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Employee Engagement – What?

| February 11, 2015

by Jim Bruce

The issue of employee engagement has surfaced in several ways over the past few weeks – what is it?, why is it important?, should I be concerned about my team’s engagement?, how would I improve it?, what could/should a team member do to increase his/her engagement?, etc.  This issue and these questions have led to this and the next two Tuesday Readings.

In their piece “What Engages Employees the Most …”, Dan Crim and Gerard Siejts define employee engagement this way:  “An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work.”  Tim Rutledge, in his book, Getting Engaged:  The New Workplace Loyalty,” puts it this way:  [T]ruly engaged employees are attracted to, and inspired by, their work (‘I want to do this’), committed (‘I am dedicated to the success of what I am doing’), and fascinated (‘I love what I am doing’).  Engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to invest the discretionary effort  – exceeding duty’s call – to see that the organization succeeds.”

Ideas underlying employee engagement go back to the 1880s and the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his analysis of the productivity of both men and machines in a steel mill.  Much later in the 1950s and 1960s Frederick Hertzberg, focused on the psychology of motivation.  One of his major research findings, that continues to intrigue, is that things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied – the opposite of job satisfaction is no satisfaction and the opposite of job dissatisfaction is no job dissatisfaction.  Research and interest in the subject and its practice have continued.

Employee engagement is important because highly engaged employees have more positive attitudes at work – they are enthusiastic, feel empowered, are inspired, and confident.  They are more productive (42%) and are significantly less likely to leave.  All organizations want more highly engaged individuals, want their new employees to become highly engaged, and want to see those employees not now highly engaged increase their engagement.

Employee engagement for an organization is typically measured by a survey informed by the model of engagement used by the organization conducting the survey.  Today, there are several hundred survey investments available from organizations including Dale Carnegie, Gallup, the Hay group, TINYpulse, etc., as well as much smaller boutique consulting firms.  (In the interest of full disclosure, MOR Associates’ Data Analytics group is also a provider of engagement surveys.)  Data from the surveys can provide engagement information at the organization and organizational sub levels, as well as by other sub-groups such as age groupings, gender, educational level, etc.

Several of the national survey providers have conducted large public surveys to gauge the engagement of the working population at large.  For example, in October 2012, Dale Carnegie published the results of a national study of over 1500 employees to better understand what leads to engagement and what key attributes are present within these engaged employees.  Some key findings from this survey include:

•  29% of the sample are engaged, 45% are not engaged – they show up, do their work and go home, and 26% are actively disengaged – actively miserable and exuding discontent.  

•  3 key drivers of engagement – relationship with direct manager, trust in senior management, and pride in working for the company.

•  4 traits engaged employees exhibit – enthusiasm, empowered, inspired, and confident.

(Different public surveys do report different results.  For example, a Gallup survey at about the same time reported 30% engaged, 52% not engaged, and 18% actively disengaged.)

As I reflected on the first of these findings, it was obvious that a lack of engagement is a major issue as is the relationship between the manager and the employee.  In next week’s reading we’ll focus on the role of the manager in increasing engagement on the part of his or her staff.  And, the following week we’ll focus on what the staff member can do to increase his or her engagement.

Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim



1.  Dan Crim and Gerard Siejts, “What Engages Employees the Most or, The Ten C’s of Employede Engagement.”  

2.  Frederick Hertzberg, “One More Time:  How do You Motivate Employees.”  

3.  Dale Carnegie Training, “Engaged Employees Infographic.” 

4.  TINYpulse, “7 Vital Trends Disrupting Today’s Workplace.”  

5.  Gallup, “Status of the American Workplace.”  (Registration at the site required.)