Employee engagement is a phrase that has gained a great deal of awareness and popularity in recent years, but the concept is anything but new. It can be a bit difficult to boil down into a concrete definition, and depending on who you ask, you will likely get different answers. However, Custom Insight provides a concise definition that we feel nicely describes the sentiment: "Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work."
Employee Engagement Isn't the Same as Employee Satisfaction
Custom Insight correctly notes that employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction, and this makes logical sense. An employee can be perfectly happy on the job but still not feel passionate about the work, be very committed to the organization or put in any discretionary effort whatsoever. The employee may simply be coasting along in a cushy position, ready to jump ship at the first sight of a better opportunity.
Engagement means more than simply being satisfied. It means a willingness and drive to improve one's organization. But going beyond the generalized definition, what does employee engagement look like in practice?
Do You Know Engagement When You See It?
In an article for Gallup, Ken Royal describes some common behaviors you might see among highly-engaged employees:
Despite challenges and barriers, the engaged don't often let problems become an excuse for inaction or destroy their ability to perform.
They seek ways to operate at their best, which means they focus on their strengths and don't spend too much time trying to do what does not come naturally to them.
They are intentional about their engagement. They have a plan and independently, proactively try to improve their engagement rather than expecting someone else to engage them.
They take accountability for their performance instead of blaming others when things don't go as they want.
Unfortunately, Gallup adds that only 15 percent of employees worldwide and 34 percent in the U.S. are actually engaged. They recommend that managers pay attention to the behaviors of their engaged employees and see what they are doing that others are not. While some employees are simply hardwired or brought up to be more engaged at work than others, this doesn't mean that organizations can't help promote and encourage engagement. And taking cues from those already highly engaged is a great place to start.
But there's another key consideration here that we think is missing: inclusion.
Inclusion Drives Engagement
We're willing to make a bold statement here. It's impossible to engage employees if you don't include them! Think about it. Most employees are highly motivated and very engaged when they first take on a new position. Unfortunately, for some, that motivation and engagement wanes over time as they're faced with a start reality: their opinions don't matter. This may be for a variety of reasons but one that we see frequently is inclusion. Companies today go to great lengths to ensure that they're hiring a diverse workforce. But what do they do with that diversity once they have it on board? Sadly, many do nothing. And, because they do nothing, those eager, highly motivated employees simply go away.
Are you listening to, and including the viewpoints of, all of your employees? Inclusion is for everyone: baby boomers and Gen Z, new employees and those about to retire, men and women, people of color, people with minority viewpoints. The bottom line: if you're looking for engagement (and aren't we all!), you'd better be inclusive!
Becoming an Inclusive Leader
Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage
Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion training solutions and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.