So many definitions of engagement, so little time

by Jul 18, 2018

How do you define engagement?

My friend (and customer service guru), Jeff Toister, and I were nerding out on employee engagement the other day, and he pointed out that there are so many definitions we could all go insane.

For example, Gallup, creator of the infamous Q12 Engagement Survey, defines engagement as “being involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to work and the workplace.”

One of my favorite books, Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, defines it as, “the extent to which one is committed, dedicated, and loyal to one’s organization, supervisor, work, and colleagues.”

My friend Jeff defines engagement as, “the extent to which an employee is deliberately contributing to organizational success.”

Makes sense since the whole point of engagement is maximizing discretionary effort. With each passing second your workforce makes a choice to give 100% of their effort, or 20%, or 3%. The more engaged, the more often they’ll give closer to 100%, and the more money your organization will make.

Recently, we did a survey for an organization who’s been using the Gallup Q12 for the last few years and receiving average scores of 4.8. They called us in to assess the culture due some accusations of gender discrimination, and we asked our own engagement questions.

Factor analysis (a statistical process that correlates variables) of our survey responses showed that, at least in this group, engagement was defined as efficacy, fit, and inspiration. In other words, this group needs to feel like they can achieve their goals and that they fit within their work teams, as well as feel inspired, to be engaged.

Interestingly, our survey showed an average score of 3.7, a full scale-point lower than Gallup. On a 5-point scale that’s a big deal.

Why would our scores be so different if we’re surveying the same group on the same topic?

Perhaps the group is high on enthusiasm and commitment; but lower on efficacy, fit and inspiration. These are, after all, two different constructs.

It might also be timing. Often managers pump up their efforts building engagement when they know the survey is coming, especially if they’re rewarded for a high score. This may be the case when Gallup’s survey comes out, meanwhile my survey was on the heels of some ugly accusations.

What’s my point here? (Okay so it was actually Jeff’s point, I can’t take credit.)

Engagement has many different definitions. It would be a mistake to engage in engagement-building efforts without first stopping to identify and define what engagement specifically means in your own organization.

Your definition will guide your goals, your initiatives, and what you measure.

No matter your definition, you’re invited to next week’s equal-opportunity-definition webinarTranscending Generations with Employee Engagement. Spots are running out so register now!

I was claiming this was an encore presentation, in case you missed the last one, but to be honest it’s turning out to be pretty new across the board.

We’ll have some fun talking about why different generations act the way they do (hint, it has to do with how you finish this sentence: Good things come to those who …), the similarities between each generation, and turn-key ideas for engagement no matter the definition or generation.

Register here. Your millennials will thank you.



About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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