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What Does Engagement Really Mean?

How should we define employee engagement? Is it more than good morale and camaraderie? &#8212;<i>In Search of Meaning, senior leader, hospitality, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam</i>

April 4, 2012

Dear In Search of Meaning:

Engagement metrics typically fall into four categories:

1. Values: Do I agree with the values of the company?

2. Leadership: Do I believe in company leaders and their vision, strategy and direction for the company?

3. Management: Are management practices aligned with the values the company espouses and with the leadership direction, and are the practices supportive of me, the employee?

4. Employee: Do I believe I have a career and future with this company? Am I doing work that is stimulating? Do I feel recognized for my contribution?

The first two categories are very difficult for anyone other than top execs to take on and impact. For employees, higher engagement usually boils down to two things: 1) Are managers likeable and supportive and 2) are employees taking ownership of their careers and do they get what they need to grow and develop in their jobs?

Engagement is a two-way street. Managers ought to be held accountable for engaging employees through one-on-one conversations. It's important to give employees feedback on performance, to coach them to be stronger and to provide the resources to help them learn and further their skills. Mentor them and give them a career path. Show that you care and are invested in their success and future.

Employees, meanwhile, have a responsibility to give full effort at work. This includes their knowledge, time, effort and ideas. It is also the responsibility of employees to receive full measure for full effort. This includes: fair compensation, experience, learning new skills, and networking to build your contacts.

If you are in the human resources field, it is your responsibility to bring engagement to the attention of the leaders in the organization. Work with the HR systems to ensure that engagement is not just about compensation. Once a particular threshold is reached, money no longer matters as much to employees. Feeling stimulated by the work, enjoying a sense of autonomy, being able to master a skill set, and pride are the factors that intrinsically motivate most people.

SOURCE: Thuy Sindell, Skyline Group, Woodside, California

LEARN MORE: Companies that ignored engagement during recession are feeling the effect of the neglect, experts say.

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.