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What is employee engagement? Back to Top

My definition of employee engagement is based both on my personal experience with
teams and on the criteria of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The Baldrige
criteria define employee engagement as the extent to which workforce commitment, both
emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision
of the organization. I see engagement as a heightened level of ownership where each
employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external
customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole.
For people to be engaged, they have to be given the time and mechanisms to get
involved. They have to believe that their personal contributions matter, and they have to
be keenly aware of the connection that exists between their daily personal actions and
decisions and the success of the organization. Engagement also implies the existence of
strong, meaningful relationships. Sustained organizational success is all about creating
effective relationships between customers and team members. Think of your teams like a
set of gears - if each of the gear teeth (each person), as well as the gears themselves (your
teams), are not properly and consistently engaged, mechanical efficiency will be lost to
some degree.
Why do I really need to engage a high percentage of my people? Back to Top
Gauging true employee engagement involves looking at the degree to each employee is
connected. In turn, by looking at the percentage of your workforce that you involve in
decision making activities, planning efforts, problem solving, personal development
events, customer contacts, and team-based work, you can get a better idea of how
engaged your people are and where your engagement deficiencies might be.
Unfortunately, most organizations only engage a small percentage of their people in
activities that extent beyond the daily processes they are responsible for. If you doubt my
opinion, do a self check by looking at how your people, at all levels, spend their time at
work and the mix of people that are involved in those activities that have been
traditionally reserved for middle and upper management.
If you understand the gear analogy I made in defining the term 'engagement', the need for
high engagement percentages is obvious. I believe that there is a direct correlation
between engagement levels and organizational success - as engagement levels rise across
a variety of activity types, the number of gear teeth and gears that are meshing goes up, in
turn leading the organizational machine to higher levels of performance. Greater
engagement and stronger relationships create greater levels of understanding and
ownership - if people understand what their customers want and why they want those
things, your people are more apt to make decisions and take actions that are consistent
with those needs. If your people have a greater understanding of what the organization is
trying to accomplish, and how organizational success will affect their own personal
success and growth, they are more likely to consistently behave and act in a manner that
supports the mission and vision of the organization, as opposed to working only to
support their own personal needs or to keep their boss happy.
How do I engage more of my people in pursuing the goals of the organization? Back to
To increase engagement levels, you have to do two key things. First, you have to change
job designs and job descriptions. In other words, people have to spend their time at work
a little bit differently each day. We're not talking about massive changes here. The time
required to attend a monthly performance review meeting, participate in an annual
improvement or planning day, and attend two to three hours of training or group problem
solving a month does not really take that big of a dent out of the 2,000 hours a year the
average person spends at work. If only these example activities are used to increase
engagement levels, a 3% impact on time will be felt, and if these events are properly
designed and facilitated, the benefits realized from these investments will far outweigh
the costs.
The second change you have to agree too is perhaps the tougher one to make, even
though the costs involved are very low - you have to decide that it makes sense to involve
all levels of your workforce in those activities that have traditionally reserved for
members of management. Sadly, in many organizations, even the middle and front line
leaders are not involved in planning and personal development to the degree that they
should be. Upper organizational leadership is often afraid to share what is thought to be
sensitive information because they don't trust their people. Unfortunately, without trust,
engagement will not occur, but at the same time, trust levels cannot be increased without
developing the stronger relationships that are part of true engagement. It is a vicious,
systemic circle that can be spinning in either the positive (growth) or negative (erosion)
How can I measure my current level of employee engagement? Back to Top
There are three primary ways in which engagement levels can be measured - employee
surveys, personal time investment analysis, and information access analysis. The survey-
based measurement approach can be as simple as asking a question on the annual
employee opinion survey, but the high performing organizations at minimum will ask
multiple questions of an engagement nature to gauge the degree to which each of the
approaches that they are using to engage the workforce are effectively working. Those
organizations that are willing to give each employee an e-mail address and some form of
intranet access are discovering that such connectivity allows for more frequent, and
specialized, surveying as well.
Doing a spreadsheet or database-based analysis of how your people spend their 2,000
hours a year also provides an effective means of assessing engagement levels. For
example, what percentage of your people spend time on training each year? What
percentage of each person's work time is spent attending monthly performance updates or
annual planning sessions? How many hours a year does the average employee spend with
at least one external customer? Percentages can also be used to gauge the number of
people in your workforce that have access to performance information on the company
intranet, receive updates on performance to company goals and objectives, or participate
in team meetings of some type. A team infrastructure matrix can be used to give you a
quick look at team involvement levels.
What is the most “critical factor” for achieving higher levels of employee engagement?
Back to Top
Outside of the information access and job design change decisions that upper managers
must make, the most critical factor that can help or hinder engagement levels lies in the
abilities of EACH of your process owners to promote and increase engagement levels. In
particular, the performance of your front line supervisors in this area is most critical. A
very high majority of your people get daily information about what the organization is
trying to accomplish from these people, both intentionally and unintentionally. Front line
leaders are the key to developing stronger relationships between internal customers.
These people also decide how much effort they are willing to make to 'free people up' to
attend training or participate in team meetings, and they are often the people that
expected to effectively lead most of the training and meetings the bulk of your workforce
In order to develop effective engagement skills in each of your leaders, you have to
require them to demonstrate effective facilitation skills and prove the degree to which
they are engaging their people in a formal manner on a regular basis. These expectations
have to be part of their job description, and they must be expected to demonstrate
increased skill proficiency in these areas as time passes. Too many organizations fail to
ensure, let alone increase, the skills of their leaders in these key areas. For true
engagement to both exist and improve over time, the front line leaders have to be
involved themselves and be capable of demonstrating that they are personally involved
and effective in involving their people.
What is the link between compensation practices and employee engagement levels? Back
to Top
I want to start off by saying that I have learned that money is much more a demotivator
than it is a motivator. In other words, I don't think money is the primary, or even the
secondary, reason why people do things that they are expected to do at work. I strongly
believe however that people will quickly become demotivated if they get the impression
that a compensation system is not fair. That said, one mechanism for increasing
engagement levels lies in the structure of your compensation system. What types of
compensation differences exist between organizational levels? Who gets the perks and
who doesn't, and what perceptions exist relative to what has to be done in order to
become one of the haves, instead of being a have not? What types of pay rate, benefit,
work environment, and recognition differences exist across the organization, why do they
exist, and how do these differences affect engagement levels?
There are some compensation system best practices that are used by high performing
organizations to help drive up engagement levels. One of the key practices involves
extending some form of profit sharing to all employees, not just those at the top.
Similarly, formal recognition for team successes should exist for all teams. Most
importantly, you should strive to design a compensation system that is fair - one that
appropriately recognizes each employee based on the contributions they make to the
success of the organization (one that is not based simply on one's job title). Unfair, or
poorly deployed, compensation systems will drive down engagement levels. Keep in
mind however that while the "What's in it for me?" question is very pervasive and
powerful, it also focuses on much more than pay - be sure to look at other forms of
compensation, such as work environment, formal recognition opportunities, and benefits,
that far too many companies ignore.
How can Great Systems! help me increase my employee engagement levels in a
meaningful way? Back to Top
Great Systems! can help you assess your current employee engagement levels and
develop a plan for increasing those levels over time. I can help you design and install
more effective work systems to help drive up engagement levels, such as employee
opinion survey, recognition, and team infrastructure processes. I can also provide you
with workshops that are designed to help you learn more about, and practice, those skills
that are needed to effectively lead and facilitate team meetings, build stronger
relationships between internal and external customers, or supervise in a manner that helps
build more effective teams and higher levels of engagement.
High levels of employee engagement are requisite for sustained, best in class
performance levels. I believe that this fact will become more and more important as our
workforces become more diverse and the expectations of our customers continue to shift
and grow. I invite you to learn to do what the high performers have already proven as
being effective - change your work systems to foster higher levels of workforce
engagement. If you do so, greater results will follow.

Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Models

Research into Employee Engagement and Satisfaction

There are many models on the market and each provider claims that their model is based
on empirical research. For this I am sure, however for each organization that undertakes
this they appear to arrive at different conclusions.

So are they all correct or are they all incorrect?

The jury is out on this. What we do know is that no two organizations are the same and
that the prevailing culture makes a great deal of difference in the results.

Using normative data also takes the edge off of excellent organizations, so for instance
one organization may score high in some and low in other factors; the net result is that
they score x. This is then the benchmark that the research organization/ provider uses.
The important driver

The key driver in measuring employee engagement and satisfaction is not necessarily a
particular set of factors, but that fact that the same factors are measured repeatedly over
time, and interpreted in conjunction with the current and future required culture in the
organization, along with business performance measures.

Katz and Kahn

Identified three levels.

• Joining and staying in the organization. This includes recruitment into the company,
low absenteeism and low turnover.
• Dependable behaviour. These indicators relate to meeting or exceeding standards of job
• Innovative behaviour This level goes beyond individual roles to how people collaborate
with colleagues, make suggestions to improve the organization, and work to improve the
organization's standing in the external environment.
Towers and Perrin

Have four degrees of engagement:

• Actively engaged,
• Engaged,
• Engaged but leaving,
• Disengaged
Gallup Q12 - Employee Engagement

No page on the net looking at Employee engagement would be complete without looking
at the Gallup Q12.

Gallup began creating a measurement and feedback system for employers that would
identify elements of employee engagement closely linked to the bottom line. Factors such

<LI class=.normal>Retention
<LI class=.normal>Customer loyalty
<LI class=.normal>Profitability
<LI class=.normal>Productivity and
• Safety
After extensive research including hundreds of focus groups and thousands of interviews
with employees in a variety of industries Gallup came up with the Q12, a 12-question
survey that identifies strong feelings of employee engagement. Results from the survey
appear to show a strong correlation between high scores and superior job performance.

The Three Types of Employees identified by Gallup are:

1. Engaged
2. Not Engaged
3. Actively Disengaged
For reasons of copyright the questions are not listed here although a simple internet
search will list them.

CIPD research

To help identify common factors in employee engagement the CIPD commissioned

Kingston University and Ipsos/MORI to undertake a survey of employee attitudes. From
this research they determined that Engagement can be said to have three dimensions:

Emotional engagement - being very involved emotionally with one's work
Cognitive engagement - focusing very hard whilst at work
Physical engagement - being willing to 'go the extra mile' for your employer.

From BSI consulting

In a white paper looking at Employee Engagement they identify the following scales:
<LI class=.normal>Identification
<LI class=.normal>Performance & Motivation
<LI class=.normal>Affective <LI class=.normal>Commitment & Engagement
<LI class=.normal>Skills and Workload
<LI class=.normal>Commitment (Normative & Continuance)

<LI class=.normal>Engagement (emotional)

<LI class=.normal>Identification (rational)
<LI class=.normal>Team Orientation
o Motivation Compatibility
Critical Employee Value Proposition (EVP) Drivers and Impacts
Employer Contribution -v- Employee Contribution
Corporate Appeal --- Engagement
Leadership --- Identification
Belonging --- Team Orientation
Job Design --- Motivation
Working Conditions --- Compatibility
The RapidBI Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Survey (EESS)

The EESS looks at the following scales:

<LI class=normal>Clarity
<LI class=normal>Communications
<LI class=normal>Effective Management
<LI class=normal>Engagement
<LI class=normal>Environment
<LI class=normal>Equal Opportunities
<LI class=normal>Health and Safety
<LI class=normal>HR Policy
<LI class=normal>Induction
<LI class=normal>Loyalty
<LI class=normal>Personal Growth
<LI class=normal>Retention
<LI class=normal>Team Spirit
o Trust
Employee Engagement Index - EEI

The Employee Engagement Index is the average of the three scales:

• <LI class=normal>Organisational Commitment. <LI class=normal>Job Satisfaction.
• Intention To Stay.
Kenexa Employee Engagement Index - EEI

According to a survey by Kenexa, you can summarise employee engagement with these
four primary principles, or drivers, that show that workers are engaged by:
• Leaders who inspire confidence in the future.
• Managers who respect and appreciate their employees.
• Exciting work that employees know how to do.
• Employers who display a genuine responsibility to employees and communities.
Kenexa has also come up with the Kenexa Employee Engagement Index, which
comprises four key components:
• Pride
• Satisfaction
• Advocacy and
• Retention

Components of Index (Insight now)

Have an instrument called the Employee Engagement Index in which the index is broken
down into the following segments:
• Employee attitude towards their customers.
• Employee attitude towards their company.
• Employee attitude towards the products or services they are providing.
• Employee attitude towards their immediate management, motivation, recognition and
control structures.
• Employee attitude towards their role, contribution and development.
• Employee loyalty to their contact centre.

Burke company Employee Engagement Index - EEI

Burke takes a different approach and look at populations and target audiences and how
they answer key questions.
• Company
• Work Group
• Career/ Profession
• Customer/ Client
• Job
• Manager
They believe that there is a significant link between employee engagement, customer
loyalty, and profitability.

BCWI Employee Engagement Index - EEI

This organisation uses a simple three scale approach:

• Engaged
• Neutral
• Unengaged
This data is collected from BCWI's 15 item scale of employee engagement includes items
assessing employees' sense of their own growth in and fit with an organization as well as
their beliefs about how much impact employees have on the organization and its leaders.

Mercer - Employee Engagement

Mercer's research "What's Working?" surveys have gathered data from a cross-section of
industries. These surveys had questions grouped into 13 dimensions:
1. Work processes
2. Quality and customer focus
3. Benefits
4. Communication
5. Work/life balance
6. Job security and career growth
7. Teamwork and cooperation
8. Ethics and integrity
9. Immediate manager
10. Performance management
11. Compensation
12. Leadership and direction
13. Training and development

From these dimensions Mercer Identified four global drivers:

• The work itself, including opportunities for development
• Confidence and trust in leadership engagement
• Recognition and rewards
• Organizational communication
Then using further data from this research they developed Mercer's Employee
Engagement Model©:
• Satisfied --> Motivated --> Committed --> Advocate

Employee Engagement - people or leadership?

How can leaders engage heads, hearts, and hands of their people? An article in Ivey
Business Journal believes that by starting to apply the following 10 C's of employee
o Connect: Leaders must show that they value employees. Employee engagement is a
direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the immediate boss.
o Career: Leaders should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities
for career advancement. Most people want to do new things in their job.
o Clarity: Leaders must communicate a clear vision. Success in life and organizations is,
to a great extent, determined by how clear individuals are about their goals and what they
really want to achieve.
o Convey: Leaders clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on
their functioning in the organization.
o Congratulate: Exceptional leaders give recognition, and they do so a lot; they coach and
o Contribute: People want to know that their input matters and that they are contributing
to the organization's success in a meaningful way.
o Control: Employees value control over the flow and pace of their jobs and leaders can
create opportunities for employees to exercise this control.
o Collaborate: Studies show that, when employees work in teams and have the trust and
cooperation of their team members, they outperform individuals and teams which lack
good relationships.
o Credibility: Leaders should strive to maintain a company�??s reputation and
demonstrate high ethical standards.
o Confidence: Good leaders help create confidence in a company by being exemplars of
high ethical and performance standards.
Looking at the above list it seems that many of the characteristics are about practising
effective leadership.

Employee engagement is not about the employees, it's about effective leadership.

Blessing White - Employee Engagement

According to Blessing White:

"the most successful organizations make engagement an ongoing priority, not a once-a-
year event. They take a multi-faceted approach to address problem areas and improve
engagement scores organization wide."
The best practices include:
o Maximise managers - they are the main connection in the employee engagement
o Align, align, align - clarify strategy and organizational goals.
o Redefine career - employees need line-of-sight on their future to be truly engaged.
o Pay attention to culture - culture and employee motivation go hand-in-hand.
o Survey less, act more - don't rely purely on an employee engagement survey to drive
your strategy
In many of their Employee Engagement Surveys and research this organization use the
following criteria:
o Disengaged --> Crash & Burn --> Newlyweds & Hamsters --> Almost Engaged -->
Fully Engaged

In one report they also use the scale:

Disengaged --> Crash & Burn --> Honeymooners & Hamsters --> Almost Engaged -->
Fully Engaged
For more information and research visit the Blessing White site.

Factors of Employee Engagement

Many organizational factors influence employee engagement and retention such as:
o A culture of respect where outstanding work is valued
o Clear job expectations
o Adequate tools to complete work responsibilities
o High levels of motivation
o Availability of constructive feedback and mentoring
o Opportunity for advancement and professional development
o Fair and appropriate reward, recognition and incentive systems
o Availability of effective leadership
Many other factors exist that might apply to your particular organization and the
importance of these factors will also vary within your organization.