Employee Engagement - What it is and is it important?

Employee Engagement – What it is and is it important?

There are so many fashionable buzz words in business these days. Is Employee Engagement simply the latest fad, or is there value in actively pursuing an Employee Engagement Strategy?

The concept the Employee Engagement has been around since the 1990s, but it is in recent years that it has become an established HR management tool.

A good starting point is to look at what we mean by ‘engaged’ employees.

Forbes wrote an interesting article this year quoting research done by Gallup. According to Gallup, there are three types of employee.


The great news is that these are loyal and enthusiastic members of staff who are emotionally committed to the organisation.

They are successful, and in roles that make the best use of their skills and talents. They look to take on additional responsibilities, and are the people who are most likely to move up the leadership ladder, staying at an organisation for a longer than average time.

The not so good news is that this group represents just 15% of the workforce.

Not Engaged:

The largest group, at 67% of the workforce. Whilst mainly happy and satisfied in their role, this group coast along, doing only what they have to do. They are not interested in the company’s mission, vision, values or goals. It’s unlikely that they take an interest in productivity or profitability.

Are these guys a threat or an opportunity? Well both! With a change in approach, they can be moved up to become part of the Engaged group.   Without a strategy to engage them, the organisation will never get the most from them, and there is a danger they could slip down to the …

Actively Disengaged:

At 18% of the workforce this is a significant slice of the workforce that can have a damaging effect on the whole team.

They are easy to recognise, they take up a disproportionate amount of their manager’s time and freely express their negative views. When these people are experts in their areas, they can have significant negative influence over others. It’s unlikely that you can convert these employees to ‘Engaged.’

So, having looked at the type of employees an organisation may have, what exactly is Employee Engagement?

It’s a concept that seeks to both quantify and qualify the nature of the relationship between a workforce and their employer. It works on the principle that if you create the conditions that support all staff members to give their best, they become committed to the organisation’s goals and values, and motivated to contribute to its success. In turn, this brings an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Whilst most studies support the premise that employee engagement has a direct impact on productivity and profitability, many managers still struggle to define, measure and improve engagement in their teams. We give below some practical suggestions that can be built into your strategy:-

  • Ensure that everyone knows the company’s vision and how you intend to achieve it.
  • Determine what tools, training and support each employee needs and provide it. Re-check regularly.
  • Feedback is a great motivator. Don’t wait for the appraisals, instead, offer feedback as often as possible.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. And don’t forget to say “Thank you!” for a job well done.
  • Communicate well and often. Ask if the communications are effective, and if not, change them.
  • On a big project, get everyone involved. That way the project becomes something they’re willing to fight for.
  • Implement relevant incentive programs.
  • Act fairly to create trust and respect.
  • Try to make work fun – people often get more done when they enjoy themselves.

Finally, a note on what engagement is NOT. Don’t do what a boss I know once did – which was to say ‘thank you’ to someone and then tell them he had now completed his quota of three ‘thank yous’ for the day! Engagement can’t be achieved by a process driven, mechanistic approach that tries to manipulate commitment and emotions. People can quickly see such attempts for what they are, and become cynical.