For the past 15 years, employee engagement has dominated the internal communication agenda. But even its biggest advocates, like the U.K.’s Engage for Success, admit there is a long way to go in achieving what it considers a desirable degree of “engagement.” (Gallup, which claims its Q12 survey is the definitive tool for measuring engagement, also claims that only 13% of workers are “engaged” by its definition.)
Many leading lights in the communication and culture world focus on promoting a particular definition of engagement. I see two other areas of opportunity: to look closely at whether alignment between corporate, employee and HR definitions of engagement is also a factor in creating engagement, and to consider whether engagement activities should be focused more selectively.
Dan Gray, a U.K.-based brand, marketing and communication professional with extensive experience in engagement-oriented projects, identifies a number of categories of engagement definitions on his blog:
- For some, engagement is nothing more than a sexy new wrapper for the same old activities —a slightly more outcomes-focused badge for internal communication.
- For some it’s a process—the alignment of the organization’s vision, strategy and goals with those of the individuals who make it up.
- For some it’s a philosophy—a synonym for “involvement” and the desire to bring greater democracy to decision-making in organizations.
- For others still, it’s pure outcome—an individual psychological state, effectively the sum total of one’s gut feelings about one’s relationship with an organization.
I would add two additional categories:
- An output—the surplus “discretionary” effort employees contribute beyond what normal pay and contract terms would generally warrant.
- A number, reflecting the outcome of surveys like those from Gallup and Kenexa, which specify a combination of attitudes, behaviors and class="style-7-right">
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