An “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization’s interests. An engaged employee is aware of the organizational goals and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organization. It is a positive attitude held by the employees towards the organization and its values.

According to a survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations, executives from around the world say that enhancing employee engagement is one of four most critical HR topics to focus on in volatile times—along with managing talent, leadership development, and strategic  workforce planning. Not only does engagement have the potential to significantly affect employee retention, productivity, and loyalty, it is also a key link to customer satisfaction, company reputation, and overall stakeholder value.

What is employee engagement?

The meaning of employee engagement differs from short and condensed to elaborate and comprehensive. Many of these definitions emphasize some facet of an employee’s commitment to the organization or the positive behaviors an engaged employee exhibits.

Examples of employee engagement definitions include:

  • Quantum Workplace – Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work.
  • Gallup – Engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
  • Willis Towers Watson – Engagement is employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to company success.
  • Aon Hewitt – Employee engagement is “the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organization.”

What employee engagement is not

Employee engagement does not mean the employee is necessarily happy. An employee might be in a happy state of mind, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into engagement, productively on behalf of the business. While company initiatives to improve employee happiness may be beneficial, and team outings, paid leaves and other incentives may improve employee morale but don’t guarantee employee engagement.

Employee engagement is more than just employee satisfaction. Many companies have employees that are satisfied and show up for work in regular working hours or do what’s expected of them but if they are not engaged they will not go that extra mile to drive the business forward.

Categories of employee engagement

According to Gallup there are there are different types of people:-

Engaged-“Engaged” employees are builders. They are aware of the desired expectations concerning their role and they can meet and exceed those expectations. They perform at consistently high levels and use their talents and strengths at work every day.

Not Engaged-Not-engaged employees tend to concentrate on tasks rather than the goals and outcomes they are expected to accomplish. They want to be told what to do, just so they can do it and say they have finished. Employees who are not-engaged tend to feel their contributions are being overlooked and their potential is not being tapped. They often feel this way because they don’t have productive relationships with their managers or with their coworkers.

Actively DisengagedThe “actively disengaged” employees are not just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness at the work place .They sow seeds of negativity at every opportunity. As workers increasingly rely on each other to generate products and services, the problems and tensions that are fostered by actively disengaged workers can cause great damage to an organization’s functioning.

The Gallup Employee Engagement Index reported that only 33 percent of workers are engaged in their jobs, 49 percent are not engaged, and 18 percent are actively disengaged. Gallup researchers, who base the Employee Engagement Index on a survey of nearly 42,000 randomly selected adults, estimate that disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses as much as $350 billion a year. Where this can be seen as an alarming statistic, it also provides the management with an opportunity to steer their disengaged workforce to a more engaged one.

What influences employee engagement?

Employers that engage workers actively and encourage them to be creative will attract top-notch candidates and retain loyal employees, which can be a competitive advantage, recent research shows.

IMR research group surveyed nearly 2,000 workers throughout the United States and found that the key drivers of employee loyalty include employee empowerment for decisions, trust between management and employees, opportunities for professional development, and active encouragement of creativity.

Traits of engaged and disengaged employees:

Engaged behaviors Disengaged behaviors
Positive Negative
Motivated Demotivated
Team-oriented Self-centered
Exceeds expectations Does the bare minimum
Solution-oriented Problem obsessed
Selfless Self-centered
Shows a passion for learning Focuses on monetary benefits
Gives credit to others but accepts blame Involved in blame game
Optimistic Pessimistic
Responsible Irresponsible
Encourages team members Negative influence on others

How to bring about an engaged workforce?

Quantum Workplace (the research firm behind the “Best Places to Work” programs in more than 40 metro areas) has identified five key factors that set companies with higher engagement scores apart from others. Such companies:

  • Have a clear and compelling vision that motivates each employee
  • Plan a structured onboarding program
  • Identify right roles for each new resource. Analyze strengths and weakness of each employee
  • Engage in open and honest communication with all the staff members
  • Delegate meaningful work.  Set realistic engagement goals, KRA’s and KPI’s
  • Maintain a focus on employee career growth and progress
  • Organize training and mentorship programs for the holistic development of the employee
  • Recognize and reward high performance of star performers
  • Provide employee benefits that demonstrate a strong commitment to employee well-being
  • Empower employees to bring about positive change in work culture
  • Implement valuable employee feedback

Progress, development, recognition, empowerment, purpose, trust and autonomy factors often show up in survey findings as issues that affect engagement. The challenge: identifying factors that are right for your business—and managing them. Giving people the opportunity to do what they do best fosters engagement at the company. Good job fit has translated into lower-than-industry-average turnover and a better connect with customers.

Employee engagement matters a great deal, not only to HR professionals but also to business leaders because employee engagement directly affects a company’s financial health and profitability. Hence employee engagement strategies should be given preeminence when creating an HR plan for an organization.