How employers can support employees at different levels of engagement

According to Reward Gateway’s latest research, 24% of UK employees are no longer going above and beyond their specific responsibilities or schedule.

In a climate of rising costs and economic uncertainty, employers are beginning to see widespread levels of employee burnout and stress within the workplace.

More on employee engagement:

Don’t let burnout become a business issue

How to solve employee disengagement in the virtual workplace

Relevance: the key to organisational engagement

Our research showed that more than half of employees experience frequent stress at work, and more than four in five think burnout has a negative impact on their overall wellbeing.

Add to this challenges around building and maintaining connection for remote and hybrid workforces and it is no wonder employees are drifting into disengagement in a lot of organisations.

Not addressing this can result in higher employee turnover and employees stepping away from important tasks, both of which can cause more work for colleagues, catalyse a burnout domino effect and lead to a productivity drop.


Employee engagement framework

At Reward Gateway, we use 'employee engagement quadrant' as a framework to help leaders avoid losing great talent by identifying areas for development. Broadly, we’ve identified four different cohorts of employees based on discretionary effort and their intent to stay.

In the first quadrant are detractors. These employees are characterised by low effort and low intent to stay and will challenge a decision before thinking about why it’s been made, undermine the efforts of themselves and others and spread negativity.

In the second quadrant are stayers. These workers have a high intent to stay but also exhibit low levels of discretionary effort. Though they can be reliable, they put in the bare minimum effort, can be resistant to change and rarely step outside their comfort zone.

In the third quadrant are go-getters, characterised by high effort and low intent. Their high energy, high-quality work and motivation is a boost to teams but they don’t always look out for others and are ready to jump ship for better opportunities.

Lastly, in the fourth quadrant, there are ambassadors. With high effort and high intent to stay, these employees are driven, reliable high performers who look out for the long-term good of the whole team.


Boosting engagement

The good news is employers have the ability to move employees between quadrants.

But different quadrants demand different approaches. For instance, give detractors the opportunity to voice their negative opinions in a productive way and help them feel truly heard through regular, targeted pulse surveys, spaces for ongoing feedback and one-to-ones with effectively trained managers.

Improving effort levels among stayers relies on rewarding them for behaviour that stretches them and achieves success. Although 72% of UK employees, overall, agree their wellbeing would improve if they were simply thanked more for their hard work, a simple ‘thank you’ here won’t cut it.

Personalised recognition schemes, that provide tangible rewards (such as e-gift cards or company-specific perks), not only motivate employees to push themselves but create a culture where innovation is celebrated and contributions are valued.

In fact, 58% of all UK employees want their employer to increase their investment in employee reward and recognition.

Such reward and recognition also helps organisations keep hold of their go-getters. By showing individual success in the context of wider company growth, go-getters see themselves as part of a bigger team, further supported through the amplification of recognition and company-wide communication building a shared community.

Feed go-getters’ need for new opportunities, even with tight L&D budgets, by encouraging them to take on new special projects.

Finally, remember that ambassadors can also move quadrants and so must equally be encouraged.

Rewarding and recognising their hard work is crucial but managers should also look to involve them in strategic business conversations to further empower them and allow their high-quality work and positive attitude to fuel company growth.

If organisations want to win and retain high performers, dissipate negativity, increase motivation and, ultimately, drive success, they must get serious about understanding and catering to their employees’ individual engagement needs.

This will help you build a stronger team that can take on the challenges of an unpredictable, changing work environment.


Nebel Crowhurst is chief people officer of Reward Gateway and ranked sixth on the HR Most Influential Practitioners list in 2022.