6 min read
Now you might think that this is quite an obvious topic to be thinking and talking about as a company who prides itself on being the ‘employee engagement people', but I wanted to bring it up, and this is the reason why.
Last month, whilst looking for inspiration for a new blog post, I stumbled across an article that explained the ‘definition’ of employee engagement as:
My immediate reaction was firstly ‘I didn't know that’ quickly followed by ‘I wouldn't describe it that way’. Don’t get me wrong, it is an accurate statement; it just didn't fill me with much inspiration, motivation, or desire to engage.
At Reward Gateway, my job is to spark a chain of engagement that passes down from supplier, to client, to employee. Being an Engagement Manager means that I use the motivation and inspiration I get from my job to engage my client contacts, who in turn are motivated and inspired enough to work with me to engage with their employees. Their employees, in turn, are then motivated and inspired enough to become loyal, hardworking, productive and happy employees. Now that’s a lot of people who need to be engaged!
So I got thinking, given the amount of people that need to be engaged for this to work, if I wouldn’t describe employee engagement as the willingness to invest discretionary effort at work, then what would I describe it as?
Would my colleagues describe it the same way? Would my clients describe it the same way? And would their employees describe it the same way?
When I couldn’t immediately give a perfect one sentence definition of what employee engagement meant to me, I thought: perhaps this isn’t such an obvious question to be asking, maybe there’s more to employee engagement than a one-sentence-fits-all approach.
I decided that it was worth investigating.
When I got to this point, I wondered, what do I actually want the result of this blog to be? What is it I’m trying to prove here, or what point am I trying to make? I realised that I wasn’t really sure, but I was interested enough to ask the question and let the responses speak for themselves, in the hope that a natural conclusion would form, one way or another.
Now I thought, for this to be fair, I need to ask a range of people the same question, and not give them much time to formulate their response. I wanted it to be their words and their opinion on what employee engagement actually was, rather than a textbook response, or researched answer. I couldn’t manipulate or predict what people were going to be saying to me.
First I asked my colleagues to write down the first thing that popped into their heads, and these are the results I got...
- Cat Wright, Engagement Manager, London
- Rob Marsh, Consultant, London
- Jeremiah Bird, Inbound Technology Manager, New York
- Vasil Krumov, Client Support, Plovdiv
- Olivia Hyde, Account Manager, Sydney
- Richard Hurd-Wood, COO, London
- Seb Aspland, Head of Product, London
Based on these responses, I started thinking, maybe it’s the personal agenda of the individual that dictates what you believe employee engagement is. The fact that our agenda as a company is making the world a happier place to work makes happiness the most prevalent idea.
I thought I’d ask some of them, so again I set out, and asked ‘what is employee engagement?' Here's what my clients had to say:
- Ricki Steel, Rewards Executive
- Mary Jane Seddon, Head of Reward and Policy, Specsavers
It's no surprise that retention and performance are top of both our HR contacts' agendas. Our clients know that the way to increase performance is to show value and nurture employees to promote engagement. Nothing here about employees’ loving what they do, it’s more about being loyal to the business.
At Reward Gateway, we form a relationship with a specific HR contact and we work together to formulate a strategy to engage their employees. However I was curious that as our definitions of engagement seemed different to our clients’ definitions, what did employees think? The end person in the chain who all this engagement strategy is meant to reach.
With this in mind I again asked people at Reward Gateway, this time asking the question from a different perspective:
These are some of the responses I got:
I’m hoping readers may come to some of their own conclusions here, but my musing on this process has been interesting and diverse.
Not only are there ten completely different responses here, none of which are ‘the willingness to invest discretionary effort at work’ (phew – it’s not just me), - there also appears to be a pattern to the divergence, as each layer of the chain is misaligned. If HR's goal is to get more committed employees for the sake of their retention and productivity, and we want happy clients, then we both need to realise what employee engagement means to our employees. We need to understand what our employees believe it means to be engaged, and align our engagement strategy to focus on the matters that are important to those employees.
In each organisation that might mean something different. So the best place to start is; why don't you ask them what employee engagement means to them? It might just make your life a lot easier.