Instructure Blog

Employee engagement: what it is and why you should care

If you work in learning & development or human resources, you’re probably hearing people talking about “employee engagement.” It’s one of the hottest topics in our industry right now, and for good reason.  

Learning and Development

So, what exactly is employee engagement?



Simply stated, employee engagement means you care about your work. Put more formally, according to author Kevin Kruse, employee engagement is “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” 



It doesn’t mean you’re satisfied or happy. Engagement goes to another level and speaks to passion, commitment, going the extra mile, and truly behaving like an owner of your company. 

As Maren Hogan said in her Forbes article “Employee Engagement Doesn't Equal Employee Happiness,” there’s a difference between happy and engaged employees. “There’s no proof that happy employees will do anything great for your company,” according to Hogan. “While I don’t want to deny employees happiness, I’d rather have engaged employees. Those are the people who drive the numbers up — people who are passionate and maybe even a little frustrated when change doesn’t occur.”

Employee engagement: crucial to success

In today’s competitive market, employee engagement can mean the difference between a company’s success or failure. Numerous studies have linked employee engagement with critical metrics such as quality, productivity, profitability, and stock market performance. Take, for example, Gallup’s 2012 research, which examined nearly 50,000 businesses and 1.4 million employees. If you weren’t focused on employee engagement before Gallup’s research, you should be now.

According to the research, business units that score in the top half of their organization in employee engagement have nearly double the odds of success when compared with those in the bottom half. Those at the 99th percentile have four times the success rate compared with those at the first percentile 

More specifically, Gallup found that employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes. Compared with bottom-quartile business units, top-quartile business units have:

  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less inventory loss 
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

Learning and employee engagement: like peanut butter and jelly


So what does all this mean for learning & development professionals?  Well, learning is a key contributor to employee engagement. And as today’s leaders begin to focus more and more on employee engagement as a way to drive higher profits, they will turn to those who can make a direct impact on engagement levels.  It’s becoming more critical to understand how learning contributes to employee engagement, how to utilize some best practices, and how to create an action plan for using learning to improve employee engagement in your organization.


We will be exploring the link between learning and employee engagement and how learning management systems can help you leverage engagement in future blog posts and other resources, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we’re always interested to learn more about what other people are doing.  If you have any best practices to share, let us know in the comments below.

Jeff Weber
VP, People and Places