What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is the art and science of engaging people in authentic and recognized connections to strategy, roles, performance, organization, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.— David Zinger, employee engagement expert.
Employee engagement describes individuals who are socially, physically and mentally immersed in their work and who report higher levels of job satisfactionOpens in new window, organizational commitmentOpens in new window, and even organizational citizenship behaviorOpens in new window.
An engaged employee is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about his or her work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.
The Engage for SuccessOpens in new window website (2010) defines employee engagement as a workplace approach resulting in the right condition for all members of an organization to give off their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own wellbeing.
An engaged employee has deep sense of ownership for the organization and strong feelings of involvement, commitment, and absorption in one’s work, which translates into organizational productivity and business performance.
Employee engagement relates to the holistic expression of a person’s preferred self in a work role. It consists in dedicating ones cognitive, affective and physical energy to work. Money is not the only reason for an employee to be engaged.
Kruse (2012) ratified this point, stating that “employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. The emotional engagement means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t just work for a pay-check or for the next promotion”.
Employee engagement means being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connection to others. Again, this relates to a positive, fulfilling, work related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption, (CIPD 2010).
- Vigor is characterized by high levels of energy and mental resilience while working,
- dedication refers to being strongly involved in ones work and experiencing a sense of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration and pride
- while absorption is characterized by being fully concentrated and happily engrossed in ones work.
Though different organizations define engagement differently, some common themes emerge. These themes include:
- employees’ satisfaction with their work and pride in their employer,
- the extent to which employees enjoy and believe in what they do for work and the perception that their employer values what they bring to the table.
The greater an employee’s engagement, the more likely he or she is to “go the extra mile” and deliver excellent on-the-job performance. In addition, engaged employees may be more likely to commit to staying with their current organization.
Behavior and attitude in the engagement context is characterized by belief in the organization, desire to work, giving respect, being helpful to colleagues and the willingness to go that extra mile.
Purcell (2010) believes that engagement is a combination of attitude and behavior where attitude is the commitment and behavior is going the extra mile.
Why Employee Engagement is Important to Organizations
As employees in today’s workforce vary widely in their levels of engagement, employers are also increasingly interested in creating an environment that can facilitate employee engagement due to the recognized impact of engagement on productivityOpens in new window and financial outcomes.
For example, according to Stairs and Galpin (2010), high levels of engagement have been shown to relate to:
- lower absenteeism Opens in new window and higher employee retention;
- increased employee effort and productivity;
- improved quality and reduced error rates;
- increased sales;
- higher profitability, earning per share and shareholder returns;
- enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty;
- faster business growth; and
- higher likelihood of business success.
- Employee involvement is the strong desire to be part of the value an organization creates. It is an environment in which workers are encouraged to, and can directly impact, the decisions and activities in their work environment.
- Employee engagement is the result of passive acceptance of company value and objectives whereas involvement is the active pursuit to these objectives.
There is an approach for human capital practices designed to engage and involve employees. Bridger 2015 cites an approach that involves three essential elements, as briefly described below.
- Autonomy Opens in new window, which involves the desire to direct our own lives;
- Mastery, which consists in the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and
- Purpose, concerned with earnest yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Employee Engagement Strategies
Businesses today need to ensure they have talented employees who will achieve results aligned to business strategic objectives as one of the factors most critical to success.
The Well-being, Information, Fairness and Involvement model — WIFI as stated by (Cook 2008) are four strategies of employee engagement that help attract and retain talent.
- Well-being focuses on how employees feel about the organization in areas such as employer branding, work-life balance, job design and structure.
- Information is concerned with clearly defined and communicated vision for where the organization is heading and ensuring there are clarity defined organizational goals and objectives.
- Fairness relates to hiring right people for the right jobs. It is about how managers rate individual performance and issue reward and recognition.
- Involvement relates to communication that occurs two ways. It’s about actively involving employees in the decision making process.
In addition, Macleod and Clarke (2010) identified a series of positive outcomes associated with engagement – both for the employees, employers and for the country as a whole. They highlighted four factors that were “commonly agreed to lie behind successful engagement approaches” and were called the enablers of engagement.
These four strategies have gone on to be highly influential as a method for framing much of the subsequent work on engagement.
- Firstly, a visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organization, where it’s come from and where it’s going. Macleod argues that if the organizations story is communicated clearly then it lets them see how the work they do fits with the business’s goal.
- Secondly, engaging managers, who empower rather than control their staff.
- Thirdly, giving employees an opportunity to express their views and concerns. Employees who feel able to speak up without retribution will share the good as well as bad. They will share their ideas and, if they feel that these are listened to, this will increase their engagement at work.
- Integrity is the fourth strategy which means demonstrating unfailing support for the values on the wall and behaving accordingly. Without integrity there is no trust, without trust there can be no employee engagement.