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The difference between employee engagement and loyalty

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For this article, ADVISA’s Director of Marketing, Lauren Littlefield (LL), sat down with fellow A-Team member and Leadership + Organization Development Specialist, Krista Warn (KW), for an interview.

LL: What is employee engagement?

KW: Employee engagement is the emotional connection an employee feels to their organization’s goals, the people they work with and the work they do. Employees who are engaged are the folks that are willing to go above and beyond. We see engaged employees putting in the discretionary effort and displaying the mindset of, “I want to do this” versus, “I have to do this.” So, to be clear, the more engaged an employee is, the more willing they are to go the extra mile when it comes to working.

LL: What is employee loyalty?

KW: So somewhat similar, but employee loyalty is when employees feel attached to the organization, believing it has their best interests at heart. These folks are not actively seeking employment elsewhere, and it would likely take a lot for them to leave the organization. Loyal employees feel it’s in their best interest is continue to being an employee at their current organization.   

LL: Is one more important than the other?

KW: No. While both are important, having one doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the other. For example, you could have a highly engaged employee who’s not necessarily loyal to the organization. Should another opportunity arise or come across their radar, they could very well leave their job. Similarly, you could also have a disengaged employee who has been loyal to the organization for many years, but you may see that disengagement has a negative impact on their work, colleagues, etc.

LL: What’s the value of engagement surveys and where do they fall short?

KW: There are instances when organizations have highly engaged employees, confirmed by employee engagement results, yet they still experience turnover. In these situations, leaders may begin to reassess investments into employee development, culture, or even perks around the business. It’s critical to note that engagement doesn’t necessarily equal employee satisfaction or loyalty. They are both essential aspects to look into equally if you are experiencing regrettable turnover.  

LL: What does measuring engagement and loyalty look like and can they be done simultaneously?

KW: It really depends on what the organization is looking to uncover. Engagement and loyalty can be measured simultaneously. And in terms of how organizations can go about doing that, if we speak specifically to ADVISA, we partner with two technology platforms focused on employee engagement and experience to collect data, then gather insights to take meaningful action. Additionally, we offer a proprietary Leadership + Culture Assessment™ to help organizations identify opportunities to improve performance and organizational capabilities, leadership capabilities, and loyalty. The loyalty section captures how committed and connected people feel to the organization. We are assessing employees’ outlook on their future at the organization, employee net promoter score (eNPS), and if they find purpose in their role in the organization, to name a few. The Leadership + Culture Assessment is a high-impact, lighter-lift assessment that can certainly be done concurrently with an engagement survey.

LL: How often should organizations measure engagement and loyalty?

KW: Regarding engagement, the frequency will always certainly depend on the organization, but keep in mind the most important task as it relates to engagement surveys is that after collecting that data, letting employees know:

  1. They’ve been heard + their feedback is valued.
  2. What the results were.
  3. What action will occur as a result of the data.

One of the most critical yet frequently missed opportunities for an organization that invests in engagement surveys and other employee experience tools is not developing an action plan to make changes. Without action plans, an engagement survey becomes obsolete. A best practice is to launch a survey in a cadence that would allow the organization to take meaningful action between surveys.

A survey examining employee loyalty could also be executed annually or bi-annually, depending on the size and needs of the organization. It could also be helpful to organizations experiencing changes in staff, restructuring, an acquisition, or a merger. Times of significant change can be when employees begin questioning their loyalty, and knowing that can help organizations and leaders make the necessary changes to keep talent from walking out the door.

A prime example of when an organization should measure engagement and loyalty is what many of our clients are experiencing now: either a return to the office or continued remote/hybrid work environments. The past two years have been difficult for most organizations and industries. Employee engagement levels in the US have declined from 36% to 32% in the past two years. Now is a great time to see where an organization is, from an employee engagement and loyalty experience, either to use as a benchmark for future assessments or to compare to previous results before the pandemic.

ADVISA can help

Remember, employees have always been an organization’s greatest asset, so measurements to help assess employee engagement and loyalty help identify tangible ways to increase retention. Engaged and loyal employees impact an organization’s business results and create a competitive advantage as the war for talent continues to rage on. And organizations don’t have to do it alone!

ADVISA has partnered with organizations for over three decades to create effective teams, leaders and cultures, empowering them to be places where people love to work. The benefit of working with a partner who understands and supports the tools necessary to measure data like engagement and loyalty is that we can help identify key insights and design programs to make a measurable impact on the areas of focus. We then do the heavy lifting of training, coaching, and advising to help organizations get to where they want to be.

Reach out to learn how we can partner with your organization.


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Looking for more thought leadership on employee engagement? Check out this article by Leadership + Organization Development Consultant Andrea Armstrong.

And don’t miss these tips on keeping talent by battling disengagement from ADVISA President Heather Haas.