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What is Employee Engagement?

5 min read
Employee engagement is a measure of someone’s attitude at work; how they think, feel and act towards helping their employer meet their goals. Find out how engagement is measured and how engaged employees benefit a business

Engaged, Disengaged or Somewhere in Between?

Employee engagement holds a central position in the world of work, being both impacted by Organizational practices and behaviors and an impactor of business performance. It’s not surprising therefore that it’s become so ubiquitous in employee research today.

But what is engagement and how do you measure it?

An easy way to think about employee engagement is to view it through 3 different types of employees we might have come across at work:

  • Engaged employees – motivated individuals who take an active role in driving their team forward to meet the organization’s goals
  • Disengaged employees – employees who are not motivated and hold the team and the organization back from achieving their goals
  • Neither engaged nor disengaged – ‘freewheeling’ employees who don’t play an active role but don’t prevent the team or organization moving forward

According to the latest research, a more scientific definition of employee engagement is “An individual employee’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral state directed toward desired Organizational outcomes”.

That breaks engagement down into three parts – how someone thinks (cognitive), feels (emotional) and acts (behavioral) in helping their employer meet their goals.

Understanding not only the levels of engagement of your people but also what causes those levels of engagement are essential if you want to build a team with more engaged employees and fewer disengaged employees.

Understanding the key drivers of engagement is essential if you want to know the levers to pull to build an engaged team.

Why Care About Employee Engagement?

Intuitively, it’s a no-brainer – would you prefer more employees who have the desire and drive to move the organization forward, or more who are ‘freewheeling’ or actively preventing the company reaching its goals?

But it’s not just intuition; numerous research has shown that when employees are engaged they’re more inclined to work harder and solve problems, more likely to grow and develop faster, engage in prosocial behaviors at work and stay longer at a company. All of this adds to the employee experience of the individual and organization as a whole.

And it has an impact across the business:

  • Increased performance – Scientific research clearly shows that business unit-level engagement is predictive of future customer experience metrics, productivity, and financial performance
  • Lower attrition – Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organization, which means reduced costs in having to recruit new staff, train them and wait for them to ramp up to full productivity
  • Increased revenue – According to Bain & Company, companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues 2.5x as much as those with low levels of engagement
  • A better customer experience – 70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same (Right Management)

More engaged employees help reduce the costs of attrition and lead to increased revenue, business performance and a better customer experience

How To Measure Employee Engagement

Engagement measures typically focus on 4 core areas:

  • Discretionary effort – employees’ likelihood to go above and beyond what is required of them
  • Commitment to the organization – employees’ feeling of pride toward and advocacy for the organization
  • Intention to stay – employee’s general sentiment about how often they consider leaving
  • Work Involvement – employee’s feeling of personal accomplishment from their work

Each element is as important as the next, so when measuring engagement it’s essential to understand each one.

After all, someone can score highly for organizational commitment and be committed to their employer, but not to their individual role and vice versa.

When you have all three elements present in an employee, it can add to something greater than the sum of its parts.

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