WORDPLAY CHALLENGE:

WHAT is THE DEFINITION OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

definition of employee engagement
definition of employee engagement

The meaning and ambiguity of words is play for an estimated 50 million¹ people who enjoy crossword puzzles as part of their daily regime.  However vague terms and imprecise definitions are bewildering business for organizations. The conceptual conundrum that surrounds “employee engagement”   is huge. Definitions of highly engaging organizations and highly engaged employees are a matter of scholarly debate, cultural interpretation, personal perception; it depends on who or where or what you consult.  But, what is the definition of employee engagement? Employee engagement might be described as:

  • An environment that helps employees summit the Maslow peak; a workplace that facilitates the realization or fulfillment of an individual’s talent and potential
  • An approach that motivates people to give their best, which in turn unleashes improved productivity and efficiency, and delivers a good return on investment
  • The psychological engagement or emotional connection an employee feels towards their organization; a commitment to the boss
  • The degree of passion employees feel about their jobs
  • The discretionary effort employees put into their work, giving 110% or more, voluntarily.

The meaning and ambiguity of words is play for an estimated 50 million¹ people who enjoy crossword puzzles as part of their daily regime.  However vague terms and imprecise definitions are bewildering business for organizations. The conceptual conundrum that surrounds “employee engagement”   is huge. Definitions of highly engaging organizations and highly engaged employees are a matter of scholarly debate, cultural interpretation, personal perception; it depends on who or where or what you consult.  But, what is the definition of employee engagement? Employee engagement might be described as:

  • An environment that helps employees summit the Maslow peak; a workplace that facilitates the realization or fulfillment of an individual’s talent and potential
  • An approach that motivates people to give their best, which in turn unleashes improved productivity and efficiency, and delivers a good return on investment
  • The psychological engagement or emotional connection an employee feels towards their organization; a commitment to the boss
  • The degree of passion employees feel about their jobs
  • The discretionary effort employees put into their work, giving 110% or more, voluntarily.

TalentMap's Definition of Employee Engagement

As it appears in the 2017 edition of Employee Engagement and Action Planning for Dummies, ² TalentMap defines employee engagement as “a positive, energized state of mind that stems from both a cognitive and an emotional investment of personal energy that is focused on transforming a work task, a team goal, and/or an organization outcome into a meaningful business objective.”

Granted, no two organizations share the exact same vision of a workplace where people want to be. But every single organization can do something to get employees more engrossed in their work world and through that connection ignite enthusiasm and spark new efficiencies. Soliciting input from your workforce, by means of an employee survey, can fan the flames of transformative engagement, and resultantly, enrich organizational performance.

Origins and Evolution

From where did the notion of employee engagement come? A highly condensed timeline based on the work of Theresa M Welbourne, PhD and Steven Schlachter, PhD (in the IRF funded paper “ ‘Engaged in What?’ Creating Connections to Performance through Rewards, Recognition and Roles”³) traces the evolution of employee engagement over the decades:

1990 – The Preferred Self: William Kahn provided the first theory of engagement as bringing one’s self to the organization, the employee’s interests and preferred roles; the belief that people have different dimensions of themselves that they choose to use in different circumstances.

2001 – Do More with Less: Challenging economic conditions put more stress on individuals following 9/11 and the dotcom bubble burst. Organizations laid more people off and resisted hiring. Jobs were not abundant and employees were asked to do more.

Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter - Introduced developmental theory of engagement as the antithesis to burnout.

2002 – Satisfaction: Harter, Schmidt & Hayes - First study of employee engagement’s links to profitability and discussion of employee satisfaction.

2006 – Antecedents and Consequences: Saks - First academic research into antecedents and consequences of employee engagement; identified three distinct drivers: cognitive, emotional and behavioral.

2008 – Link to Learning: ASTD (Czarnowsky) - First professional organization to conduct and disseminate empirical evidence of engagement’s link to learning.

2015 – Above and Beyond: Most largely presented by consulting firms as a way to measure satisfaction and willingness to go above and beyond in the interest of organizational effectiveness.

Over the course of this evolution employee engagement has grown beyond the bailiwick of human resource departments. All levels and different facets of organizations are paying attention to the intrinsic value that comes from a meaningful bond between people to their work and their workplace.

Employee engagement may well be a concept that still defies a pigeon-holed kind of definition as it continues to transform with the times. But time has proven it’s a route well worth traveling for the collective benefit of an organization and its stakeholders.

¹http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695255125/Crosswords-Why-are-so-many-of-us-obsessed-with-puzzles-Here-are-some-clues.html

²TalentMap Edition, Employee Engagement and Action Planning for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. 2017; p 7 definition of employee engagement

³http://theirf.org/research/irf-history-of-employee-engagement/1555/

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By Norm Baillie-David | February 12, 2018

Webinar | Norm Baillie-David, SVP at TalentMap and Bea Boccalandro, President at VeraWorks, discuss how job purposing can heighten employee engagement, performance, and wellbeing.

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