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What Are the Keys to Engaging Employees?

How should our organization define the term employee engagement?

—Open-Ended Question, staffing/HR services, Highland Mills, New York

December 4, 2013
Related Topics: Talent Management(2), Recognition, Employee Engagement, Motivating Employees, Retention, Strategic Planning, The Latest, Dear Workforce

Dear Open Ended,

First, good for you to be worrying about a definition for employee engagement! Too many organizations measure "it" -- and try to increase "it" -- without a common understanding of what "it" is.

We define full employee engagement as the alignment of maximum satisfaction for the individual with maximum contribution for the organization. We have found that this definition resonates with business leaders and is easy to remember. The last point is important, because if you expect your executives, managers, and individual contributors to commit to a concept, they need to keep it front of mind. (Here is a link to our animated engagement model).

You can come up with your own definition, but make sure it covers off on the following points:

Engagement is more than satisfaction. A number of survey tools began as internal customer satisfaction instruments for HR, and as a result, business leaders often think engagement is soft – or only about the individual’s needs. Our research indicates that fully engaged employees are enthused and in gear, applying their talents to the organization’s priorities. Any definition of engagement should reflect the win-win nature of the employee-employer relationship.

Engagement is more than an emotional attachment to the organization. Pride and commitment are important ingredients, of course. They contribute to maximum satisfaction. But too many definitions lean on intent to stay. Our research shows that fully engaged employees stay because they find meaning in the work they do to achieve the organization’s goals. The disengaged stick around for a “good job” (e.g., great benefits, salary, job conditions). So don’t confuse engagement with retention.

Engagement is defined in pragmatic terms. There are a lot of academic models that explain employee engagement in terms of psychological, cognitive, and emotional components or dissect engagement drivers without summing the concept up. While these approaches are useful to those of us in the business of studying workforce performance, they aren’t always easy to translate in the board room when a skeptical executive asks: ‘Why should I care about employee engagement?’ 

A final caution: As you embed a common definition of employee engagement throughout your organization, emphasize that high engagement survey scores are not the prize. The prize is what a fully engaged workforce achieves as it drives your business strategy.

SOURCE: Christopher Rice, president & CEO, BlessingWhite, Skillman, New Jersey


 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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