What Employee Engagement Is Not

Many definitions are thrown around today to describe employee engagement.  Some of these definitions include references or similarities to other common organizational behavior terms, to the point where “engagement” has become a catchphrase that includes all the positive feelings and qualities that we want in employees.  If it’s a positive behavior, we lump it into the “engagement” category.  However, this creates a good deal of confusion as many try to define engagement for their particular organization.

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So, let’s take a different approach.  Let’s address what employee engagement is not first:

  • Employee Engagement is not Satisfaction.  Satisfied employees are content with their pay, working environment, and the job they do.  Satisfaction must be in place for employees to be engaged (it’s the “price of admission”) but it does not cause an employee to be passionate about her job, nor does it cause an employee to throw his heart, hands, and mind into his work.
  • Employee Engagement is not Happiness.  Employees can be happy at work but not necessarily engaged in their work.  A fun working environment can contribute to engagement, but it may only make your employees happy without contributing to engagement.  We’ve seen plenty of employees who are happy with their jobs (think “Dude, it’s so easy . . . I don’t have to do anything but sit all day and watch YouTube”), but are not engaged in their work.
  • Employee Engagement is not Motivation. Motivation is a component or result of engagement in one’s work.  Engaged employees feel motivated to do their best because the conditions for engagement have been met.  Additionally, motivation does not always equate to action (I’m motivated to diet, but that sure doesn’t mean I’m going to).
  • Employee Engagement is not Empowerment. Autonomy or empowerment is a component of engagement, but some mistake being empowered with being left alone.  The opposite of this, of course, is to be powerless and micromanaged.  Empowerment also often ignores the fact that engagement is a choice.  While I may be empowered, once again, I may not act.

So what is engagement?  Let’s keep it simple: employee engagement is a state and a behavior that makes employees feel passionate about their work, and give their hearts, hands, and minds to that work; it leads to employees caring more and contributing more to their work and their companies; it is driven by experiencing meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection in one’s job.

Any other terms you would add to the list? How would you describe employee engagement?

Listen to Podcast: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC, Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement, Listen as David Mason, Ph.D. discusses the five essential ENGAGEMENT MAGIC keys (Meaning Autonomy Growth Impact Connection) that managers need to cultivate lasting employee engagement with their teams.

2016 State of Employee Engagement Report

Related Content: What is Employee Engagement?
Related Post: 7 Definitions of Employee Engagement
Related Post: 5 Research Studies on Employee Engagement
Related Webinar: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: The Five Elements of Employee Engagement
Related Training: Engagement MAGIC® Training

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