employee engagement definition

4 min read

Picture this, you have five minutes to not only explain employee engagement to a room full of HR professionals, but you have to do so in a disruptive way. This was the challenge I was given when I agreed to speak at the recent DisruptHR event held in London, with the brief being to ‘energize, inform and empower executives, business leaders and people in the HR field.’ Easy? Absolutely not.  fun? Definitely!

It was easy to choose my topic as employee engagement. First, because I’m incredibly passionate about it (as is the rest of my company!) and second because I believe that new ways of looking at employee engagement can and need to truly “disrupt” our industry. So, in five minutes, I answered three key questions about employee engagement: Why? What? And How?


I started with why, partly because I always do this after reading Simon Sineks’ book Start with Why, but also, in order to be disruptive I needed to get everyone to see the need and urgency to focus on employee engagement. As a reminder:  

  • Companies with high employee engagement have 3 times higher profit than those with low employee engagement.
  • 71% of executives in the UK and US rank employee engagement as not just important but very important in helping them achieve organisational success.

However, only 24% of these executives said they had high employee engagement at their company.

Disruptor: There is a huge gap in employee engagement, almost a 50% gap! Employee engagement is only improving by around 0.5% a year, so if we keep doing what we’re doing it will take us 100 years to close the employee engagement gap.

employee engagement definition


OK, so now we know the why. But what, exactly, is employee engagement?

By the way, did you know that if you google 'employee engagement' you get over 9.5 million results?  

That says something about not only the interest in employee engagement, but the fact that it is described in so many different ways. Here’s the way we talk about employee engagement at Reward Gateway, and what so many of our clients believe, too.

Employee Engagement is not ...  Employee engagement is... 

About discretionary effort, so putting in extra hours and days.  

About having employees who make better decisions because they understand their company’s purpose and mission and where they fit in.

About reducing attrition, why keep disengaged employees at your company?

Having employees who are more productive because they like or love their job and do it in the right way.


Having employees who are more innovative because they truly want their company to succeed.


Disruptor: There is no quick fix or magic box for achieving employee engagement, it is a journey to connect your employees to your company. And . . . you can’t force your employees to join you on this journey!

employee engagement definition


The how is complex. We like to say there’s no such thing as “true” employee engagement, as it’s a journey that you should be on with your employees, constantly evolving and tweaking your strategy to find what’s right for you. But we start with the Engagement Bridge, a model Reward Gateway’s Founder Glenn Elliott created as a way to achieve employee engagement. Here are the high level tips I shared on the bridge:

  • The Engagement Bridge has 10 diverse and comprehensive pillars ranging from purpose/meaning/values to pay & benefits to recognition to communications.
  • You must use all pillars, so picking one or two won’t work.
  • You must create your own bridge, so you can’t take something off the shelf or copy from another company.
  • It’s a marathon and not a sprint, so it will take time and effort in the short and long term.
  • You need to keep your plates spinning, so constantly look at what works and doesn’t work and change and adapt as necessary.

Disruptor: We need to do things differently if we are going to close the engagement gap, and the Engagement Bridge™ is an approach that works . . . we’ve been using it for the last decade at Reward Gateway! (Check out the video below for a more detailed explanation of the Bridge™.)



The event was all about showing HR professionals that they need to be ready to take some risks and stir the pot, and hopefully that’s what I achieved in my five-minute presentation. It’s time to put the spotlight on the need to do things differently and an approach to help you accomplish your goals.  

So go out there and disrupt a bit in your organization and start building your own employee engagement bridge. And remember, as the global leaders in employee engagement technology, we’re always happy to help you on your journey. Tell me how you’re disrupting in the comments or on Twitter @DebraCoreyRebel - I’d love to hear your story!

Debra Corey

Debra Corey is an author, world-class speaker and HR consultant, paying it forward by inspiring and helping others around the world to bring out their inner rebel and drive strategic and meaningful people and business change as the Chief Pay it Forward Officer at DebCo HR. Her career spans 20+ years developing and delivering HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

Reward Gateway Advisor

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