Defining Employee Engagement and Making a Case for Nurturing It

by Ty Collins on May 12, 2020 in Employee Engagement

What do we mean by “employee engagement”?

Employee engagement means that employees are committed to their companies. Employee engagement isn’t the same as employee satisfaction. It also means that these employees are connected to their organizations. In today’s world, a business will fail if its employees are not engaged, but it will succeed if the employees are fully engaged at work. When this is the case, they choose to remain in their jobs for longer periods of time, and because of this, the company’s customers also remain loyal. In addition to that, the company’s overall performance improves and so does stakeholder value.

A Case in Business

Researchers asked executives from all over the world what their top global business strategies were, and one of the top strategies was encouraging worker engagement. As was mentioned above, engagement is one of the main reasons that employees remain with their companies, but it also causes them to be more productive, and it makes them loyal.

A majority of executives agree that engagement is highly important to their companies’ revenues and profits. Gallup conducted a poll, and it found that 33 percent of workers in America are fully engaged at their jobs. A full 52 percent of respondents said that they only arrived at their jobs for the paycheck, but 17 percent stated that they are entirely disengaged. This is telling us that a lot of employers have a long way to go before they can say that their workforces are living up to their full potential in the workplace.

Worker engagement is affected by whether or not the company is united and whether or not a supervisor is in an employee’s corner. Employees also need the company to share information, share a common vision and goals, effectively communicate with them and trust them. These factors will determine how productive the company is going to be able to be. It’s also very important for each employee to feel respected and valued. They want their employers to acknowledge the fact that their jobs are meaningful, but they also need to feel as if their employers care about what they think. If an employee is highly engaged, she will be committed to the company, and she will be as productive as she can be.

The Results of Businesses with an Engagement Policy

Molson Coors has an engagement policy, and it found that its highly engaged employees were five times less likely to be injured on the job than less engaged employees. The highly engaged were also seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident than the less engaged employees. Because this company addressed its worker engagement issues, it was able to save $1,721,760 in safety costs for the entire year.

Caterpillar makes construction equipment, and it also started an engagement program. This increased worker engagement and saved the company $8.8 million in one year because fewer people were missing work and more people were taking overtime. The company saw a $2 million increase in revenue in one of its newer plants. It also measured a 34 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

What Is Employee Engagement?

Consulting firms and researchers searched for a definition for this term. Because of their research, we have several levels of engagement or categories. For example, we know that job satisfaction is not the same thing as worker engagement. Job satisfaction is the term that we use to describe whether or not an employee is happy in his position. Worker engagement has to do with how involved an employee is in advancing the goals of her organization.

What Is the Difference between an Engaged Employee and a Disengaged Employee?

The research that organizations have conducted placed employees in separate categories based on how engaged they are, and these categories have their own terms. The different levels of engagement have been described in the two ways below:

  • According to Gallup, employees are “actively engaged,” or they are “not engaged.” Actively engaged means that the employee is loyal and productive; not engaged means that the employee is an average worker. Those who are disengaged are known as “retired on active duty” or ROAD Warriors.
  • According to Sibson Consulting, employees who know what they are supposed to do and are eager to do their jobs are known as “engaged.” The ones who don’t know what they are supposed to do and do not want to do their jobs are “disengaged.” There are also workers who want to do their jobs but don’t know how to do them, and they are known as “enthusiasts.” Lastly, employees who know what they are supposed to do but do not want to do their jobs are known as “renegades.”

If a worker is disengaged, she doesn’t feel connected to her company, so she does as much as she needs to do to get by. These people are easy to spot because they tend to watch the clock, keep to themselves or refuse to join the others when the company has events outside of the office. If a formerly engaged worker becomes disengaged, it is very noticeable to that person’s peers. These people become naysayers and act as if they can’t stand their jobs. They are constantly complaining to their coworkers, and this makes it difficult for others in the office to enjoy being there.

Engaged Employees vs. Disengaged Employees


  • Confident
  • Dedicated to the team
  • Does what is expected and much more
  • Solves problems
  • Focuses on others
  • Enthusiastic about learning new things
  • Rarely takes the credit but always accepts the blame


  • Gloomy personality
  • Focused on self
  • Often misses work
  • Speaks negatively
  • Narcissistic
  • Motivated by money
  • Rarely accepts the blame and willingly accepts the credit

The Difference between Worker Engagement and Job Satisfaction

People often use the term “job satisfaction” when they mean “worker engagement.” The things that encourage workers to be satisfied in their jobs can be the same things that cause workers to be engaged, but they are determined by different factors.

We know if a worker is engaged by the way that he feels about his job and the way that he acts at work. The engaged often report that they are very involved in their jobs, and they feel entirely focused on them. They can only be described as “enthusiastic,” and they feel as if the company would not survive if they failed to do their jobs. They approach their jobs with persistence and are adaptive and proactive when they need to be so that they can easily take on more duties if it should become necessary. These employees do not limit themselves to their job descriptions when they are providing services for customers or creating something new for the company.

In contrast, job satisfaction means that employees feel good about what they do and are pleased to be doing it. Companies can ensure that their employees feel satisfied by offering them very good benefits, excellent pay and security in their jobs. Companies can also influence worker engagement if the manager trusts her employees, recognizes their contributions, communicates with them regularly and assigns the most appropriate tasks to the right people.

What Causes Employees to Be Engaged?

Many people have studied this question, and they found that engagement is driven by managerial and organizational elements.

Our society is largely digital. This means that we aren’t speaking to each other face to face as often as we once did. We need on-demand technology more than we used to, and we are constantly updating our social media posts, sending texts and chatting online. This is causing us to be less engaged at work.

Engagement Driven by Organizational Factors

The research also pointed out the organizational factors that drive worker engagement.

Quantum Workplace manages “Best Places to Work” programs, and it discovered the following six organizational factors that are most responsible for driving worker engagement:

The organization’s leaders are committed to creating an atmosphere that makes employees believe that they are working at a great place.

  • Employees trust the leaders to make the right decisions for the organization.
  • Everyone believes that the organization is on a path towards success.
  • Employees believe that they have a future with the organization.
  • Employees are seen as the company’s most valuable resources.
  • The leadership invests in the employees so that they have the chance to succeed.

Engagement Driven by Managerial Factors

Positive interactions between employees and their managers increase worker engagement. Researchers found that the following behaviors have been known to encourage worker engagement:

The Gallup Q12 contains 12 components that lead an organization toward its objectives. The components are related to the employees’ benefits of being a part of the organization. For example, the employees have definite expectations from their leaders and resources to help them meet their goals. There are also components that relate to the employees’ contributions to the organization. These are based on the organization’s mission and the employees’ coworkers. Lastly, the components are related to whether or not the employees will have a chance to move up in the company. This means that employees receive regular feedback about their job performances and chances to learn about the company.

  • Relations between employees and the leadership are good.
  • Employees have what they need to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
  • Employees have the authority that they need to effectively accomplish their work goals.
  • Employees are free to make decisions about their jobs when they need to do so.

The Things that Human Resources and Management Need to Do

Company reputation, leadership, respect, trust, managerial styles and organizational communication all contribute to worker engagement. An organization will succeed if its HR professionals and managers take its worker engagement initiatives seriously.

The Tasks of the Human Resources Department

In order to ensure that employees are fully engaged, those in the HR department must create practices and policies that give leaders results that can be easily evaluated. These policies must bring new employees into the organization with the skills and knowledge that the organization needs to grow. They must also encourage present employees to stay with the company.

The Tasks of Managers

Mid-level managers are highly important when it comes to worker engagement. They must foster a relationship that includes respect and trust between managers and the people below them. They must also regularly inform the employees what the company expects of them and what their jobs are on a day-to-day basis.

Studies have shown that the reason that people leave their companies is because they have disagreements with their managers, so it is imperative that managers lead worker engagement initiatives to maintain satisfaction.

Executives must also give mid-level managers more responsibilities over time. The company must train these managers, and they must be welcomed into the decision-making processes. HR professionals and executives cannot hold mid-level managers responsible for worker engagement until they do the following:

  • Make sure that mid-level managers and employees have everything that they need to perform their duties effectively.
  • Ensure that mid-level managers know that they have the authority to do their jobs as the company expects.
  • Develop leadership skills in mid-level managers.
  • Help mid-level managers explain the company’s mission and vision to employees so that the organization can grow and develop.

In a Dale Carnegie study in 2017, researchers discovered that 42 percent of executives spend a tremendous amount of their time on worker engagement. Another 26 percent stated that they spend a fair amount of their time thinking about, planning and doing tasks that advance worker engagement. The remainder of the respondents do very little or nothing at all to advance worker engagement.

Developing and Sustaining Worker Engagement

Leaders can advance employee engagement by carefully considering how they are going to design their engagement initiatives.

Guidelines for Adopting or Modifying Worker Engagement Practices and Initiatives

In order for HR professionals to adopt or modify their companies’ worker engagement practices and initiatives, they need to do the following:

  • Make investments that are prudent: After the leaders examine their current engagement practices and initiatives, they must decide whether they are going to increase them or not so that they can advance the company’s goals.
  • Develop a good case for continuing current practices and initiatives: HR professionals should be able to show the leaders that worker engagement practices and initiatives are improving worker engagement. They must have graphs and charts that present evidence that these practices and initiatives are working for the company or companies like them.
  • Examine the unintended and negative consequences: As HR professionals determine whether or not a practice or initiative is useful, they must consider how these practices and initiatives will change the company. Is it possible that these practices and initiatives could bring about unfavorable, unintended consequences because the changes negatively affected the employees?
  • Use reliable data to make decisions: After new practices and initiatives have been adopted, the HR department needs to measure the results of these on a yearly basis. They need to ask how the practices and initiatives relate to customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, quality, productivity and profitability. Their research should identify the engagement factors that have the most impact and the items in their surveys that make the most successful businesses stand out amongst the crowd.
  • Ensure that an “engagement culture” exists in the company: Use the mission statement to tell employees what is positive about the company’s engagement culture. Also, send employees communications that speak of the engagement culture. Every part of a business must use these communications to ensure that engagement practices and initiatives are being implemented. They must also monitor the progress of these plans, make the appropriate adjustments and congratulate the actors when the plans succeed.

Positive HR Practices

HR practices directly influence worker engagement. HR professionals can increase worker engagement by doing the following:

  • Enrich the employees’ jobs: Make sure that each job description expresses meaning, diversity, self-determination and respect for coworkers so that all employees know that they have a wide array of duties in their companies. This will make them want to increase their levels of engagement in the company even more.
  • Increase recruitment efforts: Focus attention on the applicants who are the most interested in vacant positions. Encourage applicants with lower levels of interest to move in a different direction.
  • Selecting the most appropriate: The most appropriate candidates are very likely to do very well in your vacant positions. They are also very likely to volunteer suggestions for how things can run better in the company, and they will be highly unlikely to want to cause problems in the organization.
  • Appropriate training: Make sure new recruits know how their jobs contribute toward the organization’s goals. Develop training programs for the purpose of increasing job performance and job satisfaction.
  • Compensate for positive behaviors: Incentivize employees to adopt behaviors that the company prefers by using pay-for-performance initiatives. Encourage employees to learn more and increase their skills by offering competency-based pay.
  • Manage employee performance: Use the organization’s objectives to encourage employees to help the company realize its goals by providing feedback and acknowledging their contributions.

The Means of Communicating

HR professionals can keep up to date with worker engagement issues by creating targeted communication initiatives. This can also help them encourage employees to give leaders continuous feedback and let them know when their workgroups’ needs have changed. HR professionals and managers must talk to their employees as much as possible, and they should do this by using all of the means of communication that are at their disposal.

The Opportunities to Communicate

There are so many times throughout the day that an employer can speak to her employees to offer them direction and also to motivate them. These “engageable moments” were listed in Watson Wyatt’s WorkUSA report.

Opportunities for formal engagement include the following:

  • Asking employees to fill out surveys
  • Having senior leaders communicate with employees
  • Offering ongoing training opportunities
  • Setting goals for employees
  • Giving employees performance reviews
  • Continuously recruiting new workers

Opportunities for informal engagement include the following:

  • Help for employees experiencing personal crises
  • Holding social events for employees
  • Developing programs that recognize the contributions of employees
  • Providing performance feedback on a regular basis
  • Discussing career development
  • Providing mentors for employees
  • Providing coaching for employees

The Methods of Communication

The chosen communication method must depend on the size of the group that HR professionals want to target. They also need to consider the types of people in these groups and how they expect these people to react. The following methods can be used to engage with employees:

Keep in touch with each other: Maintain ongoing conversations by having meetings once or twice a week. The best way to make this work is to ask between 10 and 15 people to attend these meetings. During the meeting, members may present any issues they are having. They can also tell everyone about their new ideas, and their coworkers can tell them immediately what they think of them. Another way to keep in touch is for an executive to have a one-on-one meeting with an employee if he has demonstrated that he has been doing a superb job at the company. This is also appropriate if an employee has been having difficulties completing assigned tasks.

Communicating from afar: HR professionals and managers can use the various forms of communication to reach out to employees when needed in the following ways:

Technological platforms can provide a place for employees to tell executives what they are thinking, and executives can use this method for conducting exit interviews.

Employees may be invited to vote on the company’s issues, answer surveys, express their ideas and discuss the issues they are having at the office through a mobile app or social media platforms.

Executives can start a company blog for employees that tells everyone what is going on with the company’s initiatives. Employees will be invited to give their thoughts on these matters, and everyone in the company will be able to interact with these responses.

  • Executives can schedule regular teleconferences and videoconferences.
  • The company may send each employee an email newsletter.


Several companies give their employees surveys to learn what they are thinking. These surveys give employers important information about how worker engagement relates to key business outcomes. Surveys are a great way for executives to find out whether or not their worker engagement initiatives are working.

To create an engagement survey that gives leaders the most pertinent information, they must do more than measure the employees’ level of engagement. The first thing that employers must do is create a worker engagement strategy. Then, they can give their employees their worker engagement surveys. If they are going to create an effective plan, it must answer the following questions:

  • How are the executives going to explain their strategies to the employees?
  • How will they identify specific actions?
  • How will they know whether or not their objectives are being met?
  • After they learn the results of their surveys, how will they move the company forward?
  • How will they ensure that the engagement strategy will last?

Important Features of Worker Engagement Surveys

Ordinary employee surveys cannot answer the questions that executives are asking about worker engagement. Surveys that ask employees to share their perceptions, attitudes and views of their companies are known as “job satisfaction surveys.” Surveys that ask employees whether or not they agree with the view and vision of their departments are known as “employee culture surveys.” Engagement surveys, on the other hand, measure employees’ level of commitment, passion, sense of purpose and motivation for the work that they do and for the organization that employs them.

How Do You Create Engagement Surveys?

In order to create the best engagement survey, follow the suggestions below:

Make sure that your questions are questions that you can ask your employees every year or more frequently. This will make it possible to create a guideline for managing your worker engagement strategy.

Only use language that is positive and unbiased. You should never use negative language.

Focus attention on people’s behaviors. You will have a good question if it examines the employee’s or supervisor’s behaviors in everyday situations as they examine how those behaviors relate to customer service.

Try not to ask weighted or ambiguous questions. For example, “Do you look forward to Mondays when you know that you are going back to work?” You are very likely to receive a negative answer to this question even if the worker is highly engaged.

Don’t create a survey that is too long. People aren’t likely to participate in a survey that is extremely long. When they do, they may choose their answers without really thinking about them because they are tired and want to finish the survey.

Your vendors may want you to ask your employees specific questions. Make sure that you rewrite these questions so that your organization’s needs are represented.

Make sure that the questionnaire expresses your company’s values. This is highly important because each question will tell your employees what is most important to the company.

Give employees space where they can write their comments if they like. You can ask open-ended questions that will give your employees a chance to tell you what they think about your organization. These should come at the end of the questionnaire. They will allow employees to address issues that weren’t presented in the questionnaire that you may wish to address in the next questionnaire.

It may be a good plan for you to create different surveys for different employees that are given at different times. One example is the “pulse” survey that you give to your employees on a more frequent basis that allows you to ask about one particular issue.

You can give these surveys to different segments of your population along with your annual surveys. You can also give your leadership one type of survey while you present your employees with another type of survey. This is also appropriate if you have employees working in other countries or in different departments in your company.

How Do You Use Engagement Surveys?

After you collect completed worker engagement surveys, separate them according to the department so that the managers can encourage changes that will increase worker engagement. Some people believe that it would be useful to ask your line managers to tell your employees what the results of the surveys were so that they can address the concerns the employees have. Also, when employees have their performance reviews, you must tell them about the company’s engagement objectives so that they can be a part of fostering the company’s goals along with the leadership.

Leaders don’t always receive the results that they were hoping for from these surveys because they fail to obtain the senior management’s commitment to act after they find out where the problems lie. They also fail to employ focus groups that help them explore the reasons for negative comments and scores. These mistakes can be avoided if you do the following:

  • Make sure that managers tell their employees that surveys are not public relations initiatives but are for the organization.
  • A survey committee could ensure that everyone in the company will agree that the completion of these surveys is crucial to the goals and objectives of the company.
  • Use a focus group or create feedback to decide how important a particular item mentioned in the survey is to the company.
  • Separate open-ended survey comments into categories so that HR professionals can give them to the appropriate manager. This will ensure that the employees’ answers remain confidential.

What Are the Global Issues?

Employees in different countries and different sectors within the industry will be motivated by different factors. If your company is going to open branches in foreign countries, it will be important to know what causes those foreign populations to be engaged.

When you need a global engagement program, you need to do the following:

  • Make sure that your HR decisions are based on the country’s national culture.
  • Do not consider stereotypes. Use valid research instead to ensure that your company’s practices are in line with the country’s population. The initiatives must reflect the population’s perceptions and attitudes.
  • Worker engagement will be different for each country, so you will need to use national forms when you are interpreting employee surveys.
  • Remember that your employment brand will depend on the components that create engagement.
  • Keep in mind that your employees will determine what your organization’s culture is about by the way that your organization works.