  • Genuine
  • Public



Recognition is a powerful tool to reinforce employees that their contributions are valued.

Let’s for example take Lucy, an employee at the local department store. Recognizing her frequently will contribute to the fact that she is feeling valued by both the company and her direct manager. But making the recognition infrequent and rare could affect the likelihood of Lucy feeling undervalued.

If Lucy is doing a great job, day in and day out, but only gets recognized once per year, the impact of the recognition would be severely diminished.

Instead, as a manager or an employer, you should think of recognition as an empowering tool for engagement. You wouldn’t want Lucy or any other of your employees to starve for recognition – make it an inseparable element of your company culture.



To make the best of your recognition, you need to keep it timely. Recognizing Lucy’s contribution directly and in the moment, ensures the interaction to happen when it has the maximum potential of influencing her engagement.

In the contradictory, the longer the period is between when a contribution is made and when it is recognized, the more the impact of the recognition fades.



As a manager or business leader, the recognition you give has to be genuine. Giving genuine and specific recognition will demonstrate to your employees that it is their exact contribution that is valued.

If all of your employees receive an identical recognition, the purpose of giving it would lose its meaning.



Giving recognition should absolutely be personal, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be private. Public recognition often produces a stronger overall effect and provides the additional benefit of a positive example.

If we take Lucy as an example, when her co-workers see her being recognized for her valued contribution, they gain a better understanding of what their direct manager and organization value.




2. Create a Strong Purpose

Purpose is a major driving factor in employee engagement. Without a strong purpose to work towards, what is the point of doing all of the hard work?

Employees who don’t believe in the purpose behind their work are less likely to feel connected with the organization they are working at. It is crucial to give your employees a sense of purpose or help them to find it.

Work imbued with a great sense of purpose is unmistakable – even a sandwich built with a sense of purpose can be a beautiful thing.

Not only does working with a strong purpose produce a higher quality product, it also produces a more engaged workforce, who are more invested in your company, because everyone is working towards a common goal.


3. Trust Your Employees with Autonomy

Autonomy is an increasingly important value held by modern workers. Employees need to have the freedom to produce, their best work possible, without someone constantly looking over their shoulders. That only aspires contempt and destroys confidence:

An example could be that Lucy might think the following: “If my manager thinks that I am not capable of doing this task without being watched for mistakes, am I actually capable of doing it?”

Another important thing for your employees is to have the freedom to be able to choose how they approach their work. They may even discover a better way of doing it than you were recommending in the first place.

The Modern employee wants to have a work-life balance. If they are producing and performing at the same level from home (or higher) than they are from their desk, are you really interested in chaining them to it?




4. Build a Strong Community and Culture

Community and culture are an equally valuable element of employee engagement. Research shows, having friends at work proves to be a major factor in an employee’s dedication to an organization.

Taking Lucy as an example, it is much easier for her to dedicate herself to the organization when the components of it (being her co-workers) are her friends.

Community and culture are so important that numerous of companies deliberately build spaces where employees are constantly nudged into interaction and collaboration.

A study by Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

Building an environment that supports and inspires a strong community and culture is an essential step to building the strong bonds that all great teams share.

This doesn’t mean you need to fill your office with bean bag chairs. All you need to do is to think about how the environment you’re providing affects potential interactions between employees, and how you can develop that environment to provide more of them.