Before an organisation can explore and perhaps measure employee engagement there needs to be an understanding of what employee engagement actually is and what it means for a particular business as there is no single definition of the term that is widely accepted.

Various definitions have been attempted by writers and researchers on the subject. One of the earliest was Kahn in his 1990 paper, Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement. He defined employee engagements as, “the harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances”. Physical engagement in this definition referred to the actual physical and mental effort that employees put into their job. The cognitive element of Kahn’s definition referred to an employee knowing what the vision and strategy of the business was and how their work and their performance can impact on this. Finally, emotional engagement for Kahn related to how an employee feels about their employer, about working relationships with colleagues and whether that creates a sense of belonging and trust. In 2004 Frank, Finnegan and Taylor talked about employee engagement being, “the amount of discretionary effort exhibited by employees in their job”, while in research for the CIPD in 2006 Truss, Soane, Edwards, Wisdom, Croll and Burnett gave a simple definition of employee engagement as being a, “passion for work”.

Whichever way you choose to interpret the term, research shows that when employees are engaged in their work, and by extension with their organisation, there is a strong correlation with many positive outcomes. Engaged staff are typically happier and healthier, they are also usually more efficient and productive and staff who feel and behave like this tend to be more motivated and more likely to stay with their employer. Engage For Success also point to the fact that when staff have high levels of engagement this also filters through to customers who benefit from higher levels of service due to staff being more willing to go the extra mile.

Ultimately for most organisations the bottom line is critical and all of the above engagement factors have repeatedly been shown to positively impact on profits. For example, A Towers Perrin global survey in 2006, found that over a 12 month period companies with high engagement scores improved their net income by 13.7% compared to those with low engagement scores, while research by Taleo in 2009 discovered that companies have 26% higher revenue per employee when employees are highly engaged.

A powerful case therefore exists for businesses to devote at least some time and effort to understanding employee engagement and what it looks like in their own context, because those that don’t are likely to face difficulties with disgruntled and disengaged staff who are probably thinking about or have already decided to leave and the time and costs of dealing with these issues will undoubtedly outway a more proactive approach.

Do you have questions about employee engagement?

Give us a call at CUBE HR on 01282 678321, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our blog on a similar topic The Importance Of Communicating With Employees.

We also have a YouTube channel with loads of handy videos.