After years of measuring and managing employee satisfaction, companies like GE and American Express are now citing Employee Engagement as the next rung in the ladder to be pursued. What exactly is engagement and why are these top organisations committed to building it? Employee Engagement is an increasingly popular business concept and a hot topic for business leaders, many of whom link it to their business success. Most recently, a widespread lack of engagement has been cited as the root cause of a significant business problem in the US. This engagement gap is when the workforce is either not fully engaged in their work or their organisation or are disengaged from them and it is costing businesses billions of dollars per year in lost productivity.
Over the years, organisations have spent a lot of time doing research on the importance of people being satisfied and interested in their work but some have come to realise that satisfaction isn’t really that much of a driver of performance in the job. Just because an employee is happy doesn’t mean that he/she has been working really hard or even working in the direction of the organisation’s best interest. The best way to show the difference between satisfaction and engagement is by giving an example as follows: you can go to a restaurant and have a pretty good meal. You can feel very good about what you paid for it, feel very good about the flavour of the food or the service, and that’s fine. You can leave the restaurant saying, “That was a pretty good experience. I’m satisfied.”
Or you can go to a restaurant and the food can be so terrific or the service can be so unusual or personal that you really can’t stop talking about it. You become something of a net promoter, and you tell your friends and your family, “You have to go check this place out.” Employees should not just want to feel satisfied, they should be so switched on and so motivated that they really love going to work and that will be reflected every time they interact with customers. That’s fundamentally, the difference between engagement and satisfaction.The concept of employee engagement is widely referred to and widely sought after, yet inconsistently defined. By examining how some researchers and top organisations have defined it, we might discover why engagement is both so topical and so difficult to pin down.
Engagement is often defined as emotional and intellectual commitment to the organisation (Baumruk, 2004; Richman, 2006; Shaw, 2005). It is also defined as the amount of discretionary effort exhibited by employees in the jobs (Frank et al, 2004). Schaufeli et al (2002) define engagement as a “positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication, and absorption.” In addition, they categorise it as both affective and cognitive, as well as persistent and pervasive rather than momentary or specific.
Though the definitions vary, certain themes are common to many of them: satisfaction with work, pride in employer, enjoyment in work, belief in work, and the perception that the employer values what the employee brings to the organisation. Organisations interested in building engagement are not guaranteed success, no matter how intently they pursue it—although it is possible for organisations to increase significantly their chances of building a more engaged workforce.