Enter ‘What is Employee Engagement?’ into Google and (today) you’ll get more than a million links! So to infer from this that there are quite a few definitions out there is perhaps reasonable. And if you spend a few minutes trawling through some of those definitions, exhaustion will soon set in. Lots of homespun theories and very little hard data or rigorous research.
Then if you find a definition you like, can you do anything with it? Most importantly, can you measure it, to see what it’s like in your own organisation? And then link it with business performance measures?
That’s what Employee Feedback consultants have been focusing on in recent months. We’ve come up with a highly practical definition which is easy to measure over time. It makes it easy to map varying levels of engagement across the organisation. Our clients find it an exciting and useful way to look at the subject because they can use it to bring about real change.
So what is employee engagement? Engagement – as we see it – consists of two main variables – capability and commitment. These are the dimensions we measure in an employee survey.
Capability is a measure of whether or not the individual is able to do what is asked of them – so it’s about the nuts and bolts of the working infrastructure – physical conditions, equipment, resources, training, supervision, communication and so on. We measure capability by asking questions about how satisfied employees are with those aspects of their jobs.
Obviously it’s essential that employees are capable, but it doesn’t mean that they will deliver. That’s why we also look at commitment.
Commitment is all about willingness and desire: motivation in other words. People may be capable of doing the job, but they may just not want to perform. So it’s important to measure people’s enthusiasm for doing a great job. So we ask a number of carefully crafted questions to elicit just how turned on they really are.
Then we plot the results on a two-dimensional matrix and the result is a map of relative engagement. What we look for are scores that are high on both capability and commitment axes. And, over time, we look to see how groups progress towards that end.
We find that this approach is very powerful: clients identify readily with the visualisation and invariably it turns out to be a reliable measure – and predictor – of performance. Measurement is straightforward. Follow up action can be accurately targeted where it’s most needed. Praise and encouragement can be given to managers who are succeeding in creating fully engaged, high-performing teams.
Engaged employees are happy employees. HR Directors can see the results of their efforts. Chief Execs can demonstrate progress to their masters. Potential clients can see in advance the kind of service quality they can expect if they ask your organisation to work with them. Everyone wins.