May 13 2018

What is Employee Engagement?


Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.

Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction

Employee Satisfaction only indicates how happy or content your employees are. It does not address their level of motivation, involvement, or emotional commitment. For some employees, being satisfied means collecting a paycheck while doing as little work as possible.

Measuring employee satisfaction and making changes to increase employee satisfaction will not necessarily lead to increased performance. In fact, the conditions that make many employees “satisfied” with their jobs are likely to frustrate high performing employees. Top performers want to be challenged and to challenge the status quo. They embrace change, seek out ways to improve, and want all employees to be held accountable for delivering results. By contrast, low performing employees often cling to the status quo, resist change, and avoid accountability whenever possible.

How is employee engagement measured?

Employee engagement is typically measured using an employee engagement survey that has been developed specifically for this purpose. Employee engagement surveys must be statistically validated and benchmarked against other organizations if they are going to provide useful results. Without these things, it is difficult to know what you are measuring and whether the results are good or bad.

Engagement can be accurately measured with short surveys that contain just a few questions, but such short surveys can only provide an indication of whether employees are engaged. They have a hard time explaining why employees are engaged or disengaged because they lack detail. In order to get a complete picture of employee engagement, a survey needs to include about 50 to 80 questions that cover a complete range of topics related to employee engagement.

Components of employee engagement

There are two primary factors that drive employee engagement. These factors are based on statistical analysis and widely supported by industry research.

Engagement with The Organization measures how engaged employees are with the organization as a whole, and by extension, how they feel about senior management. This factor has to do with confidence in organizational leadership as well as trust, fairness, values, and respect – i.e. how people like to be treated by others, both at work and outside of work.

Engagement with “My Manager” is a more specific measure of how employees relate to their direct supervisors. Topics include feeling valued, being treated fairly, receiving feedback and direction, and generally, having a strong working relationship between employee and manager based on mutual respect.

The two Organization factors deal with how employees relate to and connect with the organization.

The two Manager factors look at whether managers display the essential skills and behaviors needed to be effective.

High Performance Barriers to Growth What other things could impede your organization’s ability to grow and/or execute its strategy? Culture of Engagement Does your organization have a culture that motivates, empowers, challenges, and respects employees? Motivating and Relating Do managers motivate their employees to give their best? Are managers building strong relationships and developing a cohesive team? Strategic Alignment Do employees understand where the organization is headed and how they contribute to the organization’s success? Managing Execution Are managers clearly defining expectations, holding employees accountable and focused on delivering results?

Beyond the Two Core Engagement Factors

High performance organizations, and highly engaged employees, also excel in these areas:

Strategic Alignment: Do employees have clarity of purpose and direction? Do employees understand how the work they do contributes to the organization’s success? Strategic Alignment ensures that employees have clarity of purpose and direction, and that their efforts are focused in the right direction. If those efforts are not focused in the right direction, they could be wasted.

Managing Execution: The most effective managers provide excel at the people skills, but they also provide clear expectations, hold people accountable, and stay focused on delivering results.

Leader and Managager Competency is measured as part of the employee survey via upward feedback .
For a more complete assessment of manager competency, we recommend using a 360 Degree Feedback Survey.

Employee Engagement Dynamics

Drivers of Engagement – What matters most?

Knowing whether employees are engaged or disengaged is only the first step. You also need to be able to take action on the results. You need to understand the key drivers of engagement and disengagement, and you need to be able to plan activities or initiatives that will have the greatest impact on increasing engagement.

The elements that drive engagement are usually similar across most companies, but the specific concerns and level of importance are unique and specific in every company and even in different demographic subgroups within a company.

We employ two techniques that enable you to identify the key drivers of engagement in your company and to understand what to focus on and how to improve in those areas.

1. Priority Level – we look at the statistical patterns across all groups in your organization to determine which items are impacting overall engagement within each demographic group. Items with low scores that are strongly linked to engagement are the areas where you will want to focus your change initiatives and engagement strategy.

2. Virtual Focus Groups – next, we ask targeted follow-up questions at the end of the survey that ask employees to provide examples of problems as well as suggestions for how to improve. Once you have identified an area that needs improvement, you can turn to the comments where you will often find detailed information that provides the specific what, why, and how so you can take action.

Pockets of Discontent – Identify “at-risk” demographic groups within your company

Even companies with high overall levels of engagement will have areas that are struggling. These problem areas can have a big impact on company performance, with high levels of localized turnover and employee apathy.

Understanding what is happening in these different demographic groups within your organization is at least as important as the overall level of engagement. When you find an at-risk group or an area where engagement is low, you can quickly drill down and look at the specific issues and dynamics within that group.

Sample scores in each of the four factors related to org and employee performance are illustrated below. In this example, we see that there is a high level of engagement with managers, but there are problems with how employees feel about the organization. The most problematic area appears to be strategic alignment.

Performance = Engagement x Alignment x Competency

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