What is Employee Engagement? We asked.

Written by: Edward Sanchez, Director – Communications & Engagement

Backed by a growing collection of evidence-based research and workplace awareness, it is becoming apparent that the concept of employee engagement is here to stay. Employers are beginning to understand the critical impact that an engaged (or disengaged) workforce can have on an organization’s bottom line.

But what is it exactly? We’ve all heard or read engagement experts give us a veritable cornucopia of definitions. So, we decided to perform an experiment. We recently attended a human resources conference and decided to ask human resources professionals what employee engagement meant to them. We wanted to get it straight from the stakeholders who are tasked with creating an environment that values engagement and what it can mean to an organization’s employees.

We found ten HR professionals who were willing to enter our booth and be interviewed on camera. During the interview, we posed the following question – How would you define employee engagement?

After conducting the ten interviews, we immediately noticed that we had been given ten completely different answers. I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you; it didn’t surprise us. However, after going back for a closer study, we realized there were some common elements:

  • Employee engagement provides employees a sense of purpose

  • Employee engagement creates an environment for two-way communication

  • Employee engagement creates a sense of employee loyalty

  • Employee engagement gives an understanding of organizational culture

  • Employee engagement shows employees how the organization values them

There were obviously no wrong answers to the question. Every organization has its own set of needs and characteristics that require a unique definition of what employee engagement means. Each organization must create a unique engagement strategy that will help it accomplish its engagement goals.

Here’s something else that we need to keep in mind:

Employee engagement should be viewed as an outcome, not a process. A solid communications strategy is the fundamental process that positions employers to effectively and consistently engage their employees.

You might be saying to yourself – we communicate. We have a newsletter. When the need arises, we send out an email. During open enrollment we start letting employees know about their benefits a week or two before open enrollment begins.

Keep in mind that while each one of the items listed in the previous paragraph can be part of a communications strategy, they can’t be considered a strategy on their own. A communications strategy requires: assessing current strategy, identifying and setting goals and timelines, audience targeting, measuring results, and leveraging communication tools. As you can begin to see, communication is the foundational process that cultivates the positive outcome of engagement. Stay tuned for future employee engagement articles as we take a deeper dive into assessing your current communication strategy!     

Edward Sanchez is a communications and engagement leader. His wealth of experience in the healthcare industry includes partnering with organizations and their leadership to support employee engagement through the execution of innovative communications strategies.