What is employee engagement and what can it achieve
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Craig Thomas

What is employee engagement and what can it achieve?

10th April 2018

Employee engagement provides a firm foundation for achieving goals, improving performance and creating a positive work culture. However, defining "engagement" presents something of a challenge, as there are often inconsistencies in the way it is described and tested. So how do you identify what employee engagement really consists of and what exactly it can be channelled to achieve?


Defining employee engagement

There are three key models that have been used to define employee engagement:


1. Company based models


These models define engagement as an outcome and often view it as a degree above satisfaction or motivation. The kind of outcomes that demonstrate engagement include commitment and loyalty, discretionary effort and employees who are enthusiastic advocates of their organisation's values and goals. Every company has its own specific view of what defines engagement - for example, telecoms giant BT identifies it as "a combination of attitudes, thoughts and behaviours that relate to satisfaction, advocacy, commitment, pride, loyalty and responsibility".


2. The academic definition of engagement


Through academic eyes, engagement has three key parts:


  1. Outcomes - e.g. dedication, loyalty, fostering change. Macey and Schneider (2008a) define engagement as "discretionary effort or a form of in-role or extra-role effort or behaviour".
  2. Employee psychological state - being fully absorbed by work, motivated and dedicated. Deci, 1975 describes this as "effort, involvement, flow, mindfulness and intrinsic motivation".
  3. Relationships - i.e. the beneficial mutual relationship that exists between employer and employee.


3. Consultancy based models


Engagement is defined in this model by the psychological state, combined with numerous outcomes for the business, and the way that the employer has a part to play in generating engagement. The key element is the connection between the employee performance and the objectives that the business has, so that there is a clear understanding of how employee contribution makes an impact. Consultancy and research institutions also define engagement differently - for example, The Corporate Leadership Council defines engagement as "the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organisation, how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment".


What can employee engagement achieve?

Reducing attrition rates

Engaged employees are more likely to be committed to their current role. Research by consulting firm Blessing White indicated that 85% of engaged employees were planning on staying with their current employer, compared to just 27% of employees who weren't engaged.


Meeting customer needs

More engaged employees tend to be better able to understand customers and give them what they need. This enables employees to engage better with customers and improves customer loyalty.


A more productive workforce

When employees are engaged they work harder and are much more likely to go that extra mile.


Brand advocates

Those employees who are engaged tend to go out into the world and advocate for the business, both as a place to work and in terms of its products and services.


Improving organisational performance

Researchers have found a direct link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, productivity, profit and employee turnover. Better engaged employees improve overall business performance, which inevitably results in improvements to the bottom line.


Cultural and organisational change

The ability of a business to evolve and adapt depends significantly on how engaged employees are with objectives and outcomes.


At Active, we deliver employee engagement and recognition programmes tailored to our clients' needs and objectives. To find out more please contact us.


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