What is Employee Engagement?

What is Employee Engagement
Defining Employee Engagement
Defining Employee Engagement

Over 15,000 people ask Google every year: “What is Employee Engagement?” What initially appears simple is a much more complex answer upon investigation.

This article focuses exclusively on defining Employee Engagement and explaining what engagement is and what it is not. We will use future posts to dive deeper into specific actions and initiatives that organizations can undertake to DRIVE Engagement. 

Alignment around the definition of Employee Engagement is the starting point of engagement strategy development process.  Ensuring shared goals and outcomes are clear ensure for a greater chance of success.

There are many available definitions of engagement. I tend to reference a succinct and accurate version by Kevin Kruze from Forbes:

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals”

Kruse goes on to explain:

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.

“When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort.”

Alexis Crowell of Culture Amp offers a similar definition.  She adds a piece on retention which I think is important:

“Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It’s a measure of how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organization, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there.”

Both definitions share two key elements that are critical to achieving high levels of engagement:

Commitment and Connection:

  • Both commitment and connection highlight an emotional “attachment” to the organization. This connection is very personal to each employee and required for world class engagement.

Extra or Discretionary Effort:

  • Kruse and Crowell point out the additional effort engaged employees offer, often without being asked.  Some examples of this are:
    • An engaged Salesperson makes extra calls during a day to exceed their monthly target.
    • An engaged Programmer works unannounced on a Saturday to finish the critical code for the new app launch.
    • An engaged Technician volunteers to pick up an extra evening shift in the production facility to ensure the company meets the deadline for the new large order.

The Challenge:

We run the risk of potential misuse or over-simplification when we use a catchy two-word label like Employee Engagement.  When used correctly, Employee Engagement is used describe the results of a highly complicated strategy and process designed to connect employees to their organization.  Unfortunately, the term is often used to describe the steps or events in the process versus the results of the process as it was intended.

While award dinners, weekly recognition programs, off site retreats and many other terrific incentives are pieces of an Engagement plan and strategy, they cannot be correctly referred to as “employee engagement”

In other words, Employee Engagement is a measurable result, not a single or series of well-intentioned events, initiatives or actions.  Engagement is a highly personal to each team member and is always a work in progress.

The Opportunity:

Once a common definition is adopted by all parties, a sustainable engagement strategy can then be designed, which is focused on the needs of all employees.  This strategy addresses the emotional connection and enthusiasm at the centre of Employee Engagement as referenced by Kruze and Crowell.  The result is vastly improved engagement and business results that can be measured and quantified.

Increased Employee Engagement is the most cost and time effective way to transform an organization especially in today’s fast paced and highly competitive marketplace.

Contact us to define engagement within your organization and to assist with your engagement journey.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly at the email below if you have any questions on this post.

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All the best,

Dean Hannon

Founder and Head Coach

DRIVE Engagement Training and Coaching