The Concept of Engagement
The idea of engagement did not simply spring from a noble management effort to ensure employees were happy. It arose from the need for increased productivity—the ability to get greater output from effort. As competition increased following World War II, companies realized that they could better ensure levels of productivity by retaining and getting the most from their labor force. But one significant difference came to the forefront that did not exist previously. Employees now had choices. Contrary to what much of the previous generation experienced, many employees could now choose to leave an organization for more favorable work. Under these conditions, managers became more focused on employees as a way to increase the bottom line. They needed employees who not only brought their hands to their work, but their minds and hearts as well. As the real value of an organization shifted from tangible assets (brick and mortar, machines, vehicles, property, tools, etc.) to intellectual assets (know‐how, customer relationships, proprietary information, etc.), what existed in people’s minds and hearts was becoming more valuable. Today, the ability to learn, change, and adapt is increasingly becoming the greatest sustainable competitive advantage. Today’s workforce faces daunting challenges to cut costs, improve quality, increase production, and develop new products and services at a faster speed. While some organizations struggle or fail, others are able to cope with the increasing demands. Because of these global trends, the value of human capital is even greater now than ever before. A key factor in tapping this capital is engagement.
What do We Want Most?
To better grasp the concept, ask yourself the simple question: “What do we want most from our employees?” Intuitively, we know it when we see it. Consider the following examples:
- A salesperson works well past five o’clock to secure a deal that helps the company achieve its revenue goal.
- A machine operator takes the time at the end of her shift to ensure that her counterparts understand changes in the production system.
- A customer representative goes beyond his job duties to make sure a complaint gets resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
- A manager takes time to personally congratulate and recognize a new‐hire for completing an important project on time.
Engagement Leads to Success
Employee engagement can be simply defined as a voluntary dedication and commitment to doing our very best work. Engagement goes beyond traditional measures of employee satisfaction to include concepts of motivation and effectiveness. Different people are engaged by different things, so the actual dimensions of engagement may vary for a given group or organization. Engagement is much more than ensuring our employees are motivated, and is no longer just HR jargon. It is now as real as the results of the latest company Profit & Loss Statement. In today’s organization, the difference between engaged employees and disengaged employees may very well mean the difference between success and failure.