We all think we know what “employee engagement” means. But if everyone really understood it, 70 percent of the workforce wouldn’t be disengaged, right?

The way we should be defining employee engagement is as a fundamental set of principles for respecting the contributions of all employees regardless of position and potential. This means that employee engagementemployees should be given opportunities based not solely on their specific skills and background, but also their interests and personal motivations. For example, recruiters could look internally before posting a new job opening externally. Suppose you have someone in Accounting who is a passionate digital marketing wizard on the side? Wouldn’t you want him to be part of your digital marketing team?

Go beyond just keeping employees happy. Invest in them …

Employee engagement also means fostering a culture of continuous learning. One way to accomplish this goal is allows employees to be teachers, as well as students. For example, Google’s learning program is designed to scale corporate training and employee onboarding. Knowing that it couldn’t organize instructor-led training quick enough to keep up with demand, Google asked some of their employees to assume a teaching role on a topic that reflects their expertise and talent.

By allowing the entire workforce to fully participate in the learning culture, the executive team created an atmosphere in which the workforce is highly engaged and ready to do what it takes to make the business the best it can be.

… and keep doing it.

However, employee engagement efforts don’t end with a few linear promotions and learning sessions. On the contrary, it’s a never-ending campaign. Managers need to consistently gauge personnel performance and fine-tune the organization’s efforts to keep employees motivated. If done properly, businesses can establish relationships with its workforce that last a lifetime – as workers and consumers.

According to SAP Center for Business Insight’s report How to Build Employee Loyalty for Life, there are two things you can do now to get started.

1. Measure engagement in ways that go beyond traditional surveys.

Measuring engagement is not as simple as annual employee surveys. They may be useful, but they only provide a small glimpse of the entire picture. Instead, a variety of internal and external sources should be used to consistently track employee sentiments, activities, and attrition 24x7x365:

  • External sources: Social media tools and networks offer insights into employee’ sentiments. Plus, there are apps available that gauge employee wellness and satisfaction on a daily basis. With this information, employers can pinpoint not only their organization’s specific engagement issues, but also find solutions employees want.
  • Patterns of movement within the company. Motivated employees care about the overall business’ success and less about their own internal turf. People who move to different areas of the organization are often engaged with the enterprise even as they seek new opportunities to grow. However, people who change jobs only within their existing functions are most likely engaged with their own circle and more vulnerable to complaints about unproductive silos.
  • Positive reinforcement inspires employees to repeat good work and leads to higher engagement over time. However, managers need specific information and metrics to make sure they are rewarding the right habits. Luckily, technology is available to help managers set goals for their employees, track activities, and encourage positive performance and correct negative performance with proper actions.

2. Build an inclusive culture for a multigenerational workforce.

Understanding the nuances of each generation comprising your workforce can go a long way. For example, how personalized is the employee experience? Does your organization provide learning opportunities that allow employees to pick an approach that best compliments their personal learning style? Is your benefits package “one size fits all” or can employees pick from a menu of options to meet their lifestyle? And, more important, how flexible are work schedules and working arrangements? Can employees seamlessly integrate everything their personal life demands into their professional life?

Whenever employers offer opportunities and options that match personal and professional goals, needs, and lifestyles, employees feel a greater sense of accomplishment and value. In the end, this means you have a workforce that puts forth their best effort every day to increase customer satisfaction, improve competitive position, and inspire each other to stay.

Get more advice on how to improve employee engagement for your business. Find out what the experts have to say in the report How to Build Employee Loyalty for Life.