Defining Practical Employee Engagement

Defining Practical Employee Engagement

Practical Employee Engagement ImageThe term Employee Engagement has been prolific over the past few years but what does it really mean? How can we use this to really make a difference?

This question was asked of me by a writer I have been in discussions with for some time, and she was surprised that we do not have the definition clear on this site. Well it was buried, but here puts it into context.

There are several definitions on the web including:

The Work Foundation’s definition:

Employee engagement describes employees’ emotional and intellectual commitment to their organisation and its success. Engaged employees experience a compelling purpose and meaning in their work and give of their discrete effort to advance the organisation’s objectives.

The Best Companies’ definition:

Engagement can be defined as an employee’s drive to use all their ingenuity and resources for the benefit of the company.

Kahn (1990:694)

defines employee engagement as “the harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances”.

Indeed there are many academic attempts to define engagement, the Gallup approach was different in that its research started with identifying high performing/ productive departments in organisations and looked at the management and culture provided for people working there. The result was call “engagement as people were more productive than other departments/ functions.

For the team at RapidBI, we are not “academics” but pragmatists, when working with a range of “ordinary” businesses and organizations and in developing the EESS we wanted to look at employees from a practical standpoint.

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Our practical definition of employee engagement

Engaged employee – an active “gear” in the organization that does more than just turn, they add humanity and value to all they connect with.

Our initial definition, a working definition of employee engagement, and one that continues includes:

Engaged employee – An engaged employee is actively or fully engaged or occupied with their work, that like gears or cogs, they know their role and the impact it has on the people around them, and much like marriage between two people, an engaged employee “does that little bit more” because they are committed to the team and the idea in which they are delivering. We use the term “gear” rather then “cog” as a cog implied static rotation, where as a gear can be step “upped” or “downed”, to react to the situation or needs.Gear change

A mechanical business is one where “people” deliver the policy and procedure, however a business that people “want to do business with” is one where the customer can see the humans, and can relate. We all remember that train journey when the driver uses the PA to pass comment in a human, spontaneous way, or the humorous discussion with the fast food server. Often it is the engaged employee (knows their role, how they fit but adds their unique value) that really makes the difference.

Many organizations wrongly use the term “Employee Engagement” to describe ‘engaging with’ employees, they are missing the point of adding to both the customers and individuals experience. Human Resources (HR) needs to wake up to the fact that job satisfaction and happiness are not synonymous with employee engagement. Many HR writers (journalists or academics) not practitioners often cause Confusion by using the term interchangeably for other constructs, such as employee commitment, job satisfaction, employee happiness or internal communication.

READ  10 tips for engaging people

Fad Surfing

When a term seems to be “trendy” or “trending”, many seek to re-brand what they are doing, without actually changing what they do!

Any survey used as part of developing and encouraging employee engagement needs to be based on actionable statements or questions, asking closed or emotional based questions captures data but provides no basis for action beyond having the data collected.


The EESS Logo - Employee Engagement & Satisfaction SurveyFor more information see our EESS an affordable, practical survey tool to help kick start your employee engagement culture


About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is founder of RapidBI
Mike is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.
Check out his linkedin profile


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