The Simplest Definition of ‘Engagement’

There has been a LOT of discussion about Employee Engagement.  Much research has been done about how engaged employees build culture, improve bottom line results, and contribute to the overall company success.  All really good stuff!

But the question is, how do I decide if my employees are engaged?  Is there simple thermometer I can use to tell how engaged my employees are?

The simplest version of employee engagement is this:

Engagement = discretionary effort.

Think about that for a moment.  What does ‘discretionary’ mean?  It is different than just ‘doing a great job’ or ‘doing what you’re asked’ or even ‘doing a great job when you’re asked’.  To me, true engagement occurs in the times when an employee can choose what they are doing.  

Try that out – see if you can identify employees who are more or less engaged by using ‘discretionary effort’ as a measuring stick.  When they are between tasks, or not up against a deadline, what do they do?  Do they jump right into social media for a break?  Do they chat with co-workers to kill time?  Do they spend large amounts of time in the break room or around the water cooler?  All of these things are fine, and important to balance out the work day… but when employees really have a choice, what do they do?

It is an interesting exercise, to either confirm or disprove what you already believe.

With this simple observation, you come to one of two conclusions:

First, an engaged employee.  Perfect!  They spend their discretionary time doing good things, helping others, contributing in various ways.  Awesome.  That’s what we want.

But the other alternative, an employee who is not engaged.  He/she spends discretionary time doing nothing (I would say a person not doing their job at all isn’t just a matter of engagement, but a performance problem – that’s a greater topic for a different day  #staytuned).

So what now?  How do you increase engagement?  Well, you can’t really

Well, you can’t really force someone to be engaged, it is definitely a choice they make on their own.  But you can provide the environment and contributors that help them get there.  The folks at DecisionWise have laid out a simple framework and explanation

The folks at DecisionWise have laid out a simple framework and explanation here.  I highly recommend it, once you’ve identified the engagement “temperature” and want to start moving things forward.

So what do you think?  Does the simple ‘thermometer’ definition of engagement match what you’ve seen?  Please share comments below!



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