what is employee engagement?

Understanding Employee Engagement.

Answering "what is employee engagement?" and understanding its importance is critical to business performance and sustainability.

disengaged employee at workMoving from employee disengagement...
engaged employee at work...to employee engagement.

While organizational leadership coaching and change management consulting are passions, it is difficult to create positive impact in either without first appreciating the importance of employee engagement.

With this in mind, in this section of the site we'll seek to:

  • Define employee engagement.
  • Outline the benefits of employee engagement.
  • Introduce an employee engagement process.
  • Explore the consequences of lack of engagement.
  • Share ideas on improving employee engagement.
  • Consider virtual employee engagement.

And, we'll answer the question, "Are You An Employee Engagement Consultant?"

Have a question about employee engagement? Skip ahead and ask it here.

Defining Employee Engagement.

There are several ways to define employee engagement. Kundu & Nag (2021) define it as "an employee's level of commitment to and participation in their company's beliefs and goals" (p. 25).

organizational alignmentWhen your personal values align with those of your company.

In other words, do your employees' values align with the core values of the company? Is there a strong enough alignment or overlap of these beliefs that employees feel a shared sense of purpose, a commitment to demonstrate actions in support, and pride in contributing to continuous improvement?

As we'll explore in this section, it is entirely possible, and not of insignificant consequence, to have employees stay with your company for years while not believing in the company's mission or actively contributing to the desired culture.

It's not entirely the employees' responsibility to be engaged. Leadership must be committed to modeling behaviors in kind, showing that the stated core values are not just words in a training manual or phrases that decorate the lobby walls. Where leadership's words and actions are not in alignment, employees take note, and will behave in accordance.

Why Is Employee Engagement So Important?

How important is employee engagement? Shouldn't employees just show up and do their work? Isn't that what we hired them for?

employee burnoutMisalignment of core values.
benefits of employee engagementAlignment of core values.

In environments characteristic of disengagement, work can feel like something you have to do. Whereas, in environments displaying of core value alignment, there's a feeling that work is something you get to do. While there are several benefits of employee engagement, the positive influence on environment and organizational culture is not one to be overlooked.

What Happens If We Don't Do Anything To Improve Employee Engagement?

Crabtree (2013) as cited in Mueller (2019) describes the results of Gallup's 2013 State of the Workplace Survey as determining that 13% of employees are engaged, and 87% are disengaged, from a global standpoint.

financial consequenceGet ahead of the potential financial consequences.

Kumar & Pansari (2015) reflect on service businesses where employee disengagement contributed to newly-hired employees leaving in less than two years, those remaining longer than this becoming less productive, training and development expenses rising in relation to the former, and expenses related to retention increasing in response to the latter.

Even if employees aren't leaving, there are costs associated with employee disengagement and lost productivity. In Employee Disengagement: Foundations, Consequences, and Calculations, you'll learn about Employee NPS surveys and how to calculate financial cost for your organization.

No matter the tenure of employees, the benefits of improving employee engagement are likely to be more attractive than the costs and consequences of employee disengagement.

We're Remote First. What Does That Mean For Employee Engagement?

While companies have wrestled with decisions to have employees in-office, hybrid, flexible, or remote, there's an item that each have in common.

There will always be a need to attend to, and aim to improve, levels of employee engagement.

in office
work from home
office building
working from home
working in office
remote work

In-office employee engagement and virtual employee engagement are both considerations for organizational leaders. Related to remote employee engagement, and according to Simran et al. (2021), "companies must create a 'remote but real' culture of trust, incentives and communication in ways they have not before envisaged" (p. 98).

How To Improve Employee Engagement?

Change Management Progress

Despite the variables and uniqueness of your company and its culture, there are ways to improve employee engagement and ways to increase employee engagement in your organization. It's what we look at first in our consulting practice.

Here are a few key items to look at to determine baseline employee engagement metrics:

  • Employee engagement surveys.
  • Leadership self-evaluations.
  • Stay interview responses.
  • Exit interview responses.

Developing an understanding of where you're starting is critical to mapping the path to the desired destination.

Employee Engagement In Special Circumstances.

Businesses and industries are in states of near-constant change. If you've heard the term VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, you can probably relate.

While companies go through these changes, so too do their employees. This can present in times of crisis, following layoffs, in economic downturn, and in mergers and acquisitions.

Here's More On Employee Engagement In Special Cases.

Thanks For Reading "What Is Employee Engagement?"

Thanks for joining us for "What is Employee Engagement?" Want help in finding employee engagement solutions, organizing an employee engagement process, or working with an advisor to review your current employee engagement strategy?

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In health,

David Bohmiller

David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
Inevitabl LLC

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Kumar, V., & Pansari, A. (2015). Measuring the Benefits of Employee Engagement. MIT Sloan Management Review, 56(4).

Kundu, S., & Nag, S. (2021). Employee Engagement: Factors and Recommendations for Enhancing Employee Engagement During Covid-19 Pandemic. Journal of Strategic Human Resource Management, 10(3), 25-32.

Mueller, M. (2019). Show Me the Money: Toward an Economic Model for a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Employee Engagement Interventions. International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, 22(1), 43-64. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1108/IJOTB-05-2018-0056

Simran, S., Nayak, A., & Das, D. P. (2021). Effectiveness of Employee Engagement During WFH in IT Industry. Parikalpana: KIIT Journal of Management, 17(2), 96-110. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.23862/kiit-parikalpana/2021/v17/i2/210543

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