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5 Key Definitions Of Employee Engagement

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Employee engagement has been one of the top corporate buzzwords in the last two decades. Despite all this garnered interest, the definition of employee engagement still eludes most of us.

Definition of employee engagement vary across organizations, countries, and cultures. That is why you will see a drastic difference in the work culture of different branches of the same company.

In this article, we will attempt to look at 5 of the most prolific definitions of employee engagement. Alongside it, how to utilize it to get better business outcomes for your organization.

5 Crucial Definitions Of Employee Engagement

Part of why ‘employee engagement’ is hard to define is that ‘engagement’ itself has many meanings. Let’s have a look.

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

Stated by William Kahn in 1990, this is the oldest definition of employee engagement.

According to Kahn, engagement signifies:
“the physical and the emotional commitment the employee has toward the organization.”

Kahn emphasised that companies have been addressing employee engagement in the wrong way. It’s less about whether employees “fit” in the company. It’s more about how employees “felt”.

Kahn also bought up the cracks in the human resources sector. To improve employee engagement, human resource professionals should:

  • Focus on the meaningfulness of the work assigned.
  • Create a psychologically safe space.
  • Allocate resources and motivation to do a piece of work.
  • Foster healthy work relationships where people can bring their entire selves to work

Because commitments require investing mentally and emotionally, most employees seek some reciprocation. Employees expect in exchange for their commitment, they will earn something of value. Essentially in recognition or monetary form.

2. “Employees’ willingness and ability to help their company succeed, largely by providing discretionary effort on a sustainable basis.”

Perrin’s Global Workforce Study (2003) uses the above definition to connect employee engagement with the parent organization and its goals.
If an employee feels an emotional connection to their workplace, they are more likely to care about their work more.

An employee who cares about their work uses discretionary effort. Discretionary effort is when employees go the extra mile to get the job done.

To see discretionary effort from employees, employee satisfaction is necessary. An engaged employee will care about their work as well as the organization and its goals. It positively impacts not only the company performance but customer satisfaction as well.

This is where the difference between engagement and disengagement really comes into play. When an employee feels engaged, he will do above and beyond for his job. The same will be reflected in your products and services. This, in turn, will result in customer satisfaction as well.

Magnify your employee satisfaction levels and see how your business outcome takes a turn for the good.

3.“Employee engagement is the involvement and enthusiasm for work.”

Gallup defines employee engagement by linking it to positive employees’ emotional connection and employee’s commitment.

The key driver of employee engagement is having a sense of feeling valued. When employees feel that their opinions matter, they tend to stick around. However, when recognition is at the bottom of the priority list, people feel that the organization doesn’t value their work.

Today’s leaders don’t give out recognition as often as they should. Appreciation builds engagement, boost creativity and drive loyalty.

According to Gallup, the most memorable recognition comes from:

  • an employee's manager (28%)
  • followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%)
  • the manager's boss (12%)
  • a customer (10%)
  • and peers (9%)

When asked what types of recognition were the most memorable, respondents emphasized six methods in particular:

  • Public recognition via an award, certificate or recommendation.
  • Recognition from a boss, peer or customer.
  • Receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews.
  • Promotion or increase in the scope of work or responsibility to show trust
    Monetary awards such as a trip, prize or pay increase personal satisfaction or pride in work.

4. “A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its value. An engaged employee is aware of the business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization. The organization must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.”

The above definition of employee engagement was given by Institute of Engagement Studies in 2003. IES considers that engagement is more than just a passing fade. It brings in positive business outcomes.

Research by IES reflects that engagement improves employee metrics such as:

  • a positive attitude towards, and pride in, the organisation.
  • belief in the organisation’s products/services.
  • a perception that the organisation enables the employee to perform well.
  • a willingness to behave altruistically and be a good team player.
  • an understanding of the bigger picture and a willingness to go beyond the requirements of the job.

Just like Gallup’s research, IES found that managers have a focus to influence the level of engagement.

An employee’s engagement is the most influenced by his manager. Managers have direct and frequent contact with employees on a daily basis. That means managers are a medium for communicating the company values, missions and priorities to employees.

5. “Employee engagement is measured by the ability and willingness of individuals to exert extra effort for the benefit of the company, their tendency to speak highly of the organization and their intent to stay.”

Greg Harris, president of Quantum Workplace, uses engagement surveys to improve the company performance.

In February 2009, Quantum Workplace released 5 key factors that set companies with higher engagement scores apart. Such companies are likely to:

  • Set a compelling direction that empowers employees mentally and emotionally.
  • Engage in open and honest communication.
  • Focus on employees’ career growth and development.
  • Improve employee satisfaction by recognizing high performing employees.
  • Provide employee benefits that exhibit a strong commitment to employee well-being.

It’s a war of talents out there. High performing employees value a good employee experience.

Businesses of today should shift their focus into creating a more engaged, diverse and impactful company culture.

To attract the crème de la crème companies have to offer more than just the salary. An engaged workforce will do half of the job for you by advocating the company to others.

Wrapping It Up

Whilst there are numerous definitions of employee engagement, it can be summed up to:
“The feeling of belonging and commitment expressed by an employee towards their organization.”

It’s important that we understand the importance of employee engagement in today’s world of work. Only then can you build a company that can withstand the tidyings of the changes occurring every few decades and be a legacy.

This article is written by Barasha Medhi who is a Content Marketer with Vantage Circle. She is always on the lookout for interesting tidbits about the current HR and employee engagement space. Contact for any queries.
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